As bloggers, our minds and bodies are our most valuable and vital assets in our business. So it's important to keep them in good shape with some blogger self-care. Surrounded by food and staring at devices all day can make that a challenge! In our Healthy Blogger series, Sondi Bruner shares information and practical strategies to keep you in top form. This month she shares strategies for carving out time for yourself and practicing self-care.
I'll bet most of us would agree that creating time for yourself is important, yet like many other things that we know are beneficial — eating well, sleeping, exercising — the challenge is actually doing it. Amid our busy and hectic lives, engaging in self-care may seem like a greedy pursuit or a luxury we can't afford. However, like the proverbial "put your own oxygen mask on first," we're better able to help the people we care about when we make it a priority to take care of ourselves on a regular basis.
Creating time for yourself can help you feel relaxed and happier, and happiness is linked to a number of physical benefits including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. It may even help us live longer. A 2015 Canadian survey found that we spend, on average, an hour a day on "personal care." This category includes some popular self-care activities like meditation, but also covers personal hygiene, spirituality and praying, sex and self-administered medical care (taking insulin and other medications, monitoring blood pressure, etc.).
If you're wondering how you can possibly carve out the time to take care of yourself, some of the tips I have to share today may help.
We're better able to help the people we care about when we make it a priority to take care of ourselves on a regular basis
Figure Out What You Need
Many of us may associate the term "self-care" with a certain set of activities like meditation, yoga, journaling, taking a bath, having a massage or going for a pedicure. If you don't like any of these things, don't do them. Self-care can be anything you want it to be and you're limited only by your imagination. Self-care can even be productive. If decluttering your closet or reorganizing your spice rack is your idea of a good time, then go for it — just ensure you're doing something you truly enjoy without pressure.
Barbara Erochina, an emotional wellness coach, recommends focusing on what you need in any given moment and then selecting the most loving and gentle way to achieve that need, rather than trying to force self-care through a particular action.
"In moments you can take for yourself, ask 'What do I need right now?'", she says. "The activity isn’t as important as the need that is being met."
For example if your core need is to rest, consider what will be the most restful thing you can do. Sure, that might be a 15-minute meditation or a nap, but it could also be something else entirely.
This approach involves checking in with yourself on a daily basis, rather than doing certain activities on autopilot and expecting they'll automatically yield relaxation and restoration.
And it's hard!
While there's validity to the "if you build it, they will come" mentality of engaging in the action first (and there may be some unconscious or unexpected results), building your ability to realistically assess what you need does get easier and clearer with time.
"Intuition is everyone’s best guide in making the choices that they need for themselves and their families," Erochina advises. "Listen to your intuition — you are the expert on what you need and no one else can tell you what you need."
Creating Time for Yourself
How do you take more time for yourself? This is the billion dollar question and if there were a simple answer, we'd all be billionaires. As with exercise or cooking from scratch, we begin to have more time when we prioritize. However, Erochina says sometimes this scheduling and prioritizing can backfire.
"Self-care is best when it’s removed from ‘shoulds’ as much as possible," she says. "For most people, self-care becomes about making a list of to-dos that are added to their existing list and that only stresses them out more. We don't want to make self-care another thing we’re failing at."
Instead, Erochina recommends shifting the focus to dropping expectations, forgoing the endless pushing, being kind and gentle to ourselves and practicing those consistent check-ins where you ask yourself how you can meet your needs in the moment. If we can begin to do this, we cultivate a dynamic relationship with ourselves.
I think this is a very helpful way to look at self-care. As a person with Type A tendencies (and I'm sure many of you have these, too), it's beneficial to have a reminder that self-care isn't useful when you simply apply your Type A succeed-or-die strategies to relaxation. Still, I do think there are some organizational tips that can help you prioritize self-care as it's one of those things many of us won't get around to unless we give ourselves a little (gentle) push.
- Create reminders. Add a daily reminder to check in with yourself, whether on your to-do list or set an alarm on your phone. See what you need in that moment and act accordingly.
- Plan for self-care dates. If you enjoy doing self-care activities that need an appointment, then obviously you need to make them and add them to your calendar. The same goes for social activities with your friends and family — not everyone will be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Schedule these activities in advance, but remember you can always cancel closer to the date if you're not up to it (try not to cancel at the last minute if you can).
- Track your time. If you find it challenging to make time for yourself, try tracking your time for a few days. Write down all of your activities, tracking by the hour or by the half hour. You may find that, after doing this for a few days, you can spot holes of unused time. Or, you may be surprised to learn you're spending more time on apps like Instagram than you think!
