Being flexible for my health

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I have a clear picture of what I’d like my work life to look like. I want to wake up early, grab a cup of earl grey tea with a splash of soy milk and sit down at my desk to work. I want to be able to work for hours at a time, but also be able to take a day or afternoon off once in a while to go for a hike or indulge in a little self-care. I want to have lots of healthy snacks around and remember to drink lots of water throughout the day.

This is something I was so close to having before the car accident. After a second concussion recovery set-back in the past year, I’ve been back to only being able to be on the computer for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time, needing at minimum a 45 minute break afterwards. I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, so if I don’t wake up when my partner’s alarm goes off, I want to stay in bed. If I wake up at 5 a.m., I’ll happily get up, but regret it by the early afternoon. I’m always forgetting to eat until I’m so hungry I’m shaking and I know I’m not drinking as much water as I should, but it slips my mind. As do my vitamins, which are so important for my brain right now.

My ideal work life is lovely and beautiful and I still am working towards it, but it’s just not realistic right now because of my health. So, I’ve been finding ways to work that keep this in mind.

What this mostly looks like for me right now is a gigantic mess of scrap paper, button-making supplies, yarn, paint brushes and wheat paste all over our living room. Between my little bits of time on the computer, I’m making envelopes and buttons to sell in my Etsy shop and knitting scarves to sell at markets.

This isn’t what I want to be doing with my days, but it’s what I can do, so I’m choosing to be happy with my current work life while still working towards the ideal. My health is always going to be more important than my work, so I need to be flexible in order to be able to get shit done and take care of myself.

I’m spending some of my computer time editing photos and listing items in my Etsy shop. Check it out!

How do you alter your work life to your current health needs?

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The ugly side of self-care

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Self-care isn’t always bubble baths, spa days and expensive chocolate. It isn’t always something Instagram-able or costly. When self-care started to be a thing, this is actually why I shied away from it. I didn’t have money to order food in and I was cuddling up in bed early to watch Netflix because the feeling that a giant was standing on my chest and the heart palpitations made anything else impossible.

What I’ve realized is that this makes self-care even more important for me.

Self-care is dragging my ass to the doctor to let her know I’m feeling worse on the new dose of meds. It’s telling my partner I’ve been feeling suicidal and need to change something major in my life. Carrying a water bottle around so I remember to drink water, cornering myself into answering texts from friends so I don’t isolate myself and eating breakfast even when I still feel too nauseous to actively want food at 11 a.m. are all forms of self-care in my life.

It’s important for me to remember this. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll buy myself a vegan cheesecake and eat it for dinner in the name of self-care, when really I should be saving that money and eating a big salad instead. Especially when I’m so down it’s hard to get myself out of bed and dressed to go to the store for said cake. That sugar isn’t going to do shit to get me feeling better.

It’s when I’ve got the basic self-care down–getting all the nutrients I need, staying hydrated, keeping active, finding time for connection and play–that the fun, pretty self-care can come into my life in a way that adds something beneficial.

What’s your relationship with the self-care trend like?

Just struggling to be kind

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After planning this project, my cat became very ill and needed emergency surgery. He’s home now and recovering, but recovery is slow. I also received my work permit in early January, after months of waiting.

Between these two things, I’m busy af. David hasn’t regained full use of his bladder, so he leaks bloody urine all over. This means the washing machine is always rocking over here lately. I’m cleaning up and comforting him between sending out pitches and writing, wildly trying to find some paid work ASAP.

When it comes to My Kindest Year, I’ve got a lot of excuses for having phoned it in a bit, this week. Yesterday, my nice thing for someone else was going to see live music with Luke, something he loves doing, and my nice thing to myself was forcing myself to go out and have fun instead of cleaning the house.

This week’s been hard and I’m not beating myself up for putting this project on the back burner, scrambling every evening to think of nice things to do, but I’d like to be doing things that are much more involved and out of my ordinary.

For next week, I’ve decided to pre-plan the kinds things I want to do. I won’t necessarily do all them as I may come up with other ideas, but at least I’ve got something to work with.

For someone else

  • Write a friend a letter listing all my favourite qualities of theirs.
  • Send someone a book they might like.
  • Craft something for my mom and younger brother with grandma’s broken dishes.
  • Shovel my neighbour’s walkway.
  • Leave the postal worker cookies.
  • Take Miles to play fetch (yup, kind things for animal count).
  • Make Luke his morning oatmeal (yuck!).

For me

  • Make myself vegan cheese.
  • Order hair dye.
  • Play piano.
  • Spend an hour reading, eating olives and drinking tea, in peace.
  • Make myself a reading nook.
  • Craft something for me with grandma’s broken dishes.
  • Take an afternoon off to wander downtown.

I’m super open to hearing suggestions on kind things I can do for myself and others that don’t require much money! Comment below if you’ve got anything for me.

Routine to reduce anxiety

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I like to jump into my work first thing in the morning. The sooner I sit down at my laptop, the sooner I can close it and go have some fun. Before I moved in with my husband, I used to wake up at 6 a.m. each morning, feed my cats, make coffee and then get to work by 6:30, frantically plowing through my to-do list. Oftentimes, when I was done, I’d just sit on the couch, watch Netflix and craft. Super fulfilling. Super worth rushing through work I love.

