47. Work and Life Balance with a Health Challenge

work life boundaries with a health challengeBalancing work and life can be a tough feat for many individuals, but it becomes even more demanding when faced with a health issue. In a conversation between Mary and Tracy, who is a solopreneur, Tracy candidly shares her experiences dealing with Lyme disease and the adjustments she had to make to prioritize her well-being.

Tracy came to the realization that prioritizing self-care is paramount to achieving a successful work-life balance. She delves into the changes she had to implement and her strategies for navigating days when her health isn’t at its best. Join Mary and Tracy in their discussion on how to maintain business success even when confronted with health challenges.

Want to learn more about Tracy, you can reach her at this email: coop27mktg@gmail.com 

Main Episode Takeaways

  • The importance of putting your health first
  • We need to be honest about our own capacities 
  • Communication is key when it comes to boundaries
  • Spoons Theory

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47. Work and Life Balance with a Health Challenge

Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I’m here with Tracy and we are discussing boundaries. Hey, Tracy. 

Tracy: Hi. 

Mary: Do you wanna tell us a little bit about you and, and what you’d like to discuss today? 

Tracy: Sure. So I am a solopreneur. I have a marketing business. I do marketing and website design and branding for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I have been doing that for about five years now. I have heavy operations and process improvement background in the corporate space that I tie into that skillset. So I think that is kind of unique and sets me apart from other marketers. And we’re gonna talk a little bit about how to manage boundaries when you are running your own business and you have health challenges.

Mary: Oh, I love this topic. So, so many of us are working and experience either short term or long-term chronic health problems. And that’s such a great question, especially when you’re in that entrepreneurial space and you’re in your own business and there’s a lot more gray area around when you work and when you don’t work and things like that. So tell me a little bit about what’s been going on for you and how this is a challenge for you. 

Tracy: So, yeah. So I had a chronic autoimmune condition for about 15 years, and I was misdiagnosed, mis medicated, you know, had various different diagnoses thrown at me that were not the correct ones. So essentially I was sick for 15 years and didn’t know what was wrong. And about nine months ago I finally got a proper diagnosis and found out that I had chronic Lyme disease. And like, on the one hand, it’s great to know what’s wrong after 15 years of battling this, but on the other hand, that’s a pretty heavy diagnosis. And there’s a lot that goes with that, a lot that goes with the treatment, a lot that goes with, and just being really patient and kind with your body and. As someone who’s very goal-driven and goal-oriented and you know an entrepreneur and a business owner, a lot of times that’s hard to do. So that’s something that I’ve really had to adjust and learn how to really manage my time and my expectations of myself. And, you know, I’m going through treatment for the Lyme disease and so have to be really patient with how that affects my day to day. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. What’s been the hardest part for you? 

Tracy: Oh gosh. Honestly, probably just like being patient with myself. Giving myself permission to, you know, to say no to things. Giving myself permission to have boundaries and to not work until 12 o’clock, one o’clock in the morning. ‘Cause that was pretty common for me. So really, really putting my health first, honestly, has been the hardest part. And, you know, it sounds like a no-brainer, like you put your health first, but a lot of times you don’t realize, like when you’re in a zone and you’re working on a project and it’s something you’re really passionate about and you’re working till one or two in the morning, you don’t realize that you’re compromising your sleep or your health in order to do that. And so really putting my health first has been the hardest thing, but not in an intentional way. More so in a way that you know, you, you get in a zone and you’re working on something you’re excited about, you just keep going, you know? 

Mary: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Yes. So, let’s talk a little bit about you have a business solopreneur and a health challenge at the same time. And I love that this is relatable to so many listeners. So thank you so much for sharing your story here. Let’s talk a little bit about those boundaries. So if you didn’t have a health challenge, what kind of boundaries would you wanna have in your business?

Tracy: If I did not have a health challenge I probably, I would have boundaries around you know, what works for me, basically, like if I wanna go on vacation, I, will go on vacation. If I don’t wanna take a meeting until. 9:00 AM I don’t take a meeting until 9:00 AM. Those are my preferences. But with a health challenge, it’s different. With a health challenge, it’s I am not gonna take a meeting today because I just got back into town and I need a day to recover. Or I am just having a bad day and I need to cancel a meeting. And that’s okay because my body is most important. My body has to come first, you know? So I guess that’s kind of the difference in my mind. If I didn’t have the health challenge, it’s just more about my preferences versus my actual needs. 

