As freelancers and artists, we actually on average work MORE than those in “standard” employment. One of the easier things about “regular” work is the ability to clock out and walk away at the end of the day. Or at least leave the office and leave your work behind for a few hours. Meanwhile, if you work for yourself, you’re more likely to work longer, later, and harder. Admit it, you’ve blinked and realized your 1 hour of creative time has turned into 3, or your “quick tweaks” to your website took a full day. If I’m sewing, I’ll suddenly realize I’ve been at my machine for 6 hours.
We’re already pre-dispositioned to put extra stress on ourselves and do extra work. Add mental illness on top of that and it’s just a whole extra level of fun. If your idea of “fun” is getting burnt out, having panic attacks, or collapsing from exhaustion. Both Harrison and I struggle with different forms of mental illness, which make self-care even more important. The risk of getting completely burnt out is a strong one.
It’s Not Selfish to Take Care of Yourself
For freelancers and the self-employed, self-care becomes even more vital. So, what can we do to try to take better care of ourselves? We tend to think of taking care of ourselves as selfish, but we absolutely need to prioritize self-care.
Aileen O’Leary shared a comment that really helped put things into perspective. You know on airplanes, the whole safety spiel about what happens if air pressure in the cabin drops? Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. If you pass out, you are of no use to anyone.
Stop trying to be perfect
She shares a few other thoughts as well. Try to reduce your perfectionism. Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. It’s important to remember we’re all human, and all imperfect. We have to make an effort to let go of being perfect if we’re going to put self-care first. Keep high standards, yes, but try to recognize when you’re spiraling due to over-focus on perfecting things – learn to realize when it’s gone too far and is being more detrimental than helpful.
Let others help you
Another helpful tip for self-care is delegating. In case you think this is just about encouraging you to hire help, like me, to take business tasks off your hands, it’s not (though that can also help). Delegation isn’t just about your art or your work. It’s as simple as asking your roommate or your partner to help more with things not relating to your art biz – chores, errands. Heck, even things like recruiting friends to help with packaging for a show, and paying them with pizza and beer so you’re not doing everything yourself.
Life isn’t actually a competition
Try not to fall for the comparison trap – I know it’s really hard, but stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Harrison and I are especially prone to falling into this. You are your own unique individual with unique circumstances. You don’t know everything about them any more than they know everything about you. You think you’re comparing apples to apples, but may be comparing apples to potatoes. It will only bring animosity, jealousy, and frustration instead of community and cooperation. Have goals. Strive to improve. But remember we’re all on our own journeys, not a race against each other.
Rest and Recharge
Schedule yourself down time and alone time. If that means eliminating something else from your schedule, do it. Self care needs to take priority, so make time for it. Schedule it. Even if it starts out as 10 minutes a day you lock yourself in your own bathroom.
Give yourself permission to REST. No point in scheduling downtime if you spend the whole time feeling guilty, beating yourself up, and going over what else you “should” be doing.
It’s important to make self-care an urgent priority. If it’s low on your list, you’ll find reasons to brush it off (just like those extra trips to the gym). Schedule the time. Block it out. Your brain and body need to recharge, just like a battery. We don’t have an endless supply of energy or brain power, no matter how much we act like we do.
Some Things to Do
There’s a lot of things you can do as small acts of self-care.
Of course, there are the “normal” ones:
- Are you getting enough sleep? Take a nap.
- Are you hydrated? Drink some water.
- Have you eaten in the past several hours? Go eat something.
- Have you showered in the last day? Take a shower.
- Have you been living in pajamas? Put on some clean clothes.
I realize some of these are easier said than done. But if you notice yourself feeling crappy and you don’t know why, ask yourself those questions. I’ve literally forgotten that it’s been all day and I haven’t eaten.
Here’s a few more:
- Surround yourself with supportive people.
- Cuddle your partner. Cuddle your friends. Cuddle your pets.
- Play your favorite video game.
- Go shopping.
- Have a fancy coffee.
- Take a break.
- Try meditation.
- Put your phone on do not disturb.
- Go see a movie.
- Take a walk outside.
- Look at memes.
- Grab a coloring book.
- Go to the gym (if that’s a thing you do).
- Get up and dance to your favorite song.
Don’t Forget Your Meds!
Now, I want to be clear that I am NOT one of those people saying “Go for a walk! Think positive! That’s all you need to be better!” No, I am a strong proponent, as I’ve said before, of medication if that’s what works for you. It’s what works for me. My meds are a vital part of my functionality. Find a therapist. See a doctor. Take your meds.
No one thing is a fix all, but every little bit can help. For me, it’s a carefully structured combination of meds, quiet time, coffee, music, and long drives. I have playlists for different moods and mental states. On bad days, I’ll treat myself to a fancy white chocolate mocha. Sometimes I’ll ask to just sit in a room with loved ones, not talking, just being. Other days I’ll ask to be left alone because I need the quiet and no interruption. Sometimes I just need to be a blanket burrito.
The important thing in all of this is to make time for yourself, and find what works for you. Remember that self-care, as a freelancer, is part of your job.
Here’s some links to more thoughts and ideas: