I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since my last post, trying to determine what my blog should actually be about. My current working life is quite varied; I support literacy in school, I’m a school librarian, a proofreader and a beta reader. The common thread is books – mainly reading, encouraging others to read or supporting them in their writing. It makes sense then, that my blog should focus on those three things—so that’s what I’m going to endeavour to do!
This week is mental health awareness week. As someone who has suffered from mental health issues in the past and has qualified as a therapeutic counsellor it would seem remiss of me to ignore it. Our mental health is something to be nourished and protected, this is where self-care comes in.
Self-worth is directly connected to our sense of achievement; if we feel accomplished we feel worthy of praise and pride. If we feel like we’ve done a good job, we deserve to be rewarded and that’s how many of us view self-care—as a reward. Those of us who strive for perfection, who are hard on ourselves and are ultimately lacking in self-worth are less likely to ‘reward’ ourselves. If we haven’t written enough words, gained enough followers, we haven’t achieved enough to deserve the treat.
What is self-care?
We use the term a lot in modern life but what does it actually mean? In the most simple terms it is looking after yourself. I would describe it as paying attention to your mental health. If it is something you neglect, ask yourself why? Do you feel like you don’t deserve it? Or are you more simply forgetting to make yourself a priority? If it’s the former, examine this feeling more thoroughly, list your achievements, start to cut your projects down into more manageable chunks so that you feel more accomplished by the end of the working day. (I’ll come back to the ‘working day’ later) If you are writing, instead of aiming to write a chapter, split the chapter into pages, even paragraphs, and reward yourself at the end of each accomplishment, however small. It’s better to have written a really good paragraph than a chapter of waffle, after all!
One of the most effective parts of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is writing; diaries and timetables are a really easy way to examine and rate your thoughts and feelings. If you use a written list of what you want to achieve in a day make sure it’s split into really small chunks and add those rewards too. You can get downloadable printouts of CBT activity sheets and timetables online. If you like a book for everything like me, I used this one.
What rewards should I use?
Rewards are very individual and depend on your personality. I use tea (and chocolate!) breaks, a 30 minute walk, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a hot bath, a chapter of whichever book I’m reading (for pleasure, not work), a phone call with my friend, 10 minutes on social media, the list is endless. If you view the little things as accomplishments, it stands to reason that you deserve the rewards. If your day is broken up into parts, where each task ticked off your list has a corresponding reward, by the end of the day you will have also achieved a fair amount of self-care.
Why self-care is so vital for authors/freelancers
Those of us who work at home miss out on some of the healthiest aspects of working life: routine, regular breaks and social interaction, all of which are necessary for self-care. When you don’t have a boss to answer to, or colleagues to help keep you motivated, it can be easy to end up in a cycle of procrastination and guilt. It is better, therefore, to have a break and come back to your task, feeling refreshed, than staring at your screen feeling frustrated and useless. Make those healthy aspects of working life part of yours too, whether it is keeping your working day to 9-5 hours, having designated breaks, going to a coffee shop to see other humans or just walking the dog in fresh air.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you – Anne Lamott
If you are fitting in your freelancing or writing on top of a full-time job and/or parenthood it can be doubly difficult to fit in self-care. Try to take a regular day or evening off, completely switch off from the work without guilt, because it is scheduled. Use that time to do something for yourself, not to catch up on chores; timetable them in at a different time.
There is so much more I could say about self-care but I think I’ve made my point: there is no shame in looking after ourselves, it is essential. Let me know there is anything you do for self-care that you think I’ve missed!