This is an incredibly special edition of my Q&A series as it sheds light on chronic health conditions that most of us aren’t aware of.
Emma has recently been diagnosed with a rare chronic illness that she has suffered from since she was 18. She is now using her online presence to draw attention to chronic illness, and mentor other “spoonies.”
Although I am not someone who suffers from a chronic illness, I still find Emma’s Instagram content extremely relatable, inspiring and valuable. She is open and honest about the hardships of balancing a business with an illness, but she is also a beam of positivity and hope.
I hope you enjoy reading through this Q&A just as much as I did, and that you take something away from Emma’s words.
Lots of love,
♡ Thalia xx
Hi, I’m Emma, a chronic illness business and well-being mentor who empowers business owners who have chronic and invisible health conditions to grow and run their businesses.
I support my clients so they can learn to work with their symptoms, prioritise their well-being, balance their health with their business and find joy in the process.
More on my wellness journey
I’ve had a rare chronic illness called Behçet’s Disease since the age of 18.
But was only diagnosed in February 2022, meaning I had undiagnosed and unexplained symptoms such as mouth sores, joint pain, and eye inflammation mixed with brain fog and fatigue for over 12 years.
When I went self-employed (pre-diagnosis) I thought that running my own business would somehow improve my symptoms and make everything better.
I started as a virtual assistant and within 3 months I was completely at capacity. Although I had the marketing, industry experience and business know-how nailed, I had no idea of how to look after myself.
I had no boundaries in place and I was constantly on-call but thought I could work at the same pace as an able-bodied business owner. And because of the pressure I put on myself, I fell into a toxic productivity mindset.
To get over the stress of running my business, my outside-of-work hobbies mainly included partying, always being on the go and consuming what I knew didn’t agree with me.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t being very kind to my body and I burnt out. This forced me to take a massive step back from my business and slow down in my personal life too.
It was time to accept that I had a chronic illness.
And I think finally having a diagnosis, has helped me to live a slow-paced life and lean into a version of wellness that works for me.
Wellness Q&A with Emma
What does a healthy work-life balance look like to you?
Work-life balance for me actually looks more like health-life-work balance.
It’s a constant juggling act, but something I have worked super hard at to get to.
My main priorities (in this very particular order) are:
- My health and managing my Behçet’s Disease as best I can
- Finding joy in life when I am not flaring up
It might not seem very entrepreneurial to say that, but how can I show up in business and mentor other chronically ill people if I am not practising what I teach?
When it comes to my business I work hard, show up for my clients and I am proud of the work I do. But it’s only because I have learned to prioritise my wellbeing above all else.
Resting is the most productive thing I can do at times.
How do you make sure you are regularly prioritising your mental and physical well-being?
I plan, but I leave room for changes, flare-ups and mishaps!
Following the motto, “rhythm over routine” has worked wonders for me. Rhythm allows you to ebb and flow with how you’re feeling. Sitting down at the start of the week I will pace it all out.
I have super strict boundaries now both personally and in my work. I know what the baseline of energy I need is for every single task in my business. Figuring out what those baselines were was probably what improved my well-being the most.
I asked myself what is the minimum amount of energy required for the tasks I need to do?
Do I have medical appointments or counselling to factor in?
Do I usually have enough spoons to work after those appointments?
Slowing down has really helped me prioritise my mental health. Before, I was always looking for the next challenge or big win as a means to escape Behçet’s Disease. Even my hikes had goals!
But now I just enjoy the views and break loads. I don’t always get it right, not many do.
And that’s ok, we’re always learning!
How do you show yourself self-love and self-care? Are there any particular activities you indulge in and what inner work do you do?
The first thing I do for myself in the morning is take note of how I’m feeling.
The unpredictability of Behçet’s means that I can wake up feeling a number of different aches and pains.
When I feel good, I move. I have an amazing PT and I probably average 2-3 walks a day with my dog.
When I don’t feel good, I rest and know that it will pass and it won’t be long until I am doing what I love again.
Nature and movement are huge for me and I am so so grateful that I am still able to get out hiking and camping on low pain and low fatigue days.
Reading books that I actually want to read is good self-care for me. I used to read books that were “trendy”, but you know what? I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy and Marian Keyes is a queen.
Acceptance is another form of self-love, it has helped me massively with slowing down.
I also have regular counselling sessions, they guide me through the healing process for the trauma and anxiety I have around my health. For example, seeing new doctors and trying new medications.
What is your favourite productivity hack?
When it comes to prioritising my tasks (both business and personal) I follow a “should” list over the traditional “to do” list. Especially if I feel myself starting to flare.
I basically look at the things on my list and acknowledge the consequences of not doing each task that is on there.
A couple of examples: I should check in with my clients today.
The consequences of not doing that mean that my clients are left wondering and waiting for a response from me, and that is not the type of service I want to provide.
So I will, at the very least, check in with my clients.
Another example: I should upload a post and 2 stories to Instagram today.
The consequences of not doing this are obviously nowhere near as damaging as my previous example. If anything it will be productive to stay off social media when I am not feeling my best.
Which self-help or personal development book would you recommend and why?
Grounded: How Connection With Nature Can Improve Our Mental and Physical Wellbeing by Ruth Allen (who is also amazing to follow on Instagram!)
Get Grounded on Amazon today
What would you say to your 21-year old self?
This one breaks my heart a little bit!
I just want to hug 21-year old me and tell her the pain she is going through is horrible and it’s okay to recognise and admit that.
She is not a burden and she is not going “crazy.”
There is a reason for the pain she’s in.
I’d tell her that not only will she get answers, but her pain will turn into her purpose.
Also, she doesn’t have to prove a point by always partying the hardest, laughing the loudest, or always being “on”. Slowing down is ok, in fact, it’s the best thing she will do for herself.
And lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the growth and happiness occur while you are climbing it.
Where to find Emma
One last thing…
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