How Do You Do Self-Care?

Beginnings - Digital Mixed Media by Liz Kalloch

Supporting ourselves. It’s a multi-faceted thing.

There’s supporting ourselves with what we earn so we can buy and pay for the things that we need (and want). And then there’s supporting ourselves emotionally, spiritually and energetically so that we can go out there and make that money for the former.

I grew up in a family of hearty and oh-so-practical New Englanders who also belong to the ever practical faith of Unitarianism. In my family, you did what needed to be done and did it to the best of your abilities, and without complaint. OK, there was complaining but you get the idea here, there was little or no time spent on self care, on even thinking about what one might need to keep going in a healthy and balanced way. You just did what you had to do. Full stop. Exhausted? Tough. Maxxed out? No one said life was going to be easy. Perhaps some of you can relate to this!

Money was the other piece of this familial practicality puzzle. It was often in short supply, and so whatever work was available was taken. Whatever was asked of us, was done. Because that’s just the way it was, and it seems that questioning that presumption was either not an option, or just not thought about. At all. Probably more the latter than the former.

As an adult I’ve had to struggle with this one. Mightily. Here’s a sample scenario for me: Exhausted after a month of 3 big design projects, painting for a show and putting in 75+ hours a week with maybe a half day off here and there; and another freelance project is offered to me. The deadlines for the project offer no opportunity for a break, AND, I find myself reluctant to turn down this project, because the work is on offer, and when work is offered, you take it.  So now I have more work, still no down time, and I find myself wondering why I am so cranky and irritated all day. Why do I want to shout at my husband to just shut up with the rehashing of the tennis game he just played, because he was out taking a break playing while I was still working.

Yes, we need to earn money to live, but at what expense?

Whether you are a painter, an insurance salesman, a counselor, or a construction worker, your mental health, your spiritual health and your all around well being need to be kept healthy and buoyant so that you have the energy, the bounce in your step, and the crackling synergy in your brain to give your work the all it needs (and wants) to be given.

Work can feed us or work can eat us up—it’s all about the balance we create in our own lives. Life does not begin the minute our work day is over, the whole live-long-day is our life, so if you are feeling in need of some balance in your work and in your life, let’s learn a bit about how some other people do it:

How we support ourselves as self-employed creatives and entrepreneurs comes up a lot in conversations, articles, and blog posts. SO, how do you support yourself (internally) so that you can get out there and support yourself (monetarily). What are the things that recusitate, regenerate and generally renew your spirit, your energy and your psyche? what are your tried and trues for the working blahs, and the low energy blues?

I see those “working blahs” as forms of resistance to something—sometimes resistance to feeling my fear, and other times resistance to admitting that I need to take a break. Thus, I take a two-pronged approach: First, I usually try going deeper into it, asking myself, “Okay, Swoboda–what’s behind this? Keep chuggin/ Let’s move/ What’s the lesson? How will you BE with this?” I do this because I don’t want to simply cower in the face of resistance, and it does often teach me something important about myself.

However—if this does not work, I’ll step into divine self-care in the form of dropping everything and being a complete slug, sans guilt! It’s important to note that I approach many things in my life, and particularly things with deadlines, knowing that if my resistance flares I’ll want to have adequate “slug time,” so to be in integrity, I pad time/plan for that possibility.

Kate Swoboda (aka, Kate Courageous) is a Life Coach, teacher and writer who works with women who are ready to revolutionize their lives from the inside, out.

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I think it is supremely important to nurture our creative souls. Although we love what we do, entrepreneurs still get bogged down with all the business and work aspects of our passion. So, I find it extremely helpful to keep hobbies as part of my lifestyle. I know you are thinking that your creative life is your hobby! But I mean, other hobbies completely unrelated to what we do for a living . . . something that is truly for the fun of it with no other strings attached.

I make sure to schedule myself playtime, for exploring new interests and old pastimes that I enjoy. From embroidery to baking to taking long walks in the countryside. Whatever it is, I find it necessary to schedule in that “me” time, to balance my lifestyle. These activities give me a different kind of creative energy to draw from . . . and often I find great ideas popping up during these relaxing times as well!

Linda Tortagialla is an artist living in the Tuscan hills of Italy.

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I’m always going to be a mother and I’m always going to be an artist. When I let those facts sink in, the realization hit me that I HAD to take care of myself if I was going to get anything done. The one thing that I do that seems to act like a mini-reset button is this: I hide in a room all by myself for 5-10 minutes. I need a moment for mindfulness, a time to breathe, to pull out of my head and just BE for a moment. Some days mama needs 10 of these breaks. They usually include chocolate, and a song to be still with or rock out completely on.

Jenica McKenzie is a mixed media artist living in Utah with her four kids and kickass husband.

