How often do you do things that are good for you? For your body, mind, and spirit?
One of the benefits of being a freelancer is that you (in theory) have time for yourself. You can do your work, but you also have the flexibility to do things like go to the gym in the middle of the day or make healthy lunches.
The reality though is sometimes different.
Without a specific work schedule, you may find that you’re working a lot.
With flexibility, you may find that the lack of structure makes it less likely you do things like go to the gym.
You may let yourself do things like meet up with friends midday and then realize that you’re now behind on your work.
You might find that you’re hustling often– when that pays off and you have paying clients, you’re then busy completing assignments. It can be a fantastic life and also a challenging one to make sure you’re taking care of everything well, including yourself.
My freelancing business allows me to drop off and pick up my kids from school every day, volunteer at school, and pretty much drop what I’m doing without too big of an issue if someone is sick.
The flexibility is fantastic, but I find that I am often either working, caring for other people, or feeling a bit brain-dead from doing one or both of those things non-stop for 12 hours.
When you’re busy growing and running your business, it can be easy to get out of the habit of taking care of yourself.
Self-care can’t be overlooked though, because if you’re not taking care of yourself, chances are, you’re not doing your best work.
What is Self-Care?
Lots of times people think of self-care as bubble baths, chocolate, massages, and wine. Those are fantastic, but that’s not all that self-care is. And for men, it seems that self-care is about sports, food, and hanging with friends.
Again, awesome- but self-care is more than that.
Self-care is anything that helps you take care of yourself.
There are six general categories of self-care:
- Emotional: Activities that take care of you emotionally or help to produce positive emotions, such as reading for fun, watching a funny movie, or talking to a loved one
- Mental: Activities that put you in a healthy mental state or are mentally stimulating like going to therapy or doing a puzzle
- Physical: Activities where you take care of your body, like working out, eating well, or stretching when you’ve been sitting too long
- Practical: Tasks and activities that are more practical in nature like going to doctor’s appointments, doing chores like grocery shopping, or cleaning your desk
- Social: Having social interactions and using friends to meet your self-care needs; these interactions can be in person, or over the phone or even internet friendships (but you need some IRL experiences too!)
- Spiritual: Taking time to take care of your spiritual needs: religious or not, this area of self-care shouldn’t be overlooked
Making the time for self-care as a freelance writer
You may be realizing that self-care has a broader definition that you originally thought.
It’s possible you’re already doing things that are self-care, but you don’t look at them that way. For example, it took me a long time to think of meal planning and grocery shopping as self-care.
I knew that planning meals and grocery shopping are practical tasks I need to take care of every week. But when I realized that by completing these tasks, I’m setting myself and my family up to be healthier and that this is self-care, it changed how I felt about those “chores.”
Now, I enjoy those tasks because I know I’m completing something important and it also makes our physical self-care more likely to happen.
I also realized that as a freelancer, I use a lot of time well, but I also waste a lot of time!
Mindless cruising on Facebook, falling into the void of the Internet (though it started as on-task research), and doing things that I don’t really enjoy, like watching a TV show just because I’m tired and it’s on at that moment, mean I don’t have as much time for intentional self-care.
In fact, it’s normal to feel like you don’t have any time, or that you’re doing enough, and the reality is, you probably have more time than you’re currently using, but you need to shift how you spend your time.
Now, I’m much more intentional about my time. Yes, I still waste some, but I also am more efficient and deliberate about how I fit in my self-care. For example:
- If I’m going to go on social media, I do it to feel connected to people and check in. I’ll give myself a time limit (set an alarm if you have a hard time sticking to self-imposed timeframes) and I make sure not to get stuck watching one video after the next (fun, and yes, that can be self-care, but it usually turns into something mindless or that uses time I need for something else)
- At the end of the day when I’m fried, I find a show or movie I’m excited about, even if it’s something I’ve seen before. Rather than zoning out, I tune in and take care of myself mentally and emotionally
- When I do chores like laundry and dishes, I’m either listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook, so I’m leveling up my practical self-care with meeting other self-care needs too
- I’ve gotten my nails done (with a fantastic leg massage!!) with my laptop so that I could work and get pampered (Keep in mind you don’t always want to multitask with your self-care but I think I’m going to keep up with this)
- I make sure to fit in self-care, even in short bursts, every day. I like to fit these moments in between client work. When I finish one task, I’ll do a quick self-care activity such as text a friend to chat, start planning for a night out with friends, read a chapter in a book, stretch, or listen to a couple songs on my favorite Pandora station- self-care doesn’t have to take a long time to be effective
Getting in your self-care groove
Everyone deserves to have lots of self-care in their life. It’s not selfish- it’s part of what puts you in the best position to do your job well, be there for people in your life, and enjoy the life you’re living.
As a freelance writer, chances are, you have plenty of opportunities to practice self-care, but you might not have made it a habit yet. Or, you might actually be doing self-care but not thinking of it that way.
Before kids, I’d sleep in, go to the movies, hang out with friends, and a whole lot more- all of it was just me, living life.
When we look at these activities as, “Oh, it’s just what I do” as opposed to, “These are choices I’m making to help myself feel my best,” you miss out on the full benefit of these activities. It’s kind of like we take them for granted.
But, if you are intentional about your time and mindful of the experiences you’re having, not only will you likely enjoy them more, but you’ll take more from them.
When you make sure to include self-care as part of your freelancer routine, even when you’re busy, you’re likely to feel better overall. When you’re at your best, you can do your best, so your freelance work is going to be directly affected by how well you take care of yourself.
Self-care is also one way to avoid freelancer burnout, and there is always time to do something for yourself, even if it’s taking 5 or 10 minutes. Small doses can add up.
Create a Self-Care Plan
Take the time today to make a list of the self-care activities that you would enjoy (be sure to hit on all six types) and then plan for when and how you can build these into your day and week.
Make it happen, and if you get off track, reset and try again. Your mind, body, spirit, and freelance biz will thank you!
PS- If you like journaling, I wrote a self-care journal you might want to check out.