Self-care is one of my favorite topics -- perhaps because I’m so bad at it. Whether you work 9-5 or are in charge of your own schedule, making sure that you take time for yourself so that you’re recharged and generally healthy (in mind, body, and soul) is vitally important. Self-care helps mitigate stress and sickness and, critically, prevents burnout. But it can also feel like a really selfish thing to do. On the surface, it seems like the antithesis of everyone’s favorite buzzword: productive.
So I asked some of my friends - and some of the girlbosses behind your favorites here at Bluestockings - to share their self-care process. Personally, I find it pretty easy to feel guilty about not doing self-care, even though I feel guilty when I do care (because then I’m not being productive?). It turns out that it’s a process for most people, and specifically, a process in learning how to value yourself.
I've learned that appreciating and respecting your time is key to success. Maybe I'm able to work all day-everyday, but finding balance in my life to enjoy things I love doing and spending time with my love ones and end up just as productive, maybe even more so, than not. You have to respect yourself and take some time for "you." It pays off in the long run and helps provide some perspective and clarity. Important for everyday success.
Sometimes it can all get a bit much, and when I get to the point of sheer panic, I try to take a step back. Often a phone call to a loved one helps me gain a little perspective and recalibrate. Sometimes I just need to decide that I’m going to take an hour or two and NOT do anything work related, so that means off the social media, off emails, and just watching a silly TV show, or writing down my thoughts, or listening to music, or dancing… anything that allows me to stop my mind racing – sometimes you just need to go to bed!
I also decided to set my phone to go onto do not disturb mode for a certain period each night, so that I could create that boundary. I don’t always stick to it, but it has definitely helped. One thing that I definitely do try to do often is to reflect and give thanks for all that I’m grateful for, because often that helps me realise that actually I am incredibly fortunate and have a good life and wonderful family, and that is the most important thing.
Angela Friedman (photo by Kristen Blush)
For those who are self-employed, particularly in the arts and small business (and generally under-paid or un-paid or some combination thereof!), self-care can be as important as managing the business. Expenses stack up, we frequently work extra hours during nights and weekends, and burnout is common.
One way I try to combat this is by focusing on some very basic physical needs. Long hours spent at a computer and sewing machine take their toll on my muscles, and a relaxing spa experience is just the ticket to alleviate those aches (and the emotional ones, too!) I try to spend a full day at the spa every 4-6 weeks - particularly because it's a time when I can truly shut off my phone, ignore emails and orders, and just think about what's good for me. As an added bonus, I like to visit Korean spas, which have hot and cold plunge pools for a jolt of energy, and saunas and steam rooms that allow you to "sweat it out" and relieve your stress incredibly well. They're also traditionally fully-nude (albeit separated by gender), which provides a beautiful opportunity to be open and loving of all different bodies - a welcome break from my days filled with fashion models and unrealistic expectations of beauty.
First, having moved my workplace from home to a separate office has been incredibly helpful. Now Sundays are mine (except for a few emails) and I try to work just a little bit on Saturdays. Before moving, I used to work 24/7 and it was kind of destroying me!
I'm also a bit of a nerd so I always like to be studying something. I love having to think 100% about something that's not work and learn something new, but I need a schedule. If not, I would always find something more 'important' to do. That's why I'm learning Japanese at the local Japanese institute; I go there every Friday afternoon.
Self care is a bit of a tricky topic for me, because I’m not particularly good at it. I’m so emotionally invested and attached to my business that it’s difficult switch off my ‘business brain,’ so to speak. Since I left school, I’ve been making a bit more of a concentrated effort to actually take time away from the business. I try not to work on weekends and allow myself holiday time occasionally (though it’s still difficult not to feel guilty about taking extended periods of time out!). I also make an effort to see friends and to socialise. As a designer it’s far too easy to become a hermit and spend every waking hour working. Admittedly it’s been easier to separate work/life since moving the business out of where I live; having a separate studio has been a godsend!
One of the main ways that I set personal/business boundaries is to have strict work hours. I let myself take the weekends off (mostly) and try to get out into nature to recharge. This makes a huge difference come Monday morning.
Often with indie brands, people don't expect to have to wait for business hours to get a response to their messages. But If I stick to it, it makes people realise that just because we are handmakers, we aren't expected to be on the clock 24/7 . Would you expect Walmart to answer their phones at 7 am on Sunday? (That actually happened).
Layla L’Obatti, Between the Sheets
My self care rituals are painting my nails, usually while catching up on a Netflix show. I won't always check out of work completely unless my hands are occupied so this gives me something to occupy them and keep them off my smartphone for the time it takes to dry.
Never refuse the opportunity to meet up with other women for coffee or lunch. So many people use the "busy" word like a shield, I think you can always make time for coffee and human conversation, and it's even more needed when you're stressed and possibly over scheduled.
My favorite way to care for myself is to do yoga in the mornings to stretch out all the sewing kinks. Stopping to take breaks to cook myself a good lunch and dinner is also very relaxing.. It’s cliche, but exercise and nutrition are key to maintaining creative force. Taking care of your body is the most important thing!
Cora Harrington, The Lingerie Addict
A big thing I've started doing in the last few months is not answering emails on weekends. For years, I responded to emails 7 days a week, and it just made me feel burned out, stressed, and like I never had any time to myself at all. So,Friday after 6pm, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday are email free times. It's done wonders to make me feel relaxed and like I can truly unwind. It's also a great filter for weeding out those people who have no sense of boundaries anyway.
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