I recently attended a meetup alongside some stellar creative entrepreneur-type ladies. We were going around answering the question, “What are you working on right now?” Of course, most of us rattled off all of the projects that we’ve had in our heads, our lofty dreams and schemes for our businesses. But one woman answered the question a bit differently: “Honestly,” she said, “I’m just focusing on making my bed every morning.”
I loved this answer because, for me at least, it provided some much needed perspective on how out-of-whack my priorities can be sometimes. If you’re anything like me, then you know how easy it is to dismiss the simple needs of life by getting caught up in the thrill of pursuing your passions. In fact, some of us might even hold a certain romance for the idea of creative chaos. Messy desks, sleepless nights, skipped meals – in many ways we regard these types of stress as badges of honor.
But while disorder and stress are certainly an indicator of busyness, they’re also the fastest track to total creative burnout. The reality is this: to create something worthwhile, you have to start by creating a sustainable life for yourself. In other words, those who make the biggest impact in this world are those who commit themselves to practicing self-care and reducing stress.
We all go through seasons of life where our basic needs seem to fall by the wayside. Still, no matter how busy, stressed, or successful you are, there is always room to give yourself the attention you deserve. Want to know what you can do to be kinder to yourself right now and feel less stressed? Start here:
Develop morning/nightly routines
If you have kids, you know what an epic event bedtime can be. It involves a specific order of operations: take bath, put on pajamas, brush hair, brush teeth, get in bed, tuck in, read story, big kiss, lights out. We provide this routine for kids because it gives them a sense of structure, making them feel safe. And the same is true for bigger kids (i.e. adults). Especially for those whose lives are on the unpredictable side, we need daily habits that we can depend on. Think about what you do when you wake up and what you do before you fall asleep. Are these structured events or do they regularly change? Find a routine that works for you, and commit to sticking to it.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Have you ever left a computer running for way too long to the point where it just crashes? Well, despite some obvious physical differences, it’s important to remember that we are all basically computers. Without rest, we break down. And while we’ve often heard that sleep affects our productivity, recent studies also suggest that prolonged wakefulness threatens our innovation (that is, our ability to create and come up with brilliant new ideas). This means that if you are cutting corners in your sleep cycle, you aren’t doing yourself OR your business any favors.
Keep necessities stocked
Shampoo, coffee, dish soap, granola, eye cream – whatever you need to feel like a human being, make sure you have it on hand. It sounds simple enough, but in the midst of a busy season, there is nothing worse than being without the essentials. If you tend to be particularly forgetful, try subscribing to your favorite items on Amazon to have them regularly delivered to your door. I mean, hello, you subscribe to podcasts and newsletters; maybe it’s time to subscribe to your preferred brand of toilet paper.
Be kind to your body
When life is hectic, we tend to make decisions based on convenience. For many us, this leads to fast food dinners and missed workouts. But in times of stress, your body needs the good stuff more than ever. Be deliberate about getting those fruits, veggies, and proteins into your system. In fact, make healthy foods a convenient option by stocking up every week on all of your favorites. Can’t make it to the grocery store? Sites such as Blue Apron will deliver the ingredients for wholesome and delicious meals right to your door.
Your office, your studio, your garage, your email inbox – whatever space in your life is causing you stress, now is the time clear it out. These mess-riddled areas are basically physical metaphors for your frazzled brain, so trust me, you will feel so much better once they are organized.
Have an outlet
If you are building a business, you are in the fortunate position of getting to do the thing you love. All. The. Time. Yay! But sometimes this can be a challenge, especially if the thing you love was once your go-to hobby. Now your hobby is work and work is your hobby and it’s all very confusing. That being said, find something that helps you decompress, something totally separate from your daily grind. For me, I love to go on walks and explore new places in my neighborhood.
This is one of the quickest, easiest things you can do to care for yourself. Focused abdominal breathing not only relaxes your overworked mind, but the increased oxygen improves your energy and focus which, of course, means better ideas and decisions all around. For some help in this department, try a guided breathing app such as Breathe2Relax.
All of the aforementioned ideas – your morning routine, exercise, hobbies, even breathing – write these items down in your planner. Treat them with the same level of importance that you would a business meeting. Carve out actual time in your day for these activities and resist the urge to replace them with work. You will want to, I promise.
Your ambitions should be big, so big that they scare you a little. But your small daily accomplishments – things like making your bed, completing a workout, clearing out your inbox, cooking yourself dinner – these are the things that will help you tackle your dreams with confidence. Take care of yourself by remembering that the little things you do today are just as vital as the big things you will do tomorrow.