Even when there isn’t a pandemic, if we run our own business we all need ways to take care of ourselves – mentally, physically and emotionally. In this post, Abi Saffrey brings together some suggestions that have been shared on the CIEP member forums.
CIEP members’ self-care ideas fall into these general categories:
- time and taking breaks
- meditation and expressing gratitude
- friends and partners
- being outside
- lockdown clichés
Time and taking breaks
My first thought when it comes to spending the right amount of time on the right things is ‘work–life balance’. I have several issues with that phrase: should there be the same amount of work as life? Surely work is part of life, not opposed to it? (I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘me time’ either.) Anyway, a key element in getting the day-to-day mix of activities ‘right’ is considering time. There is no magic formula, but we can learn by trial and error what works for us.
During the first pandemic lockdown, when my children weren’t able to go to school, I would get up earlier than my family and spend an hour in my office getting to grips with what I needed to do that day so that I could be more focused in the limited working time I would have later on in the day. It also gave me an hour on my own, which turned out to be incredibly important over those three or so months.
Taking regular breaks from work is good for our focus and our eyes, but it’s often easier said than done. One member has alarms set at particular points during the day to remind them to take a 20-minute break; others use the Pomodoro technique.
I force myself to walk away from my desk in the mid-afternoon and read a physical novel for 30 minutes or so for a bit of fun and to give my eyes a break from the screen.
Alarms can be used to force an end to the work day – it’s all too easy to think ‘oh just one more page/section/chapter’. Self-employed editors were well aware of the blurring of the work/home boundary before the pandemic changed office workers’ patterns.
Meditation and expressing gratitude
Several members have mentioned the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to replenish their stores of energy, focus and patience. Some use timers, some apps and others simple breathwork techniques.
One member mentioned spending 15 minutes at the end of the day talking about something positive from the day: it breaks the endless cycle of gloom that comes from the news and ends the day on a high note.
The thing I’ve been doing that has had a huge impact on my positivity is expressing gratitude … for everything, really: blue skies or rain (we need it!), delicious morning coffee, the roof over our heads, the internet, clean water piped into our homes, electricity, central heating … the list goes on and on. Even the worst of days has good things in it; you might have to look a little harder. I’ve got very good at finding the silver lining.
Making a meal or baking something can provide focus and pride in the result, as well as the opportunity to share something with others.
Whenever I bake something (which isn’t often), I always give some of it to my elderly neighbour. Gives me an excuse to check in with her, and I always feel so happy that she enjoys my sweet treats!
Planning meals ahead can lessen the daily workload, but can also provide something to look forward to. My family created a four-week rolling menu, which took away the weekly stress of thinking of meals, but with a ‘wildcard’ entry each week there was potential for trying out new recipes (or getting a takeaway).
Under the first lockdown, my husband and I invented a lockdown cooking competition – every weekend we each challenge the other to cook something new and out of our comfort zone. It’s been a great way to actually use each of our collections of cookbooks instead of just admiring the lovely photos. We have a whole routine that has become incredibly important for my sanity because it is structured and focused, and gives me something to look forward to as well as be a challenge not just to cook but also source ingredients.
I batch-cook at the weekend so that, no matter how busy things get during the week, I have nice lunches to look forward to.
The pandemic lockdowns have enabled some people to start new hobbies, or spend more time on existing ones.
For the most part of our lockdown we weren’t permitted to travel more than 5 km from home. Some birders on Twitter had the idea of keeping a #Stage4LockdownList. I started noting every species I saw in my 5 km radius. It encouraged me to get exercise, to be in nature, to be mindful and to appreciate things in my local area that I had taken for granted. I hope this is a new habit that I’ll take with me. (I ended up with 27 birds on my list – not bad for a beginner.)
My regular activity is crochet. Almost daily! You could say I’m hooked … Fortunately, my yarn stash is well stocked. Sometimes my cat tries to ‘help’, but his company is a delight and a guarantee of daily smiles and chortles.
I have enjoyed patchworking for the past few years but thought I would attempt to learn to crochet … I managed one evening of tying my fingers in knots before returning to my craft comfort zone.