In October, during my newsletter challenge to be more mindful, I took a free self-love e-course from Margaret Rushing. It started with carving out time each day to work on the challenge and to dedicate to myself and a routine for me.

I chose 8:30 a.m., right after Luke leaves for work, to do a 10-15 minute yoga video followed by making breakfast in the kitchen while listening to music that gets me moving. The whole while, I focus on being present and in the moment, really feeling each stretch and smelling what I’m about to eat.

And then I sit down to look at what needs to be done for the day, check social media and refresh my emails, feeling both energized and at peace.

Cait Flanders–a self-employed woman who suffered with anxiety–has talked quite a bit on Budgets and Cents about how having a morning routine has helped her. She calls them “slow mornings,” taking time to do something for herself before she starts work.

Taking time for oneself each day isn’t something I really thought I had time for before, but it’s made a huge difference in my days. What’s your morning routine like? Do you take time for self-care at some point during the day? Join the discussion on the Cockroach Facebook page.

Bow out to avoid burnout (trigger-free version)

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Many creatives are also super political. That’s super cool. The world is fucked and we all gotta do our part to make it better. But burnout is real.

 

It is okay to take time away from the news and heartbreaking bullshit of the world, from time to time. There’s a big difference between sticking your head in the sand and getting a little distance to heal, rejuvenate and gather the strength to keep fighting.

It’s also okay to find ways to fight that cause you the least amount of harm.

This is especially important for people who battle with mental health issues. When the chemicals in your brain are handing you heavy, life-stopping blows on the regular, you don’t need anything else holding you down.

One thing I can offer to help you keep going through the mental health struggle is a weekly newsletter I’m now putting out that gives creatives motivation and support based on my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression. Sign-up now and together we can keep working for a better world while taking care of ourselves.

Have mental health check-ins, even when life rocks

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Sometimes everything is going great and then WHAM! Anxiety hits your right in the fucking face.

Super polite.

I’m pretty bad for this. When things are going great, sometimes I’ll just take on more and more, thinking that my anxiety, depression and PTSD have magically gone away! I’m cured! I’m a normal human who can do normal things, like work 10 hour days seven days a week without lunch followed by an evening of emotionally supporting friends or volunteering. Because that’s normal … Then I’ll suddenly be hit with a wild panic attack or depression so severe even getting out of bed to feed my kitties is nearly impossible. And getting out of bed to feed myself actually is.

A way to avoid this is to stop from time-to-time to do check-ins. On a wildly awesome week when you’re ahead of your game, instead of working ahead, take a bit of time off alone to just reflect. What are you feeling? Why? Is there anything you’re not thrilled about? Can it be changed? If all is well, just take some time for regular self-care or do a little self-spoiling. Just because the garden is looking good doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watered and fertilized, you know?

When things are getting a little hectic, schedule some alone time in. It’s okay to say no to a friend who needs help or to extra work for a little regular maintenance.

Hey, you’re taking time to read this! So maybe you’ve got a few minutes now to chat with yourself about how you’re doing? I recommend it.

Stock replies to anxiety and freelance questions

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What can I do for you during a panic attack? Don’t you ever worry that you won’t make enough money? Wouldn’t going out for a bit help you get over your depression? Why can’t you ditch work to hang out Wednesday morning when you’re your own boss?

The questions I get about my mental health, career choice and the intersections of the two are quite repetitive and I’ve found myself answering them frequently, sometimes needing to tell the same friends multiple times that I’m trying to keep steady hours during the week and will only infrequently and for good reason take a day off.

I’ve answered well-intentioned and rude questions alike many, many times. Even questions that are super helpful become a huge time waster and a bit annoying when answered a dozen times.

I also often find myself drowning in messages from friends. Having dozens of texts to reply to gives me mad anxiety, especially when some require thoughtful responses.

After February’s concussion, the repetitive questions became bad for my health. Why can’t you answer text messages? What happens when you go to the grocery store? Can’t you talk on the phone?

Having to think through the answers gave me wicked headaches and made me dizzy, but I wanted to keep friends in the loop and let people know why I wasn’t responding to the silly Facebook messages they were sending to cheer me up.

My now husband suggested I write stock responses to copy-paste to friends.

Great idea. And a great idea to carry over into my anxious freelance life.

What can I do for you during a panic attack?

Thanks for asking! I need to not be touched and not be peppered with questions. If you could just grab me a glass of water, help get me somewhere quiet and calm, and then be patient, that’d be super rad.

Don’t you ever worry that you won’t make enough money?

Yup. All the fucking time. But worrying about that won’t help pay the bills. I have some tools for dealing with my money anxiety.

Wouldn’t going out for a bit help you get over your depression?

Nope. That will just make me anxious and self-conscious about how shitty I’m feeling. I’m better off staying at home and taking good care of myself here.

Why can’t you hang out Wednesday morning if you’re self-employed?

I need to stick to a schedule and get work done. If I ditch work every time I don’t feel like working, I’d never get paid. If I get ahead of my schedule, I can take a bit of time off. I’ll let you know next time I’m thinking about playing hooky and maybe we can do something fun?

 

Join in on the discussions about what the freelance life is like for people with mental health struggles on my Facebook page.