Mary: Hmm. That’s interesting. So if you didn’t have a health challenge, what would be your working hours?

Tracy: Without a health challenge, I’d probably work like nine to six. I, I like to get up and work out in the mornings before I start my day and without the health challenge, I’m able to get up and do that, go for a run, that kind of thing. So I usually would like work like nine to six or something like that, without a health challenge.

Mary: Okay. And now what kind boundaries do you need to have in place around your working hours? 

Tracy: I typically will start my day like around nine. I work like nine to 11. I have like between 11 and one where I do whatever I need to do, whether it’s take a break, whether it’s do yoga, whether it’s, you know, whatever. If I feel like working I work, but I carve that time out. If I need to do a podcast. And then like around one to four, I work some more and then I take a break and then I will work in the evenings more. So, so I kind of just spread it out into chunks versus like a long stretch of the day. I feel like the long stretch of the day, honestly, is that really healthy for anybody with or without a health 

Mary: Yeah. I think depends on our focus time. If I focus better in the morning, if I focus better in the afternoons, or how long can I maintain my focus? That’s one of the things that we talk about in my Boundaries and Calendars program where folks are like, okay, we gotta figure out when am I able to focus the best and the tasks that I wanna do that require the most of my, you know, brain and kind of those executive functioning skills, making sure that we’re scheduling them during the times that I’m able to focus the most. 

Tracy: That’s true. That’s a really good point. Yeah. 

Mary: Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit more about business boundaries and how that’s changed for you. So if you didn’t have a health challenge, who would you serve?

Tracy: I don’t dunno that it would change. 

Mary: Okay. The same? 

Tracy: Yeah, I think so because when I left my corporate job my focus was focusing on small businesses and entrepreneurs who were doing good in the world. Marketing for Good is the name of my company. And I went through like this whole soul searching thing when I left corporate, I was like, do I wanna go back to school? I wanna do work that matters, you know, this, that and the other. And I, I came to the realization I like, I can go back to school and I can do something in an organization that serves one cause or I can take my current skillset and apply that to multiple organizations that are doing a lot of good in the world. So that was the decision I made when I left corporate. So I dunno that that part would actually change. Because that’s really important to me. Yeah. That’s, that’s kind of the core, my core values, you know,

Mary: Is who you help. 

Tracy: Mm-hmm. Exactly. Yeah. 

Mary: Okay. So, having a health challenge, what, if anything, has changed how you help them?

Tracy: That has definitely changed. In the past I wanted to help everybody with everything at all costs. And to the point, to my own detriment, to my health, like it didn’t matter. I would run myself ragged burning both ends, burning the candle at both ends. And whenever I got sick, I, I was like, I can’t do that. It’s not sustainable, it’s not fair to me. You know, there’s an organization, there’s a volunteer organization here that does a lot of amazing work in the community, and I wanna help them all the time, but they’re always going out like in the heat of the day and you know, going out and for hours at a time in the heat of day. And I just can’t do that with my health issues and you know, I want to, but I can’t. And I have to remind myself constantly that, you know, I’ve done a lot of work like that in my life and in my career, and it’s okay that I can’t do it right now. I’ll return to it when I can, you know? 

Mary: Yeah. I love that. I love that, like kindness with yourself and there’s a time and a season and right now it’s not it for me and really being open and honest with yourself about what your capacity is. And it’s not for lack of willing. It’s not for lack of desire that right now we have to say no to ourselves.

Tracy: Yes. And also reminding myself You know, because I, I worry about, what other people will think if I’m not doing those things and reminding myself that it doesn’t really matter, I’m the only one that knows the history, the story, the journey, the struggle, all of that, and, and that’s all that really matters, you know?

Mary: Yes. And being able to let go of the concern about what other people think. I love Byron Katie when she says, what other people think of me is none of my business. 

Tracy: Yes, exactly. Exactly. 

