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How to self care as a social entrepreneur


12 May 2021 at 4:02 pm
Maggie Coggan
Because taking better care of yourself means you’ll be able to take better care of others


Maggie Coggan | 12 May 2021 at 4:02 pm


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How to self care as a social entrepreneur
12 May 2021 at 4:02 pm

Because taking better care of yourself means you’ll be able to take better care of others 

As a social entrepreneur, it can be a lonely time at the top. Especially if you’re trying to do something no one has attempted before. 

Managing several projects at once, constantly thinking of new ideas, and working all hours of the day to get things over the line doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for self care. 

But if you don’t take time for yourself, helping other people or a cause you care about is going to be a hundred times harder. 

So how can you actually achieve this? We sat down with the founder of Pro Bono Australia, Karen Mahlab AM, for some advice.   

Being a social entrepreneur, do you find it difficult to negotiate between the time needed to do your job while still making time for yourself?

I find that very difficult to do because as an entrepreneur, it seems to me as though you’re never doing one thing at a time. You’ve always got your feet in a number of different camps, in things that you’re developing. And even when you’re developing them within the one project, say, like Pro Bono Australia, there’s always new things that you’re thinking about. When it comes to social entrepreneurs there’s never a shortage of ideas. So the challenge is to focus on where your best chance is and stop thinking about your work and projects at various times when you’re not working. 

What are some of the ways you take time out for yourself and practice self care? 

I’ve found that being in completely different environments is really helpful, where your mind stops working so fast and you can think about something completely different. And that can be anything from just spending time with friends and socialising so you’re not thinking in your head the whole time. For me, I found it really helpful to enter into a completely different cultural environment. Over a 10 year period, I visited Bali probably three times a year and moved into a completely different type of space, which was a really yogic space. And that was good for me to [be able to] learn [about] the different sides of me, but also to free up the space in my head and come back with a clear head about what my social enterprise was.

Why is it important you take a break from work? 

When you’re starting something new, quite often you’re not talking to people who understand what your vision is. You have to find a tribe who understands what you’re trying to do with your new enterprise. [But] it’s really important then to [also] socialise with friends who know you, love you and support you as opposed to the thing that you’re trying to create.

What advice do you have for other social entrepreneurs that are finding it hard to balance their work and free time? 

So I think that if you’re with people who see and support what you’re doing, it can give you a terrific amount of energy. So you don’t actually need a lot of downtime because you’re pumped with what you’re doing and you’re feeling seen and understood. [But] you’ve got to be careful of spending too much time with people who don’t see that. So really watch how you engage with people, whether they make you spark or not.

If you’re really, really into it and it’s sparking, then you don’t really need time away from work. I actually don’t really believe in the concept of balance, because it doesn’t happen that everything is balanced through your life. You just need to make sure that if you are ODing on the work side, that it’s actually giving you energy and making you feel good and it’s not too stressful. If it’s too hard, then you need to recognise what’s zapping your energy and take breaks in other ways that really nurture yourself, whatever that might be. Whether that’s spending time with your family, spending time with friends, going on walks in nature, doing yoga or pumping iron or boxing, it really is up to you to find the way that allows you to release anxiety and get out of your thinking mode.

Want some more tips on looking after your wellbeing? Check out our podcast, Leading Generous Teams, recorded in collaboration with the Top 5 Movement here. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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