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How I support and nourish myself is through my yoga practice. I find that the more I practice, the better I am able to get in touch with that channel of ideas that seems to be constantly flowing. My practice clears space for me and holds space for me— while at the same time filling me up. I am lucky because I get to teach this for my student creatives, and watch them unfold into their creative bliss. I live next to the Pacific Ocean, and so walking down there, with all those negative ions, really helps me feel renewed as well.

Emily Perry, L.Ac., is a Yoga Teacher, Acupuncturist, and Artist living and exploring life in Santa Cruz, CA.

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In The Tempest, Prospero says, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” One lesson I’ve taken from his words is that in order to build thriving dreams, art and businesses, we simply must nourish and tend to ourselves. We are the foundation of all we create. Here are some of my favourite self-nourishers: day trips to the spa, coffees with entrepreneurial buddies, walks, journaling (especially morning pages), dance, sleep, travel, time alone, running, reading, feeling well-dressed, eating nutrient-rich foods and indulging in as much beauty as I possibly can!

The founder of Jamie Ridler Studios, Jamie is a creative living coach who helps people find the confidence and courage to discover and express their creative spirit, whether that means exploring their artistic self or bringing more of their creative capacity to their life and their business.

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I was totally flummoxed when I got this from you. How do I support myself internally? Well, who has time to think about that? When you have to support yourself externally you just do it, I harrumphed. But I’ve been mulling this over for the couple days since you sent it.

So if I look at it a little differently, from the perspective of getting fresh ideas, here’s my answer. One of the ways I get good ideas, sometimes real breakthrough ideas, and feel newly inspired and rejuvenated is to sit in the bathtub. Bubbles, jets, bath salts, ducks, whatever you got, whatever you like. Of course you have to like baths. What it does for me is stop me. It stops my mind from whirling: it stops my body from twirling. And I think it leaves my mind free to focus in a very relaxed way.

I have found time after time that when I think of a specific issue in the bath I come up with new and exciting ideas and directions. And as a byproduct I get out of the bath feeling relaxed, renewed and raring to go.

Carolyn André is a strategic marketing consultant

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I find I encounter a few different types of lulls that don’t lift by the same tonic. So I have a few different things that are part of my repertoire. They all involve new things—not new items per say (a shopping binge never does it for me), but new perspectives, new ideas, new light. Newness.

Rearranging furniture—I like to swap things to different rooms, or hang a new piece of art up, or stack some colored bowls on the counter . . . It resets the energy in my space, whether it’s the studio or my bedroom or the kitchen.

Reading a book—I love to read. For me it is less as an escape and more of a reconnaissance. Often a biography helps me dig out of where I am, learning about how someone else dealt with life.

Riding my bicycle—Hopping on my bike and cruising around the neighborhood under the palms always gives me joy. The fact that I can now do that year-round astounds me and reminds me how lucky I am!

Lisa Occhipinti is a Venice CA-based painter, book artist and author, who just launched her first book, The Repurposed Library.

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Life always offers enough time to: pet a kitty, take a walk, breathe deeply, stretch my body, pick a flower, hug my honey, enjoy a good chocolate, watch the sun set, sing in the car, play kick ball with my grand kids, write in my journal, read old journal entries, soak in the bathtub, go to a museum, dance around my studio, take a quick nap, page through art books, call an old friend, meditate. I could go on and on.

Of course I can’t do every single thing every day. But these things make me forget myself so that I can move out of my head. They renew me emotionally and physically and before I know it, I am out of a funk. Life’s simple pleasures are a true blessing.

Mary Beth Shaw, author of Flavor for Mixed Media, is a mixed media artist and nationally known workshop instructor who has a passion for every moment of life.

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Sleep is one of my secret weapons. If I’m feeling lethargic or dull it’s often from fatigue, and after a short rest my optimism often returns. It’s also not unusual for me to sleep on problems where I feel stuck and wake up with a sense of clarity or an idea for a new way through. Moving my body by taking a short walk is always invigorating, and a phone chat with a peer and friend never fails to get the creative engines firing for us both. As a result, I treat all these activities as essential aspects of my work, not diversions.

Jen Lee is a performer in NYC’s storytelling scene.

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The 2 most effective things for me are regular 5 Element Acupuncture (a form of acupuncture that treats a person, not illness, and helps return us to the path our Dao) and a spiritual practice of meditation. In our culture, modalities that work at the level of our fullest potential are so rare, and I am sure there are others. 5 Element aligns our nature with NATURE which quickly gets us back to ourselves when we are a little (or a lot) lost. It is also a unique modality in that when the energies get stuck in us, it can quickly and effectively correct them.

Amy Jenner is a practitioner of 5 Element Accupuncture and lives and works in Maine.

