UPDATE: This post on practicing self care was first published on 8 April 2020 and updated on 28 July 2021.
When you work for yourself, the regular nine to five tends to go out the window. The same holds true for those forced to work at home because of lockdowns. It can be hard to know when the workday's over.
But prioritising self care — including emotional self care — is vital.
The truth is, success and self care go hand in hand. And while practicing self care can look different for everyone, it’s all about maintaining your physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Call it solo team building — an essential self-service to help you not just survive but thrive.
Here we’ve put together the essential guide to practicing self care to keep you happy, healthy and producing great work.
Related: How to get the ideal home office
1. Block out time
Let’s be honest. If you don’t schedule it in, it probably won’t happen. Block out time in your calendar for yourself, commit to it and honour that commitment.
Practicing self care might mean:
- Enrolling in an online yoga class
- Joining a book club
- Committing to a roleplaying group that meets regularly
2. Sleep is sacred
While entrepreneurs often boast about getting by on little sleep, burning the midnight oil is one of the fastest ways to burn out.
The simple truth is, sleep is good for us.
It brightens our mood, restores our energy, boosts our immunity and improves our cognitive performance. What’s not to love?
Cultivating a healthy sleep habit does require a bit of self-discipline, though. You might try:
- Switching your phone off at least an hour before bed
- Reading a book instead of mindlessly scrolling
- Limiting alcohol and sugary foods in the evening
- Going to bed at the same time each night
Vitamin supplements such as magnesium and melatonin can also be helpful for the chronically sleep-deprived.
3. Get moving
There’s no getting around this one, so put the excuses aside. The fact is, we have to move our bodies in order to stay healthy, and exercise is just as important for our mental and emotional self care as it is for our physical well-being. It’s an instant mood-lifter.
For some, accountability is the key. Find a mate to walk with or book some sessions with a personal trainer.
Even a brisk morning walk can do wonders for your outlook and help sustain energy levels throughout the day.
- Listen to music
- Catch up on a podcast to spark ideas while your mind is fresh
- Just enjoy the silence
For something more strenuous, the 7-Minute Workout App is perfect for when you’re short on time and need an injection of endorphins and oxygen.
4. Nourish your insides
We’re probably all guilty of eating on the go, or realising at 10 p.m. that we haven’t eaten since breakfast and then wolfing down whatever’s at hand because we’re suddenly starving.
When we’re stressed, we’re also more likely to turn to unhealthy snacks, which in turn makes us feel sluggish and low. It can be a hard cycle to break.
Good food, on the other hand, will give you the vital energy and mental clarity you need to function like a boss. Eating well, consistently, is really about planning ahead so you don’t have weak moments at the biscuit jar.
The rule of thumb is avoid the packet stuff and focus on real whole foods with more plant-based options — what you put in, you get out.
5. Switch off
This is a big one for anyone practicing self care. In our digital, tech-driven world, we’re always ‘on’ and available 24/7. Some of us sleep with our devices next to our bed, answer emails at 2 a.m. and consume content all day long.
No wonder we’re often left feeling frazzled and exhausted.
The important thing to remember here is it’s okay to take a break, be it a:
- Morning off
- Regular lunch break
- Screen-free weekend
Schedule in a digital detox and trust that your business will survive.
Even just the simple act of stepping outside, feeling the warm sun on your face and breathing fresh air for a few minutes can be as restorative as a perfectly brewed cup of tea.
6. Learn to say no
Saying no might seem counterintuitive when it comes to growing your business or excelling in the workplace, but it’s vital for managing your workload and stress levels.
When you first start out, it can be easy to say yes to everything, but at some point it can evolve into a workload that’s impossible to sustain.
Setting limits and establishing healthy boundaries in your day can be a game-changer; an empowering shift that puts you back in the driver’s seat. It could help you build a business and a life you love, not just one you feel obligated to.
7. Pay attention to your mind
With increasing working hours and workplace stress, we’re at greater risk of developing depression, illness and anxiety than ever before.
Emotional self care is just as important as physical self care.
You can practice mindfulness and meditation daily to help combat stress and anxiety — even just 10 minutes a day can have a profound impact. Popular apps like Headspace and Calm are designed to help people stress less, focus more and even sleep better.
8. Reach out
Both running your own business and working at home can be lonely and isolating, particularly in recent times. But taking time to connect with friends and family, or reaching out online when seeing people in person isn’t possible, is a huge part of our emotional self care.
Look at joining business groups in your industry where you can find support and connect with a community of like-minded business owners. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you don’t have to go it alone. Make time for the people you care about and reach out for support when you need it.
Practicing self care is good for business
Self care is more than just a buzzword, it’s about taking care of the most important person in your business: you.
While it can look different for different people, practicing self care is essentially about taking time for yourself.
Whether that means going to bed early, eating healthier or reading a book in the bath, make it a priority and make it happen. Your future happy, healthy, successful self will thank you for it.
This post should not be taken as medical advice. When in doubt, always consult a medical professional.