“Self-care” is one of those buzzwords that my brain is automatically programmed to hate. Every time I receive an email pitch with “self-care” in the subject line, my immediate reaction is “I don’t want a story about bubble baths and ‘me time’! I’m trying to do important work here!”. In a time when it has never been more crucial to take care of each other, focusing on yourself seems, well…selfish. Like we’re wallowing in our first-world problems by doing our nails in the bath when we should be out protesting systemic racism or waking people up to the cruelty of factory farming.
But nothing makes you change your mindset on this like finding yourself in desperate need of…self-care.
Last weekend, I gave a talk on vegan fashion at one of the UK’s biggest vegan festivals. It took me, and my musician husband who was performing at the festival, over three hours to get there, with a 20kg amplifier, four bags of pedals and cables, a computer, and a guitar. I spent weeks preparing for this talk and getting the presentation ready, and at the end of it…I lost my Macbook charger. Right before the three-hour journey back, in almost sub-zero temperatures (I did get the charger back, so don’t feel too bad for me!). Once home, I ingested whatever food I could find and collapsed into bed.
The following day, I got ready to get back to work (it was a Sunday), but I just couldn’t do it. It was like something in my brain and body just decided that “nope, you’re not going to spend another day using us. Slow down, you freak.” I found myself foggy, unfocused and strangely nervous. So I logged off, shut down, and spent the day reading books, taking beach walks and doing my nails. And it was glorious.
Not feeling guilty about needing self-care is the first step towards balance, which is crucial for successful entrepreneurship. The threat of burnout is something we all need to watch out for – especially those of us leading ethically minded businesses. I know there are some (amazing!) ethical entrepreneurs reading Vilda, so here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I hope will help you strike that all-important balance.
Don’t OD on the caffeine. Listen to me guys, I know it’s our life-giving elixir, but there is such a thing as “too much coffee”. I learned this the hard way – heart palpitations for weeks, unable to go to sleep at 2am, stomach burns from hell. These days, I never go over two espressos a day, have stopped ordering doubles, and try to keep it to just one most days. That said, if anyone tries to tell you that matcha, ginseng or anything that is Not Coffee will give you the same energy boost that a shot of espresso gifts you, you have my permission to kick them.
Accept that you will never be done with your to-do list. It will just keep growing and growing, and the fleeting satisfaction of crossing things off will quickly fade after it gets to
6pm midnight and you are still nowhere near finished. Try to see your to-do list as a work in progress instead of something that you need to accomplish every day. The way I usually look at it is: I managed to get something done today, which is better than getting nothing done, even if it’s not everything (and will probably never be everything). Tip: try and get one easy task out of the way first thing, that way you’re buoyed by the tiny sense of accomplishment that brings.
Add some laughter into your day. When working for something that is aimed at changing the world, you will find yourself constantly face to face with some of the ugly, nasty things that are happening on this planet. I went into animal rights thinking that the incessant stream of cruelty would, sooner or later, push me out of this line of work. I am a highly sensitive person, yet here I am. Still. How do I do it? Cute animal videos. LOL-inducing series such as The Good Place on Netflix. Books that make me laugh. It’s not superficial to like silly things. It’s refreshing – and sometimes necessary.
Learn to analyse your own guilt. Certain evenings at 10pm, when I am enjoying a book and a cup of tea (such a glamorous lifestyle!) and my husband is still working, I find myself with a niggling sense of guilt that quietly but insistenly whispers: you should be working too. And the voice is right – there will always be more to do. Sometimes I give in to it and fire up my computer. Other times I tell the voice to zip it and pour myself some more tea, because I know that if I spend another minute looking at screens, my eyes will feel like they might actually pop out of my head. And waking up in the middle of the night with a computer-induced headache is no one’s idea of successful entrepreneurship. Plus, let’s not forget that working too much could actually harm productivity. So learn to catch that guilty feeling when it appears, and nip it in the bud – for the good of your business.
Don’t use self-care as an excuse to hole up in your comfort zone. Each time I was asked to do something scary, but good for my business, such as doing my first public talk on vegan fashion, my first instinct was to say no. In fact, when I was chosen for the entrepreneurship scheme that helped me launch this magazine, my first instinct was to say no! I latched on to an idea of this challenging task being too stressful, and that the “self-care” thing to do would be to say no, to “make myself a priority”, like the Pinterest quotes say. But I would have missed out on so much had I not taken those chances. I am so glad I pushed through my discomfort and made myself do those things. Otherwise, I would never have been here today.
Don’t skimp on exercise. Being an entrepreneur offers endless opportunities to try and get out of exercise: “I am so busy!” “I have so much to do!”, “I’m so tired!”. Well, I’ve got news for you: working out helps you get stuff done, so honouring your workout routine should be on top of your to-do list. My best tip is to work out first thing in the morning – that way it’s done and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Turn off social media notifications. Forever. They are the devil and they will destroy you.
Bottom line: self-care doesn’t have to be about meditation, bubble baths or “me time”. Or if that’s exactly what you need, do your thing. What matters is keeping a balance in your life where you’re not totally engrossed in your entrepreneurship bubble at all times. And I know how hard it is to avoid that – but for the sake of our lives AND our businesses, it’s crucial that we all try.
This month I am watching...Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie on the life of Freddie Mercury
This month I am listening to…badass female guitarist Nita Strauss’ new album Controlled Chaos, which is out on the 16th
This month I am reading…Turning the Tide on Plastic by eco-genius journalist Lucy Siegle
This month I am planning….to go to Berlin for the LUSH Prize! Stay tuned here and on social media (@vildamagazine) for more.
Photo by Rawpixels