By Kit Cronk,
Self-care, mental health, treat yo self, me-time, chilling out …
We throw these buzz words around at each other when we’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and desperately need a break.
Unfortunately, the concept of self-care (my preferred buzz word) is too often used when talking about some reactionary, last minute decision to stop everything and give yourself some chill time.
Spoiler alert: This doesn’t actually WORK. Not in the long term, anyway.
Self-care is all about taking care of yourself (surprise!), which means you need a plan of attack. You don’t accept the responsibility of caring for something, like a pet, without planning when you’ll walk it, getting things ready to feed and house it, and being prepared to dedicate some time to the task!
Especially if you’re running a business, which usually means you are doing #allthethings, you cannot afford to push aside self-care for when you “have time” (ha!) or really need it.
Here are some truth bombs that you need to hear:
1. If you don’t take care of yourself, you WILL burn out. You’ll get physically ill, have a mental breakdown, or just loose the will to work. You’re no good to ANYONE if that happens!
Taking care of yourself NOW ensures that you’ll be able to keep going LATER. It’s an investment.
SIDE NOTE: I learnt this lesson the hard way, when I went overboard working crazy hours to meet some deadlines… At the end of it, my body was so run down that I didn’t recover to full health for six weeks. None of us can afford to be out of commission for that long! ESPECIALLY when you’re running / building a business!
2. It’s possible to burn out even if you LOVE your work. Busyness is still stress, even if you enjoy the tasks. Lack of sleep, exercise, human interaction, eating well, are all going to end up with you in a bad place.
3. Women aged 20 – 40 are suffering from more mental health issues than any other time in history. You’d be hard pressed to find ANYONE these days who doesn’t have anxiety / depression or know someone close to them who does. Self-care is one whopping big weapon in our arsenal to manage mental health.
4. It’s up to you. You are the only person who can take responsibility for your self care. It helps if you have people around you who’ll prod you when you look like you need a day off, but you are ultimately the only one who knows what’s going on in your head. Don’t wait for other people to give you permission to take time for yourself.
There are plenty of different ways to integrate self-care into your business life… I’m going to break down some ideas by “level” for beginners to experts! Pick a few and start implementing them THIS WEEK!
LEVEL 1: NO TIME FOR SELF CARE
You’re tired all the time and just want another day in the week. You’ve got a bajillion things going on and there’s no way you can just up and leave for the holiday you desperately need.
Never fear! There are super simple ways to start your self-care that will leave you feeling more refreshed.
GET. ENOUGH. SLEEP.
I can’t emphasise this enough! The very FIRST thing we all need to do is consistently get 7-8 hours sleep. If that means going to bed at 8pm and letting the washing go un-folded for a few days, that’s OK.
Get yourself a water bottle and make sure you drink it all 3 times each day (or whatever the equivalent of 2 – 3 litres is). If you can manage it, try to have one less cup of coffee. It dehydrates you and makes your heart race.
Go on an unsubscribing rampage. Every email newsletter you don’t read, page that is clogging up your Facebook feed, and person whose constant selfies are driving you crazy on Instagram. You’d be surprised how much some digital “spring cleaning” can help your stress levels!
Pop some mini-champagne every time you get something done. Taking the time to congratulate ourselves and dwell on an achievement / success works wonders for your brain! Keep on filling your mind with positive reminders of what you’ve done – You can even keep a list somewhere you’ll see it regularly.
LEVEL 2: I COULD BE BETTER
You’re not constantly exhausted, yay! You might be getting by, but you know you could take better care of yourself. It’d be nice to feel like your brain doesn’t have too many tabs open.
Plan a non-work day every week. Even if you’re side hustling, you can choose a night of the week that is purely to rest. Don’t even try to read blogs or just do one social media update. This is totally guilt-free time to NOT spend on your business.
As a hot chips addict, I do not say this lightly. You need to look at what food you eat and consider if you can improve it. Swap out your 3pm chocolate bar for some crackers and cheese. It doesn’t have to be an all-out diet, but you can try some substituting a few things.
Getting your head out of reality and diving into a good book will do wonders for your mental health. Research has found heaps of benefits to reading regularly – not the least of which is giving your brain a break from constant screen use. Try starting with a book every 2 weeks!
Set aside 10 minutes a day for stretching. Preferably away from your desk. Really focus on deep breathing and stretching SLOWLY. Your body will thank you for it, and there are plenty of youtube videos that will take you through a little set if you’re not sure what to do!
LEVEL 3: FEELING LIKE A TOTAL BOSS
Not that you’d brag about it, but you’re doing pretty well. Some days you don’t even NEED coffee, and you’re good at switching off your “work brain” when you need to. This is the big leagues now.
GET A HOBBY
Wait, what? Start doing ANOTHER thing? Yes. Find a fun hobby you can get stuck into. Personally, I love knitting. It really relaxes me and is a great little skill to have. Working on a creative project OUTSIDE of your business is a great way to keep your brain active, but still taking a break from the every day.
We all knew this one was coming. Regular exercise is proven to have a positive effect on both the mind and body. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – You could do Pilates, go for a slow walk, or take a stretch class. Experts recommend 30 – 60min a day… But there’s no shame in starting smaller than that! It will get easier to increase and form a habit over time.
Try to go totally technology free for a while. If you can manage it, do at least half a day each week or maybe a completely unplugged holiday for a few days! I promise you that all the latest news will still be on your Facebook feed when you get back to it.
TREAT YO SELF
Do you plan treats for yourself when you hit milestones? Maybe it’s a financial goal, you finished a project, finalised a collaboration, or just survived another quarter. Set a date and treat yourself. Go see a movie, get a facial (my personal favourite!), or schedule a weekend getaway!
Kit Cronk is a freelance graphic designer and letterer. Her retail line, Ruby & Pearl Press, is full of funny cards, cute stationery, and inspirational quotes. When this Brisbane girl isn’t working, you can usually find her watching re-runs of 90’s sitcoms or reading another fantasy novel with iced mocha in hand. Follow Kit’s work on Instagram or browse all the awesomeness on her website.
Image: Camille Styles