Self-Care for those of Us Who Love their Work a Little Too Much
If you read my post about all the mistakes I made in 2019, then you know that I let self-care fall to the absolute bottom of the priority list. I can tell you that by December 2019, I felt like crap – and my honest friends would tell you, I looked like it too. Burning the candle at both ends was no longer serving me. I knew that I couldn’t make BIG impact in 2020 without getting my self in check. Making changes is hard. Breaking patterns is hard. But taking a hard look at the destructive things I was doing helped me make a lot of small changes.
Change #1 Knowing When to Stop- Scheduling & Time Blocking
I am the perfect recipe for burnout: I love my work, I love my clients, and I come from a family of over-workers. The family business I came from had long hours and truthfully, we were pretty terrible about ‘turning it off’ when we left the store. Happy to report we are improving!
When I left to grow my company full-time, my need to ‘prove myself’ pushed my tendency to over-work too far. I was working too much and it wasn’t very efficient. Late nights, early mornings, working on vacations, every weekend. I was always working on something, but I wasn’t always producing the results I wanted. I felt like I was spinning my wheels and would never get on top of it.
Did you know our work is relative? It takes up the amount of time it is given. At least that’s how I perceive it. So what happens when I work less? I get just as much done. Crazy right? With shorter deadlines, my brain focuses and gets the job done in a more efficient way. Along with the lifestyle changes below- changing my working schedule allows me to stop working and be home with my family. Not just physically be there, but mentally and emotionally present.
Practically – how do I do this? I take my to-do list and I schedule it. If I need two hours to work on a project and 45 minutes to catch up with my accounting- I block those out on my calendar- Google if you fancy that sort of thing, but I’m an iCal kind of girl. This way I can SEE what my time looks like and fully focus on one thing at a time.
Change #2 Movement- Kate’s Terrible Posture
Kate before “At 36, I shouldn’t feel this bad”
Kate today: happier, energetic, less pain!
Move yo’ dang self. Simple as that. 30 minutes of movement is an investment in myself. I get back more than 30 minutes of increased energy, focus, productivity. When things got busy, this was the first thing to get taken off the list. But it needs be the first thing scheduled and the last thing you remove- like when you’re sick not because you did’t budget your time well.
It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes of mountain climbing- walk the dog, take a bike ride, go for a quick run. Bonus points for an outdoor session- so many benefits to your heath! My busiest days have 30 minutes of yoga- I keep a mat next to my desk. Bonus- all of this movement has helped my terrible t-rex posture from hovering over my laptop while working too many hours (see change #1)
Change #3 Nutrition- You Can’t Run a Successful Business on Coffee and Takeout
I know how awesome Door Dash is. I know how great take out pizza is. I also know how awesome I feel when I cook a beautiful meal after a long day and use that time to decompress. I actually love to cook but sometimes the thought of the time and effort is daunting.
We now meal plan. Every Sunday, as a family, we look at the schedule and figure out what our evenings look like for the entire week. What days will we all be home? What days have the kids going to multiple practices or events? What other plans do we have? We make a plan for dinners for every night and create our shopping list from that. We make big portions for leftovers and always plan either a fun night or a takeout night.
For me- just knowing what I’m going to make takes a big decision off my plate at the end of the day. I now eat better and feel better.
Here are a few other nutrition tips I use to fuel myself:
- High protein and healthy fats keep me full and avoid the roller coaster of carb spikes and crashes. Read Body Love by Kelly LeVeque for great info on this.
- Collagen Protein in my coffee everyday. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with coffee and my anxiety over the years and I’ve finally figured out how to balance the two. 2 cups in the morning and nothing with caffeine after 2pm. Protein in my coffee keeps me full. Another perk- my skin feels amazing!
- Keep good snack options handy. I always have a bag of pistachios or cashews in my purse or a packet of almond butter.
Change #4 Less Alcohol- Know Why You are Drinking
Let me start by saying I love wine.
At the end of last year I realized I was drinking for stress- which made me feel like I was not on the best path with healthy coping mechanisms. After a dry January- yes, the WHOLE month, I’ve learned a few things.
- Even ONE drink will dehydrate me and cause me to lose focus the next day.
- I don’t miss mixed drinks at all. I had one in early February and it was meh
- Drinking requires copious amounts of water to recover
- Beer makes me feel like terrible
- A drink right before bed messes up my sleep
Now a glass of wine or two is fine, but if I drink water with it and don’t go right to sleep – I’m not taking that ‘celebration’ into the next day with me.
Change #5 Sleep – Who Knew?
Let’s keep this simple. All of those experts saying sleep is vital to achievement, success, and overall health. They are right. Just try getting a full night – that’s 7 hours or more – for a week and note how you feel. I’m in bed by 9:30 or earlier every single night and I feel great.
Change #6 Hydration – Water is Better Than Coffee
Water > Coffee. Seems like blasphemy from the mouth of a freelancer turned entrepreneur. Our culture of ‘grind out the work’ has made coffee into an addiction/cultural icon. Coffee breaks, Starbucks runs, and energy drinks are more common that a simple glass of water. We are blessed to have clean running water in our homes and offices, yet we are severely dehydrated. Enjoy your coffee break- and take a minute to really enjoy it- but drink a glass of water first. I have a big glass of water first thing in the morning and several throughout the day. There is always a bottle of water in my purse or in my car. Staying hydrated helps your body and you mind work better.
A Final Word About Grace
Stress is a real thing. It shows up in how we think, how we feel, how we carry ourselves. Mine shows up as pain, inability to focus, and then it ignites my anxiety which is an entirely different monster. All of this can be controlled by my expectations. Adjusting my expectations makes all the difference. I’m not talking about the expectations of what other people will do or how to react to a situation, I’m talking about what I expect out of myself. I know this rings true for many business owners, we expect so much out of ourselves and we are really hard on ourselves when we can’t measure up.
Show yourself some grace.
Grace can be forgiving yourself when you don’t live up to the perfect version of yourself you crafted in your head. It can be knowing you need a real break. Grace can also be taking a walk. It can be firing a client or terminating a project that is not working out. Grace is allowing ourselves to be human.