Mary: Yeah. Awesome. Alright what, if any other ways has having a health challenge come up in terms of boundaries with work? 

Tracy: I mean, there have been times where, you know, if I have a client call and I’m having, you know, a flareup, like a flareup can take me out for the entire day, you know? And so, being able to communicate that with a client instead of trying to push through. In the past when I first was sick I would try to push through and then that would cause me to get sicker and sicker and sicker, and then I could be out for anywhere from three days to like weeks. And learning how to recognize when that’s happening and communicate that with someone versus, communicating my needs versus pushing through and making myself worse has been really critical. And in most cases, most clients are so supportive and understanding, and if they’re not, they’re not the kind of people I wanna work with anyway. So really being able to like learn that has, has been instrumental. 

Mary: I love that. I love that. And that’s what boundaries are about, right? Kind of deciding what we’re able to do and what we’re not able to do. Making sure that our needs are being met in this relationship, this working relationship that we have with someone and the communication part really is key. Right? So tell me a little bit what that sounds like. What have you tried or what could I help you with in regards to how we communicate around that? 

Tracy: You know, let’s see. Most of my clients are people who are referred to me. I know them very well. Or maybe I don’t know them well in the beginning, but I get to know them on a more personal level because that’s just how I work. And so we kind of get to know each other and a lot of times they may or may not know that I have a health condition. So if there’s a day that I have to take off or take a break or something like that, for the most part, I mean, if it’s a meeting I will just reach out to them and I’ll say, you know I’m having a really difficult time with my autoimmune. Do you have the flexibility to move our meeting to a different day? And I always like to say, do you have the flexibility? Because I don’t want to assume that their schedule is just, you know, that their schedule is a moving target and that they can, you know, just change anything for me. You know, I don’t wanna make that assumption. I always like to say, do you have the flexibility? And if they don’t, then it depends if they don’t have the flexibility, which seldom ever happens, but if they don’t have the flexibility, then I will just let them know that. Okay. Just so you know, I’m having a difficult day, so I may not be at my top performance. Or if it’s something where I’m delivering, for example, analytics or reporting or something like that, I don’t wanna deliver that when I’m feeling bad because I need to be able to be on my A game for that and be able to talk through talking points. And that kind of thing. So if they don’t have the flexibility then I will just say do you mind if we reschedule and I can send the slide deck over to you? Or I’ll just say, can we reschedule on a different day then, because I really wanna walk through this slide deck with you. ‘Cause I typically don’t like to send information over ahead of time. I like to be able to walk through it with the person so there are no surprises, that kind of thing. But typically I have really haven’t had an issue where they haven’t able to accommodate, you know? 

Mary: Yes. And that generous assumption around like, this is a person too, and I’m gonna assume that they’re gonna be understanding and treat me as a person as well. Right? I’d rather just be open and honest that this is what’s going on for me. I may not be at my best today. And let’s kind of explore the options on how we can continue to work forward in this business relationship. And maybe that looks like I send you the slide deck. Maybe that looks like we reschedule to another time. One thought I had was, do you ever reschedule like times where you are working independently versus times where you’re meeting with people. So for example, in that last example, instead of if they’re like, I really don’t have the flexibility, I, I really need to meet today, right? If that were to happen, which I agree probably is very rare, but if that were to happen where you’re like, okay, well maybe I can move what I’ve got scheduled, Earlier in the day so that I could attend this one meeting. Does that ever happen? Like the spoons theory? 

Tracy: The what theory? 

Mary: The spoons theory. Have you heard of this theory?

Tracy: No, I haven’t. What is it? 

Mary: Oh, how interesting. So I’ve heard of a theory that’s referred to as a spoons theory, and the idea is that for people who have either a health challenge or a disability, or you know, a mental health condition, something where we have to be intentional about our capacity. They call it spoons. Like, so I only have this many spoons today. And I need to be intentional about how I’m spending my spoons because my energy is kind of limited. And so if you give all your spoons the beginning of the day, then you’ll probably run out before the end of the day. So that idea, I dunno, just Google it about spoon theory. That like, yes, if I’m having a, a day where I have a, you know, a flare up or I’ve got some inflammation or I’ve got limited energy, then I wanna be intentional about where I’m spending my spoons today. 