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I have three levels of self care and spirit maintenance.

LEVEL ONE revolves around my core intentions. I consciously try to include these elements, in as great a portion as possible, every day: completion; listening to Spirit; practicing wellness; play; gratitude; forgiveness; enthusiasm/learning; friends; dreaming; generosity.

LEVEL TWO: I create something for fun that has nothing to do with anything. Not production work. Not making money. Not a client request. Just making art because “art saves lives.” Art for art’s sake alone gets my creative motor running again. Sometimes I will end up giving what I’ve made to a friend for no particular reason at all. Giving restores me. Weird but true—giving out fills me up.

LEVEL THREE: When I escalate into over drive and there is “too much” to do I usually call a friend and cry. Yep. Or the notch before the actual tears fall is kevetching (= complaining without actually whining). In just a few minutes my perspective is restored, I’ve laughed and I’m ready to go back at it.

In all these maintenance activities, making positive, healthy food choices is essential.

Mary Anne Radmacher translates her passion for inspiration into books, art, teaching, licensing her products and starting each day with a cup of coffee and a good book.

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Lately I’ve been playing around more in the studio, whether it’s handcrafting long letters to faraway friends or making little things to hang around the house, I am trying to move away from that obsessive need to constantly be producing things that will sell.

I have recently been reminded of what making art used to feel like before it became my main source of income: rebellious, wild, free. By committing to keep the fun and spontaneity of creativity in my daily life I believe that I am building a stronger business and proactively processing the inevitable burn out I know we all feel. This really works for me . . . and so does a big glass of white wine. Because let’s be honest—wine cures everything!

Artist and writer Anne Carmack is the poetic product of a one night stand between two people that she has never met. Her search for something still undefined continues.

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I need physical challenge, exhaustion, ridiculous exertion. Bikram yoga takes me away from EVERYTHING else and I just try to survive that stupid heat and those 26 postures. But then? I’m clean and spent, and the well can fill again. And then, there’s nothing wrong with making plans to drop the drudgery and go; travelling to be with deep kindred spirits, even if it’s just for a weekend, I have my tribe that restores my spirit, reminds me there’s a spark, that the next thing, whatever it is, is in my pocket already, waiting.

Jonatha Brooke,  Singer/Songwriter

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good music.
good people.
good protein.
a great man to relate to in many ways.
joyful love with children and elders.
pow wows
round drum singing.

Nicole S. Hill: teacher, author, designer.

Where do you fit in to this spectrum of taking good care of your self so that you are energised and excited about your life?

5 thoughts on “How Do You Do Self-Care?

  1. Oh my gosh, what a great article. I too grew up in an environment with a strong work ethic. Early on I developed, an “If it’s not hard ,it’s not worth it” kind of an attitude. It’s one I’m working through and trying to let go of. To find more balance. This is a great reminder!

  2. My niece was born just about the exact time my business started and my relationship with her is one I cherish. I don’t have any kids of my own yet and didn’t have any close aunts growing up and vowed that I wouldn’t be just a person she saw on Christmas. She lives a couple of hours away from me but I never go more than three weeks without seeing her and when I do, I take between a couple of days (up to five or six days when I’m lucky!) to hang out with her. Getting to live in a five year old’s world where everything is play is a major rejuvenator (which spell check is telling me isn’t a word, but I say spell check is WRONG, it is a word, I just made it up!) When you’re 10000% yourself with someone…and they regularly tell you you’re one of their favorite people in the whole wide world…giving yourself time to cultivate that relationship is Uh-MAZ-ING self-care. Plus, it is so important to me that I get to be a positive influence on this super special little person’s life.

    Other than that, music saves me. Every time. If I’m having a tough day, the right song can completely lift my spirits and take me from grouch to cheerful in four minutes flat. If I’m tired, the right song can energize me. If I’m having a woe-is-me-I-can’t-do-this day, the right song can put the go!fight!win right back in me. So, big thanks to all the musicians out there.

  3. Always a good reminder – to slow down and rejuvenate oneself creatively. Thanks for including my opinion and I loved reading everyone’s perspective.

  4. “Yes, we need to earn money to live, but at what expense?” I LOVE this. I’m going to print it out and hang it above my crafty table.

    I just put in notice at my Day Job to work full-time on my crafty business and see where I can take it when not spending all day working in a toxic industry. And I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head bemoaning how I’m going to miss the entire summer (a fleeting thing in this part of the country!, drive myself into the ground, and forego any form of enjoyment because from now on every. single. moment is going to have to be about the hustle.

    If I wanted a life with no time for sleep, good food, mental renewal, or any form of self-care, I could’ve stayed at Day Job and collected the regular paycheck. Thanks for pointing out that I am being ridiculous.

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