Monday, October 20, 2008

The Importance of Self-Care

We're all stressed out about a number of things: Was I crazy to start freelancing instead of getting a "real" job? Can I cut it as a freelance writer and still pay my bills? How can I handle all of the projects on my plate? Where can I find good paying clients that will send steady assignments? And that's only the work related stuff.

Deal with What You Can and Leave the Rest

My grandmother was fond of saying, "There's no reason worrying about the things you can't change." She was right. Over time constant stress can have some pretty negative effects on your body and your mind. The fact that many of us seem wired to worry doesn't help. There's so much going on around us that we are powerless over. It takes a real effort to reprogram yourself to focus on the things you can change to make your life better.

Since I've been freelancing full-time, I have neglected myself so much choosing instead to focus on building my business, and taking care of everyone else. Isn't that always the way? But it's starting to take its toll and only I can do something about it.

If you are a freelance writer, or any other entrepreneur, self-care is an important part of leading a balanced, healthy life and reducing stress. We can easily spend long days parked in front of the computer barely moving, even to eat. Not good. This is a recipe for burnout, isolation and possible health problems down the road.

Where Do You Start with Self-Care?

Why is it so hard for us to take care of ourselves? I ask myself this question all the time. Aren't I important enough or worthy of some good old-fashioned pampering now and then? I'll share with you the areas of my life that desperately need tending to:

1) Establishing a regular workout routine and refining diet. Sitting at this desk all day, day in and day out as a freelance writer has left me with some excess baggage. I'm often sluggish and low on energy, and my clothes fit too tight as a result. I've started working out every morning after dropping the kids off at school. Honestly, if I don't do it in the morning, I'll wind up pushing it back behind my work priorities and blowing it off altogether.

My diet is suffering too. I snack a lot when I'm stressed and what's better to snack on than cookies? I am living proof that you can be an unhealthy vegetarian. Bye bye junk food treats.

2) Taking time out. Because I'm a mother of four and wife of one, I often feel guilty about needing time away from my family, but I've always been a person who needs lots of alone time. Not allowing myself to do something as simple as go to Rite Aid unaccompanied for months on end makes me quite crabby. I now do myself and those I love a favor by taking at least an hour a week to leave the house and lose myself in solitude for at least two hours.

3) Take time off from freelance writing. I have been trying to make the transition to not working on weekends unless it's on my own stuff. Some weekends have been more successful than others, but I'm getting there. Three clients emailed me over the weekend about work. I rejected the urge to become involved and let them know I'd contact them first thing Monday morning. From here on out I will only make myself available to clients on weekends when we have made previous arrangements. My time with my family is precious.

4) Spending time with friends. Because I have a tendency to be a loner (dare I say maverick?), I don't realize how much I miss my friends until we talk on the phone or finally get to spend some time hanging out. Working as a freelance writer for the past year has increased the distance between us. Laughing with them feels like I'm a deflating balloon releasing built up stress. I can't continue to neglect these relationships.

There's much more that I need to change, but I've got to start somewhere, right? I plan to be a freelance writer for a very long time, so I've got to begin taking care of myself and create a more balanced life. Do you take care of yourself like you should?


Diana said...

I have definitely noticed that the longer I work from home, the less I take care of myself. I started a workout routine, then work picked up and I dropped it. Now work is slowing down (and I'm freaking out), so I'm going to try, try again with working out.
I don't have children yet, but non-fiance time is usually limited to when he is at work which is so unhealthy in so many ways. I definitely need to start making some better choices.

Lori said...

I've had similar bouts of carelessness with myself. I was just moaning to my husband this morning that I need to walk more because I'm aching in spots that are clearly chair-related.

Number 3 on your list is probably the hardest in a new career. You want to leap on that work, on that check-to-be and lose your weekend in order to cash in. But putting them off for a few days sets some clear boundaries and makes it clear you're a professional, not someone who dabbles. That may be more important to your own thought process than your client's, actually.

Avid Writer said...

Lori, I am noticing aches in my knees when I sit for hours upon hours and don't move. I'm telling you, daily exercise in some fashion is essential for me.

Regarding #3 on the list, you have a point. I need to learn to relax a bit and make it my goal not to work so much on the weekends or maybe work art-time on weekends. I seem to be unable to avoid it completely since I am working for a full-time salary and my client list keeps growing.

Avid Writer said...

diana, it's so easy to get lost in work when you work from home. Writing is such sedendary work that we really have to make that effort to slip some exercise into our daily routine. Good luck to you!

Devon Ellington said...

I think we also run into gender issues.

If a man starts his own business, it's expected his spouse/partner supports him and offers all sorts of care on all fronts.

Why is it different when a woman starts a business?

Why, if we are starting our own businesses, are we also expected to take on, in most cases, the full burden of housework and family care?

No way.

If both partners work, no matter what the fields, there needs to be equitable division of the chores on the home front.

You're right -- self-care is important.

I also find out that if I stick to my workout routine, I'm more productive when I get back to the desk.

When I let it slide, I'm less productive.

Avid Writer said...

Devon, you're right about gender roles. I fell into them big time when I started working from home. I quickly learned to speak up and delegate more duties to my husband.

As far as working out, I used to work out every single day, so I can definately tell the difference - in my mood and energy levels just as much as anything physical.

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