Tracy: Okay. Interesting. I have not heard of this. I’ll have to Google it. 

Mary: Check it out. It may or may not resonate with you, or it may or may not apply to you, but 

Tracy: okay. I’ll check it out. 

Mary: Okay. So far I’ve heard treating yourself with kindness, being realistic about what you’re able to do and not able to do, having clear communication with your clients and really prioritizing your health, all of those things have enabled you to continue to be a successful business owner. And manage this health problem that you’ve been struggling with. Any other advice that you might have for listeners who are in the same boat?

Tracy: You know, I think that the, one of the hardest things for me has been asking for help. That is just not something that is in my d n a, like, it is not even that it’s difficult for me. It is virtually impossible. And that doesn’t even mean asking for, you know, someone to physically help me with my work. As much as it can be asking someone, you know, to have grace on a day that I, you know, even a friend, you know have grace on a day that I can’t meet for lunch. Or asking for support, help, that kind of thing. I think that’s probably been one of the biggest challenges for me. And I think that’s something that especially people with autoimmune can relate to. Because autoimmune is very tricky because you don’t see it, you don’t see you inflammation, you don’t see chronic pain. And so people around you, unless they’re very close to you, they don’t really get it always. You know, like know there’s a, a ladies group that meets for lunch here once a week. And they always invite me and I’m just like, I, I just, I can’t commit to that because I just don’t know what my workday’s gonna be like. Like going back to you know, the limited and finite amount of energy. I have to have chunks of my day that are carved out for certain things and work is the first thing. Well, my self-care is the first thing and then work and then, you know, doing something like that would fall after that. But yeah, so I guess asking for support and, and help is probably a tricky one. 

Mary: And this idea that like, okay, so as a human, right, I’m gonna have human needs. I’m gonna limitations and we have to treat ourselves as humans, and that means sometimes we have to ask for help and that’s okay. And to feel okay about that, right? I wanna encourage you and all of those listening to treat yourself like a human being please. 

Tracy: You know, the way I like to look at it is treat yourself like you would treat a friend, you know? If you were to call me and say, Tracy, I’m really struggling today. I need some help. Can you bring me some chicken noodle soup or whatever, never in a million years would I say, Ugh, suck it up, Mary. Like, no, you don’t need that. You know? Right. So why do we, so, why do we talk to ourselves that way? It’s, you know what I mean? So that’s, that’s something I’m learning how to give myself grace with, but yeah, that’s something I, I really like to look at it as, talk to myself as I would talk to a 

Mary: friend. Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And I love how you mentioned, maybe we’ll wrap up here. I loved how you mentioned your self-care has to come first before your work. We actually recommend that to everyone who’s looking for work-life balance, that our self-care needs to be scheduled before our work commitments are scheduled. Because what happens is, I can’t tell you how many people come to me and they’re like, okay, I want you to help me to fit self-care into my schedule. And, and why is that funny? 

Tracy: Because that’s, that’s funny to me because my self-care like, like I blocked my day out. Like as long as I’ve worked remotely, for myself, whatever, my day from seven to nine is mine. It’s mine. I don’t schedule meetings, I don’t schedule clients. I don’t schedule doctor’s appointments. I don’t schedule anything. Seven to nine is my time, and if it’s, I’m gonna go have a cup of coffee and read a book, I’m gonna meditate, I’m gonna do yoga, whatever it is. That’s my routine. Mm-hmm. 

Mary: I love it. Yes. And I tell people, you have to schedule your self-care first. And if you don’t, if you’re trying to fit in around all of your other commitments, it will not fit. You can’t try to squeeze it in in the in-between. It has to be scheduled first. So I love that take away for listeners too. Well, thank you so much for being here, Tracy. I really appreciate our conversation. 

Tracy: Thank you. 

Mary: If folks are looking for somebody to help ’em with marketing, how might they be able to reach you?

Tracy: They can reach me by email at coop27mktg@gmail.com. That’s probably the best way for now ’cause I’m actually rebranding my website as we speak, so that’s the best way for now. 

Mary: Awesome. Sounds good. Thanks so much. 

Tracy: Yeah, thank you.