Filling up Your Tank – Self-Care as a Freelancer
Taking care of yourself is like filling up your truck’s gas tank. You can’t give your best performance, or go for the long haul, without fuel. It’s not selfish, and it’s not a waste of time or money. Choosing to put yourself first sometimes can revitalize your writing and photography, increase your productivity, and most of all, improve your outlook on life. Personally, I picked the freelance life for the flexibility, but if I have such a heavy workload that I never take time to enjoy a walk on a cool fall day or a last-minute trip to the mountains, I might as well be working in an office!
We are in charge of how many assignments we take on. In my case, I’ve been running like a hamster this year. I have financial goals to meet, so my downtime has really taken a back seat as I’m balancing full-time freelancing with being a wife and mom with two little kids. I know this is not sustainable long-term—the unbalance is temporary—but I still look for ways to add small things that make me feel happy when I can!
I think sometimes we can also get wrapped up in the concept of being busy all the time. I am 100 percent preaching to myself. What’s the first thing anyone says when you ask how they’re doing? “Crazy busy.” We’re all crazy busy, and trying to wring more productivity out of each day. That’s admirable, and we sure get a lot done, but it’s smart to schedule in down time, relaxation and rituals that bring you joy.
In this season of my life, with a heavy workload and young children, so many of the things I used to do for “me time” just don’t happen anymore. Like happy hours, going to the movies, getting my nails done, binge watching all the tv shows and girls’ weekends, for example. These are all wonderful ways to recharge--maybe these are the ways you personally unwind--and I have really enjoyed them in previous seasons. But for me, they’re just not on my radar right now and I don’t really miss them (most of the time) because the tradeoff in my situation is more time with my kiddos. They’re only little once, and my youngest is about to turn two this weekend. Soon she won’t need me to rock her to sleep, and when they’re in school in a few short years I’ll have more dedicated work time during the day, which means I will be able to relax at night instead of work every evening.
Without further ado, here are some things that I count as my self-care:
Reading books – I mostly read library books on my Kindle, and I get tremendous enjoyment out of reading. It is seriously my favorite thing to do and I’ve always loved it, but reading is one hobby that didn’t go away with having kids. I just sneak it in while I’m drying my hair, taking a bath, right before bed, drinking a cup of coffee, etc.
Bubble baths – made even better with a good book!! It might be cliché but I don’t care. We have a lovely garden tub at our home and it’s my favorite way to unwind after a long day.
Cooking good meals – I really enjoy meal planning and cooking delicious dinners for my family. Cooking is relaxing, I get to visit with my kids as they swoop in for apples and cheerios and bits of cheese, I drink a glass of wine sometimes while I cook and then we sit down and eat together. It’s the best part of my day. Not the dishes though!
Drinking a good cup of coffee – as a journalist and a mom, coffee is LIFE. We use a French press, and Zach and I have lately been obsessed with HEB brand Casa Ole San Antonio Blend, paired with Coffee Mate Crème Brulee creamer. A good cup wakes me up by the third sip, and it settles my mind to get some work done. I have a cup when I get up and a cup after I put my kids down for a nap so I can hammer out my work. I used to have an afternoon slump, but the coffee really helps!
Sleeping more than 6 hours—or taking a nap – This is seriously wishful thinking post-kids, but the handful of times this happens, I feel like a new woman! I also feel like I’ll get more sleep when my kids are bigger, so I’m not hurrying this season. Plus, there’s coffee! Joking. I know sleep deprivation is bad for my health and I will definitely get more sleep…someday.
Riding horses – last year I half-leased a sweet ranch gelding. This year, finances and time have made it really difficult to get back to the barn. I have put that on the shelf for now, but it’s a very real goal for me. Few things make me feel more like myself than being on the back of a good horse. Spending time at the barn is absolutely essential for me to be a good journalist in equine media. I owe my career to my lifelong passion for horses, and I will be back at it as soon as it’s feasible.
Walking with my kids – I’m not on a regular workout regimen right now, but I do pull out the jogging stroller and walk for 30-45 minutes with my kids several times a week. They both love the view as we walk in the neighborhood or nearby parks. It’s fun to visit with them, and I sometimes listen to podcasts and audiobooks too. Walking has been a mainstay in my routine since I was pregnant with Wilder, and he’s about to be four. Both of my kids look forward to stroller walks, and it gets those exercise endorphins going for me, so it’s a win all around.
Date night in – We don’t have a lot of date nights out these days. But on the occasional night when both of us are taking off from work (Zach is a realtor and he works from home as well), we will watch a TV show or sit outside around our firepit. We really only watch a couple of shows right now – The Man in the High Castle and Longmire. But we have a long list of shows to watch when we DO have time. :-)
Getting my hair done – My hairdresser is 45 minutes away, and it takes a couple of hours to get my hair done, so it’s definitely a time commitment every 6 weeks or so. It can be stressful to plan around deadlines, but when I can make an appointment for the small lull after I’ve turned in assignments, it’s a really nice way to relax, chat with my hairdresser friend, read a good book (seeing a theme?) and leave with hair that makes me feel beautiful and put-together. Plus I can make calls to family and friends on the drive, or listen to podcasts and audiobooks. :-)
Skincare – if you’d asked me six months ago how I felt about washing my face, I would have told you it was just something I had to do at the end of the day, and I wished I could just go to bed without the hassle. But over the last couple of months, I started using Rodan + Fields skincare, and even became a consultant. Having a skincare routine, with extra goodies like microdermabrasion paste and Lash Boost takes an extra few minutes. But my skin feels really good when I’m done. It’s worth the time, and I like seeing that even though I am not well-rested, my skin looks like I am.
There’s my list! What are some things that you take pleasure in? What habits can you incorporate into your life that relax and rejuvenate you? How can you take care of yourself today?