- What can you give up? Once you track your time, give some thought to what activities in your calendar are essential and what could potentially be replaced by a self-care activity.
- What can you delegate? We are often reluctant to ask for help, but reaching out when we need it is an act of self-care too. Are there things you can delegate to other people in your household? If finances allow, can you pay someone else to do these tasks? As food bloggers, we tend to be jacks of all trades. It's important to have an understanding of different elements of blogging, but that doesn't mean we have to do it all. Can you hire a virtual assistant, a graphic designer, an editor?
Remember that you don't need to engage in self-care for a set amount of time every day or every week for it to be helpful. Quality is better than quantity. Five deep breaths can be more effective than an hour long hot yoga class if the latter is going to exhaust and deplete you.
"As long as you approach it to be gentle and loving to yourself, there’s no way to do self-care wrong," Erochina says.
What About Cooking?
You probably began a food blog because you adore food and cooking, as well as sharing your creations with others. Sometimes, when you turn your food blog into a part-time or full-time job, it can be less enjoyable to cook in your free time — partly because it seems like work, but also likely because your brain is still automatically planning how to style the best shot. If you'd like to explore cooking as a form of self-care, I have a few suggestions:
- Cook freestyle. No notes, no camera, no phone. Just create food for the sheer enjoyment of making and eating it.
- Turn to a cookbook or food blog. Gather inspiration and excitement for new flavours by cooking from other recipes. Following instructions to make a recipe, rather than creating one, can be immensely enjoyable and liberating.
- Have a potluck or host a cookbook club. If you enjoy being social as part of your self-care, invite a bunch of friends over to eat or work your way through a new cookbook together.
- Teach what you know. Share your passion for cooking by teaching someone else to cook — children, adult family members, someone in your community — and have fun with it.
You may also want to check out a post I wrote about How to Reignite Your Passion for Food Blogging if you're feeling uninspired.
You Don't Have To Be Alone!
Self-care isn't synonymous with alone time. Natural introverts may want to retreat, while for extroverts the relaxation and recharging comes from being around other people. Your path to self-care can involve grabbing a cup of tea or coffee with a friend, playing with your children, attending a community event or chilling at a BBQ. Again, there's no perfect way to do self-care.
Self-Care and Technology
Do you need to go device-free when engaging in self-care? For some of us, scrolling through gorgeous food shots on Instagram can make us feel inadequate, stressed or we can fall into the comparison trap. Even when we find inspiration in seeing what others are doing, social media can pressure us to work on our blogs when what we may need is to step away from the camera or computer for a bit.
On the flip side, some devices can help with our self-care. There may be a mediation, yoga or fitness app you love, and of course we need to be hooked up to the internet to access Netflix. Erochina recommends returning to whatever need you are trying to address and then deciphering how technology can help.
"If the tech supports the meeting of the need, then keep it," she says. "If it doesn’t, don’t keep it."
Helpful Self-Care Tools
There are a few simple tools you can use to enhance your self-care. Some of these are tactile and physical reminders, which can be useful for those that need them.
- Wear a bracelet as a reminder of your commitment to self-care
- Write reminders or affirming messages on sticky notes
- Verbally check in with family and friends about what you need
- Talk to yourself out loud
- Write simple self-care activities cue cards and keep the stack on your desk. Pull one out and follow the instructions on the card. (Erochina has a Cards for Self-Care deck if you don't want to make them.)
Teaching Self-Care to Our Families
We don't have to master the art of self-care on our own. Sharing and teaching self-care in the entire household not only helps others understand your needs, but also if you have children it helps to raise a new generation of adults who are adept at self-care.
Erochina sees clients who relentlessly self-sacrifice for everyone else, and she's concerned that kids will assume this is what they need to do in order to be happy. "The best thing that we can do in our household is be a good example," she says. "Kids learn mostly through modeling. The best way we can model and raise our kids is to show them that self-care is about taking care of yourself, too."
- Blogger Health: Exercise and Staying Active
- How to Stay Healthy as a Food Blogger
- 5 Tips to Ensure A Healthy Body and A Healthy Biz
If you're feeling a little burnt out and struggling to stay motivated you might also want to check out our 15 Days To Fall Back In Love With Your Blog series.
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer, food blogger and author of Simple Superfood Smoothies, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet in 21, The Candida Free Cookbook and Action Plan, co-author of The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Action Plans. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. She is also the head program coach for the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com.