Listening and dancing to music can be a great stress reliever and soul lifter. Several members talked about missing live gigs or singing with their choir. I’ve invested in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones so I can get completely absorbed in what I’m listening to.
Music is always part of my day. I actually feel a bit unwell any day I don’t make music – or listen to someone else making music. Covid-19 has put the kibosh on lots of my musical activities. (Who knew that chamber music would become more dangerous than adventure sports?!) So I make sure to listen to great music. Here’s Thelonious Monk playing ‘Tea for Two’. I’ve listened to this four times today. And every time I do, it feels like an act of self-care.
I also find dancing and seeing live music a great stress release, so have missed those a lot. During lockdown, I’ve been going to an online disco on Friday nights (via Zoom) and watching a live DJ on Twitch every lunchtime. (I’ve even put it in my work calendar – although with a cryptic title, just in case I accidentally share it with a client one day!) It has really helped to feel part of those communities, and the music has helped me to process and release lockdown emotions.
Friends and partners
Seeing our friends and family is so important, and that’s been taken away from many of us over the past year. We’ve found new ways of communicating, and made the most of the times when we have been able to go for walks or coffees together.
I’ve been doing a fortnightly quiz with a group of friends. I don’t think we’ve ever seen so much of each other, actually, as we’re so scattered across the country.
Directly messaging particular friends can bring about that personal connection, in a very different way to posting more widely (and more generically) on social media platforms.
I’ve rekindled a friendship with an old friend. We now send each other silly, or supportive, WhatsApp messages almost every day. If either of us has a low moment, or needs to vent, we can reach out and share. We now also occasionally send each other surprise gifts by post (‘I saw this and thought of you’).
From birdwatching to long walks, to tending the garden, to looking at the sky – time spent outside is never wasted when it comes to self-care. Even a walk in the pouring rain can bring with it joy (and the delight of dry, warm clothes afterwards).
I love walking anyway but I’ve made a conscious effort when I’m out now to notice something new or curious on each walk. It could be some particularly splendid fungi, or the birds, or a gnarly tree, or going down a different path for a change and seeing where I end up. Some walks have taken rather longer than planned to get me back to my starting point …
Movement generally is good for our mental and physical health, so adding in the fresh air and maybe even some vitamin D from the sunshine makes getting outside a win–win when trying to look after ourselves. For several years, I have gone to outside bootcamps every week – when restrictions stopped these, the instructor moved online and I took my laptop into the garden (though the Wi-Fi issues and light glare made some sessions more tense than was ideal …)
I live at the bottom of a hill, and the newsagent is at the top. I force myself to walk up there every day to pick up the paper, then I spend half an hour reading it with a cup of coffee before I get back to work.
I check the forecast every morning to work out when the weather looks best, then intentionally structure my day around that. The rain radar is also useful – even on really bad days, there’s generally a break in the weather at some point. I always feel much brighter (and more productive) afterwards, even on the days when I really don’t want to go outside.
I’ve turned into a complete lockdown cliché, having taken up sourdough and running!
It’s hardly a solution for everyone, but I can totally recommend getting a puppy.
We have two golden retrievers and we try to walk them every day. It’s great to get out into the fresh air and, c’mon, golden retrievers. They’re good for the soul. Doctors should write prescriptions for people to spend time with golden retrievers.
I’m also spending a lot of time growing my hair. I’m trying for an A C Grayling look, but most people think it’s more Doc Brown (from Back to the Future, not the rapper).
I’m also a bit of a lockdown cliché, as it’s walking and breadmaking for me.
Getting it right
There is no one right way of looking after ourselves that works for everyone. This post only covers the most popular themes that members have shared on the CIEP forums. How do you look after your wellbeing? Has it changed over the past year? Let us know in the comments below.
About Abi Saffrey
Abi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. A member of the CIEP’s information team, she coordinates this blog and edits Editorial Excellence, the Institute’s external newsletter.
Now she’s finished writing this blog post, she’s off for a walk.
About the CIEP
The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
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Photo credits: crocuses by Aaron Burden; long-tailed tit by Andy Holmes, both on Unsplash.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.