Looking After Yourself As a Creative or Entrepreneur: A Self-care Guide

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A few years ago, just as Film Sprites PR was starting to bear fruit, I got sick. As in, really sick.

Initially, I picked up the worst flu I’d experienced in my entire life. On top of that, I also ended up with a chest infection, and as an asthmatic a chest infection is not something to take lightly. Unfortunately, it coincided with a visit from my brother-in-law and my niece. They came down from Wellington to stay with us and do some sight-seeing. But my illness was so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed most of the time. I think I saw my niece and my brother-in-law a total of 4 times in the space of a week. At one point, my niece (who was 8 at the time) was showing me the photos they took at the Antarctic Centre. She turned to me and said, “I hope you can come with us next time.”

That was a moment that broke my heart. I actually still tear up when I think about it. I had been working every hour under the sun, skipping weekends, skipping meals, and my immunity was so low that when I was working at my then day job at the local hospital I managed to pick up the flu. My doctor was pretty stern about the situation when I next saw her. Being a big supporter of my career goals, she told me in no uncertain terms that looking after myself had to be a priority, because all of the efforts I was putting into building a business would come to nothing if something more serious happened with my health.

Since then, I’ve taken her advice very seriously, and as a result looking after myself during contracts has been a priority that is built into my daily schedule.

I know what it’s like as a creative or entrepreneur. You’re so passionately driven to achieve your goals and make your mark on the world that sometimes you make incredible sacrifices which could end up impacting your physical and mental well-being in the long-run. Certainly, if you’re on a film set and doing a night shoot, or working a 12 hour stretch on something urgent it can be hard to slot self-care into your schedule, but it can be done. None of the advice below is new, or complicated- it’s straight-forward, no-nonsense, and you will be aware of these strategies anyway. Now’s the time to take notice of them and make them a priority!

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Yes, you DO need to eat

It’s so easy to skip meals, ignore when you’re hungry and go through the day with an empty stomach, but your bod pays the price big-time. In order for your body (and especially your brain!) to function efficiently, you need to keep your energy levels up. If you’re the type of person who finds themselves skipping meal breaks on set, at the office or during conference sessions so you can get in an additional 15 to 30 minutes of answering messages/emails done, try and break this habit. 3 meals, 2 snacks, lots of water.

And don’t live your life out of a vending machine or your hotel mini-fridge, either! I was a shocker for grabbing a soda and a chocolate bar at 3:00pm in order to try and get over the afternoon slump. When I’m travelling domestically, I take little pouches of instant oatmeal with me, as well as packets of trail mix. Another snack I love is Tasti’s Smooshed Wholefood Balls, especially when I’m craving a chocolatey hit.

Make exercise your BFF

I won’t lie…I loathe most exercise activities. I do. I have to force, cajole and bribe myself to get my gym gear on and break a sweat. However, as much as I hate it, I know that it has a huge amount of benefits that will also benefit the way I run my business. As a busy creative or entrepreneur, it can be really hard to slot regular exercise into your busy schedule, but it can be done. Even incidental exercise has its benefits. Think about investing in a standing desk, suggest going for a brief walking meeting instead of meeting with someone at a café or in your office, or schedule in a block of time at the gym when you know you will commit to those sessions.

In my case, because I’m currently having to do a lot of desk-based work, I have made it a point to get in a 30-minute workout on DVD early in the morning before I start my working day. In addition to that, I stop every hour on the hour, put on a video from The Fitness Marshall on YouTube. One of the benefits of working from my home office means I can do that without looking like a complete idiot! See what works for you. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you DO IT.

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Photo by Les Jay on Unsplash

Try meditation and mindfulness practices

I say without reservation that meditation has been a game-changer for me, both personally and professionally. I have been meditating every day for the past 5 years, and it has allowed me to cut through stress, get in touch with my intuition on a daily basis, and is one of the most important self-care practices I undertake personally. I went from being a worried, anxious, stress-head to someone who can take on a strenuous workload and still remain calm and happy. When you’re able to get in touch with your intuition through meditation and mindfulness, it means you will be better able to assess opportunities. You will be able to feel in your gut when something isn’t right, and take action as appropriate.

Meditation isn’t hard, and it doesn’t have to be complicated (in fact, it shouldn’t be). Hey, there’s even an app for it now! Try the meditation and mindfulness app Headspace. You can also do guided visualisation meditations to assist you with your goals. There’s a wealth of meditations available via iTunes and Spotify to suit a range of goals. You don’t have to have your butt on a meditation cushion for hours on end to get benefits- even small bites of meditation and mindfulness really help with your peace of mind and wellbeing.

Do a bit of something you love every single day

I know what you’re going to say: “but I love my business/film/gig, I’m doing that every day!”. I know. I hear you, I am passionate about what we do here at Film Sprites PR, but it’s not healthy to make it the be-all, end all. You should have other things in your life that you are passionate about, that give you pleasure and that you enjoy doing. It also gives you social currency with your friends and at conferences or by the water cooler. You don’t want to lament the fact you would love to do something you enjoy but don’t have the time for it!

Confession: for a short period of time, I didn’t go to the movies. I would attend screenings when I had invites or passes, but otherwise I was reluctant to go to the cinema. And this was a very bad thing for someone who runs a publicity and digital marketing consultancy for independent film and whose greatest passion is film and who lives for the experience in the cinema. Even my partner was concerned. “You used to love going to the movies,” he said, “but now I can’t convince you to go.” We currently live a 5-minute walk away from our local cinema, and it still seemed like a Herculean struggle. That’s when I knew I had to make sure I wasn’t working myself into the ground and losing my passion. After taking steps to get a healthy balance back, I’m now back to enjoying what I love, which also means that passion for film also benefits everyone I work with.

But it also meant becoming re-engaged with other things I loved to do, and making sure I integrated them into my life each day. So now, that means things like enjoying a chapter (or two…or three) of a good book just before bed, creating a digital art journal layout, or watching something good on Netflix (speaking of Netflix…how GOOD is Mindhunter??? I’m completely obsessed!).

Even if you’re passionately reaching for a goal, don’t lose sight of the rest of your life, because you’ve got a full life to live!