How well do you take care of yourself? I’m not talking about basics like getting dressed or brushing your teeth (though those can go out the window if you work by yourself for long periods of time). I’m talking about those little gestures that remind yourself that you’re precious, worthy, and cared for—gestures of self-care that can change the way you relate to life and work.
As a creative person who’s always a pragmatist, I’ve always struggled to find the time and motivation to care for myself. Life is busy, I tell myself…it’s much more important to check these five things off the list, fill my bank account and stave off a rainy day, or push for the next job or accolade than attend to my innermost needs. But creativity and self-worth are inextricably connected, and to starve the one starves the other.
I think of self-care like a bank account. If you make regular deposits and keep a positive balance, interest grows and wealth accumulates. If you start to overdraw, things get complicated quickly. Panic, lack, and deprivation set in, making increasing demands on your future self. Not only is that state unsustainable in the long term, but it’s extremely frustrating and stressful in the short term.
To avoid a self-care deficit, I have to remind myself to pay attention to the little things that make me feel heard, accepted, loved, and cared for. Ultimately, it is up to me to care for myself regardless of how others feel about me, how rich I am, or how successful my work has become. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to incorporate self-care into my day. From regular exercise to tea in a mug I love, my favorite music in my headphones to little breaks to appreciate the world outside my windows or call a friend, I try to replenish myself as much as possible.
Something amazing happens when you turn as much care and love toward yourself as your work or your clients. Suddenly, you become a higher priority on your own list. You find that you regain some of your energy and optimism. And, if you’re anything like me, you notice that you have more time and energy to make great work. Think of yourself as a washcloth. When wet and clean, you’re ready to take on any mess. Depriving yourself of self-care is the equivalent of wringing yourself out and refusing to take a trip to the washing machine now and again…not only are you wilted, depleted, and unable to do your job, but you’re also grungy and smelly to boot.
Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or flashy. It can span the gamut from simply standing up and noticing the world around you to splurgy indulgences like the occasional massage or spendy vacation. Most of all, it’s the intention that counts—the proclamation that you’re worth every second of attention.
I wish I had learned sooner that self-care is a non-negotiable part of creative life. There aren’t many other things in life that offer a more than 100% return on investment.