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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Importance of Taking Time for YOU!

(Author's note: this post was featured at Handmade Spark on July 22, 2010!)

During my previous life in corporate America, I was famous for preaching the importance of self-care. While it seems pretty obvious, you'd be surprised at how many folks don't take any time to care for themselves. The problem is especially common with women, who tend to put the needs of husbands, children, friends and even pets before the needs of themselves. I was determined to change this trend in my agency; I became certified to train our staff on self-care and tried to set a good example for my staff and collegues.

Now that I'm working for myself, I realize that it's just as important to practice good self-care now, even though I'm my own boss. I didn't always recognize this need - I'm working at home doing something that I love. Aren't I taking care of myself simply because I left the traditional stress of the workplace behind me? No - it isn't enough!

If self-care is a term that you're not familiar with, don't worry. Most employers don't mention it, and most employees don't consciously practice it. Self-care is any act that one does to care for themselves: exercising, eating well, meditating, getting massages, connecting with friends/colleagues to talk through stressful situations, using sick time when you need it, taking work-free vacations; there are far too many self-care techniques to list! Those who practice regular self-care generally feel less stressed, are more productive, and have an easier time seperating their work life from their home life.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed that my excitement over my shop and over my work was definitely waning. I wasn't motivated to create any new items. I wasn't motivated to contribute to my Etsy team. I was feeling very depressed and frustrated that my sales had slowed down (which is normal, given that we're in the slow season!). I actually considered walking away, but only for a second. I wondered how I could possibly get back to where I was a couple of months ago, when I was excited and motivated about running my own business.

My answer came in the form of my best friend, Toni, who lives in Hawaii. A mutual friend of ours was getting married, and she was coming into town early to spend time with me and the rest of our college buddies. I decided to take "off" the week of her visit, and go on a vacation of my own. I didn't plan to create any items, and I didn't "work". I checked in with my shop only to answer convos and ship an item that was sold. I spent ten days with her, keeping no regular routine, and spending almost all our time out of the house. After a whirlwind trip, Toni left yesterday, and I felt instantly revived! I couldn't wait to get back to my shop. By the end of last night, I had created four new scrapbook pages, designed a new avatar and banner for my Christmas in July sale, and had gotten in a rare mid-day nap.

I realized this morning that self-care for the at-home business owner is just as important as it is for those that work outside the home. Even though I'm not earning vacation time anymore, I still need time away from my "work". I need to recharge my batteries in order to stay excited and motivated. Its often difficult for those working at home to do this and create a separate time/mental space for ourselves as humans away from the time/mental space we use to be employees and business owners, as the physical space is usually the same: home. I didn't need to leave my home during Toni's visit, I simply changed my routine and daily activities. I relaxed mentally.

I learned as a supervisor that a happy employee is a productive one. Even though I don't leave my home to go to work, I'm still an employee, and I still need to take care of myself by taking time away from my business. Whether you work outside the home, work from home, or do a combination of both, don't forget to regularly take time for the most important employee in your life: you.

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