Phoebe Lovatt’s new published “The Working Woman’s Handbook” offers an answer to every question mark in the minds of self-made, or soon-to-be-self-made creative females. In it, Phoebe covers how to plant and nourish a career outside 9 to 5 office work, and retain work/life balance along the way. Here, on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, we publish a chapter addressing the importance of maintaining physical and mental health.
Self-care strategies for success
Presence > productivity:
Use self -awareness as the ultimate career tool
There’s a vast amount of information on nutrition and wellness out there, so this section is by no means exhaustive. Every body is different, and the needs of women’s bodies in particular are constantly evolving. The foods, exercises, and rituals that make you feel amazing at 21 might stop working for you at 41.
For this reason, the most important thing you can do for your body is to develop a keen awareness of it. The goal is to feel as “in” your body as possible, so that you make fewer decisions that take you away from a state of ease and optimal comfort in your skin. The best way to get to this state is through mindfulness about your daily choices (see below) and regular self-reflection. On days when you feel particularly great or especially not-great, consider:
• What is occupying your thoughts? Are there any serious concerns or issues that are affecting your ability to think clearly?
• Whom have you engaged with, and what impact did the interaction have on your state of mind?
• What did you eat for your last three meals? How did you feel when you were finished?
• Did you sleep well last night? And the night before?
• If you’re feeling stressed, what email, call, person, or situation triggered that emotion? Where in your body are you feeling the stress?
• When was the last time you exercised?
• How much time have you spent looking at a screen in the past 24 hours?
• When did you feel best in the past week? Where were you? What were you doing? Whom were you doing it with? How can you repeat those circumstances again in the near future?
By staging regular check-ins with yourself, you’ll be able to identify what makes you feel your best (and your worst). Once you’ve recognized positive patterns, you can build your working life and personal routine around them.
Mindfulness and meditation
You’ve likely read enough about the endless benefits of meditation, so they won’t be espoused here. Needless to say, it’s one of the most beneficial habits you could possibly acquire. Incorporating it into your daily routine is a very cheap, constructive way to improve concentration, reduce anxiety, and generally increase your sense of joy and pleasure in everyday working life.
Start with just 10 minutes a day. Sit quietly and focus on your breath as it rises and falls. When your focus lapses (and it will), catch yourself as your mind begins to wander. Go back to your breath once again. Repeat. Practice again tomorrow.
It’s all in your head: tips for maintaining optimal mental health
Working for yourself can cause an immense amount of stress. Not only are you coping with a fluctuating income and schedule, you’re also in charge of making endless decisions, day in and day out. On good days, this level of autonomy can seem like the ultimate freedom. On bad days, you’ll feel as if you’re heading for a nervous breakdown. Given the high-pressure stakes of a self-made creative career, take extra care with your own mental health.
Many of the practices and routines listed in this chapter will help you to feel happy and functional, but it’s also worth remembering to:
• Leave the house
When you work from home, it’s tempting to sit down at your desk first thing and stay there until your eyes start to blur. Try to get some fresh air and a new perspective at least once a day. Go out for lunch. Walk around the block. Spend 30 minutes in your nearest park.
• Create your own rituals
The lack of structure that comes with self-employment can be exhausting. Create your own steadfast rituals to bring a sense of rhythm and consistency in your working day.
• Check in with others
Schedule a bi-monthly brainstorming session with a friend. Plan a weekly work party around your kitchen table or at a nearby cafe.
• Obey your energy levels
One of the best things about setting your own schedule is being able to work at the times that suit you best. Don’t force yourself to stick to a 10-to-6 day just because you’ve been institutionalized to do so. If you’re an early bird, start at 8 a.m. and clock off at 4 p.m.
If you know you can’t think straight until at least midday, do all your creative work from then on. If you love working on Sundays when everyone else is chilling out, work then and give yourself Mondays off.
• Be a good boss to yourself
You wouldn’t expect an employee to work 14-hour days and skip meals entirely, so why push yourself through the same thing? Treat yourself with kindness wherever possible. You’ll be far more effective as a result.
• Tackle self-doubt and low self-esteem head on
Self-employment will force you to get to know yourself really well, really fast. If you find yourself consistently getting anxious about the same tasks or procrastinating on a daily basis, explore what’s at the root of this fear and self-doubt—then get to work on breaking down these thoughts through consistent, positive action and affirmations.
1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year, and in England, 1 in every 6 people report a common mental health problem – like anxiety and depression – each week. But only 1 in 4 people in the UK reporting mental health difficulties receive ongoing treatment. If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in today’s coverage, if you would like to find out more or to donate, please contact Mind or CALM