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July 23, 2020

Personal Loss and Your Aromatherapy Business: What to Do When You Need a Break

As aromatherapy and healing arts practitioners, we need to take exquisite care of ourselves so that we can be present to our clients and customers.  When crisis, serious illness, or loss affects us, sometimes we need to step away from our businesses. 

In this season of acute and chronic loss, you are not alone. I’m feeling it with you, so I wanted to share what works for me. I’m a list maker, so this post includes both the “outward facing” items we need to take care of so we can tend to the inner landscape, and a few tips there too, all specific to our work as aromatherapy practitioners or businesses. It also includes one of my favorite blends to honor the fragility of grief. 

Outward facing things to do

This is your “business checklist.” 

  1. Sometimes you can give a few days’ advance notice that you’ll be away from your business, and sometimes you can’t. If you can, keep the announcement short and sweet. “Starting DATE, I/we will be temporarily closed until DATE. All services will be rescheduled and you will hear from me personally.”
  2. Block off as much time as you need in your online scheduling system. Make sure nobody can schedule an appointment with you. If you’re okay seeing a few people, limit your availability. But make sure it feels right. 
  3. While you’re in your calendar, cancel any existing appointments and reach out personally. Write an email that you can copy/paste, customizing each client’s name and other details. Keep it simple, clear, and kind. 
  4. Make a list of specific clients or customers that require a more detailed response (example: big wholesale client, large consulting project). 
  5. Set up an email autoresponder. Keep it simple. Tell people when they can expect to hear back from you. “Hello, thanks for your email. I’m out of the office until DATE, at which point I’ll start responding on a first-in, first-out basis. I look forward to reconnecting with you, and thanks for your patience.”   
  6. Change your outgoing voicemail message. As with email, let people know when they can expect to hear back from you. Save your original message to restore later, or at least type it and save in a “business scripts” document.
  7. If you own an online store, put an announcement on the top of your shop pages (most online store apps, or places like Etsy, make this easy). “We’re away until DATE, and we will start shipping orders on DATE. Sign up for our mailing list to get notified when we reopen. We appreciate your business!” 
  8. Send a brief message to your email list letting them know you’ll be away, when you’ll be back, and any information that would affect your relationship with them (shipping delays, etc.).  
  9. On social media, reschedule some of your most popular posts to fill in the time gap.  Even the biggest companies reuse their content. This is less urgent, but it can help you feel like things are still moving.  
  10. Create an “unplugging plan.”  When will you mute your phone or other notifications?  When will you handle emergency calls? 
  11. Make sure your materials are stored properly. If you’re going to be out of your workspace, cap everything tightly, clearly label any works in progress, refrigerate delicate ingredients, tidy up, lock up. You want to come back to a clean space and not the clutter associated with the pain of loss – it can be a trigger.

How much should you share?

This is such a personal decision. It depends on your personality or brand and your relationship with your clients. I’ve seen deeply poignant and inspirational messages, and I’ve also seen (not to be indelicate but!) overshare that didn’t go very well. Some people feel best sharing nothing, and that’s okay too, as long as you don’t leave your clients wondering. As you decide, some things to think about:

  • Step into your client’s shoes. How would you feel reading what you’re about to share?
  • Deep down inside, if you share a lot of detail, what are you hoping for in response? (This could be a sign that you need a stronger personal support system away from your clients.)
  • Do you sound desperate or worried that you’ll lose business?  
  • If you undershare, do you sound cagey or frosty? 
  • If you share a lot and get an outpouring of supportive emails, will that be too much for you to deal with?  (that’s okay – grief and loss are complicated and draining)

I tend to err on the side of caution and “warmly undershare,” knowing I can always say more when things are less raw. If you’re not sure, write a draft, set it aside, and come back to it later or show it to a colleague. 

Taking care of yourself

  • Who is your support system? Reach out. No guilt. Fill yourself up with people who help you feel safe, solid, and cherished. Everyone else can wait. Ask for specific support – errands, food runs, phone calls, video chats – this makes it so much easier. 
  • Are your basic needs met? How will you most easily nourish your body with delicious food? Will you drink plenty of water? Move your body and your voice? Rest? Stare off into space (this is part of the process)?  Be in nature?
  • What else do you need in your cocoon? Blend for yourself if it supports you. If that’s too much, spend time with one essential oil – follow what you’re called to. Create others’ blends. I have found that a blend or a single oil can be a talisman along the journey, and the talisman may need to change partway through. It’s also okay to take time away from your oils, and it doesn’t make you a bad aromatherapist. 
  • Don’t worry if you wake up one day and randomly decide you hate your business. Grief has a way of stealing our clarity, and you may not “know what you want anymore” for a while. Don’t act on it right now. Journal or record your feelings for later.
  • Resist the urge to burn it all down. Related to my previous point. Keep everything that feels stable in your personal life. Many years ago during a crisis, I completely reinvented my life, even tossing all the things that worked – professionally and personally. Right now you need all the certainty you can get, even if it isn’t your favorite certainty.
  • Do you struggle with self-care? Many caregivers do. Jennifer Louden, one of my favorite authors, has written two books full of gentle, easy, “real” ideas to help you through: “Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life” and “Woman’s Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self –In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend” (I get no affiliate earnings, I simply love her work)
  • Release fear or guilt about earning less or letting people down. This is the time to fill yourself back up so you CAN be of service. You’re modeling self-care, which is one of the most important things we are here to teach. 
  • Get professional help if you need it. In any form you need – holistic, energetic, allopathic.

When I’m experiencing loss, I am often drawn to a single essential oil, even if it doesn’t make sense. I journal my experiences as I work with it: imaginal experiences, visceral responses, words, stories, memories. It’s a freeform process, judging nothing, excluding nothing. I always find insight and healing, and the teachings stay with me and carry over to my clients and teaching work. They will find their way to this blog and beyond, in due course.   

If you need a blend

This is one of my favorites for grief. Blend for the medium that serves you best – anointing oil, diffuser, linen spray, or footbath are some of my favorites. 

When you come back to work

Restore your usual voicemail message and write a new script to use as you reach back out to people. Pace yourself. Notice what feels good about your business, write that down, and find a way to do more of it. Give yourself time to ease back in before returning to full time, if you can.

Take extra notes on your work tasks; stress and grief make us forgetful. You probably will accomplish about half of what you expect to in twice the time…totally normal. I find it helpful to schedule in specific rest and healing activities. These are my commitments to myself, as Client #1. This might also be a time to say a little more about what has happened and where things are at now. Your clients and customers are your community, and now more than ever, we need each other. 

A final bit of advice, via Twitter (good advice can come from anywhere), and thank you to Steph Lagana for finding this:

I hope this helps you as we all move through this together. If you have additional tips, or something resonates here, please share in the comments – this is our community space. 

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Michelle Gilbert

Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P. is an educator and writer who helps aromatherapy entrepreneurs create better products, services, and results. Her work has been featured in Prevention, AromaCulture, and Health. She offers personal mentoring, freelance writing, and formulation review services for professionals and entrepreneurs who want more income and satisfaction from their work with essential oils.

  • I love the list of client actions, Especially the idea of noting who might need more attention ? Thank you for posting!

  • Michelle –
    This is a beautiful post filled with practical tips and heartfelt wisdom. Thank you for sharing. It helps to have a game plan + a tender heart blend to boot!

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