“Self-care” has become a bit of a buzzword over the last few years. And, if you’re a creative entrepreneur, you may not think self-care is for you because you don’t have time for a long workout, lengthy meditation, or bubble bath.
However, Allison Ewing of Allison Ewing Photography is here to dispel that myth and explain why taking care of yourself—even for just a few minutes each day—is essential for serving your clients and loved ones well.
Allison is a wedding and lifestyle photographer and yoga instructor in Cleveland, Ohio. While full-time photography is her dream job come true, Allison recognizes how stressful her career as a creative entrepreneur can be. She first turned to yoga in 2011 to combat anxiety—and she felt joy and relief for the first time in a long time. So, in addition to shooting weddings and other life moments, Allison now brings that joy to others by teaching yoga.
But, even if yoga isn’t your thing, you can (and should!) still make time to relieve stress by doing things outside of your business that you enjoy. Even during busy seasons, creative entrepreneurs must nurture their minds, bodies, spirits, and relationships. Like Allison says, “If we aren’t at our best, there’s no way our businesses can be at their best.”
Self-care involves taking action to preserve or improve your health. Along with this definition, Allison tells us, “Self-care is anything that fills you up, makes you feel joy, and helps you feel like the best version of you.” And, if yoga isn’t self-care for you, she promises that’s okay!
Whether it’s working out, going to a mom’s group, volunteering, reading, or anything else, taking care of yourself can (and should) look different for every single person. It’s an essential part of your daily life, but self-care should never feel forced, and it should be something you enjoy.
For Allison, self-care also means saying “no” to things that don’t serve her or bring her joy. As a creative entrepreneur, you can say “no” by declining a project that will overflow an already full plate or by turning down a late night out when you know you need to catch up on sleep.
Having a self-care routine is critical for ensuring that you’re actually taking care of yourself. You’ll want to decide on a deliberate (and enjoyable) routine and honor those self-care practices as part of your daily schedule. In other words, make a plan and stick to it!
This might look like a morning routine of prayer and coffee, or an evening ritual of yoga and journaling. Or, perhaps you take 30 minutes every day to go for a walk.
Self-care and routines can change over time, depending on your season of life and the seasons of the year. For example, a wedding photographer probably has more time in the winter for long workouts, while she might only be able to squeeze in a quick yoga session before shooting an all-day summer wedding.
In this episode, Allison explains that planning for these different seasons ahead of time can help you work various self-care practices into your routines, no matter how busy you are. The wedding photographer in our example could book a short, early-morning yoga session right before her all-day summer wedding. Or, she can get into the routine of blocking off the entire day before the wedding and reserve that day for a longer workout class and other self-care practices.
Like Allison says, there is no one-size-fits-all method to taking care of yourself. The best thing you can do is to find physical and mental health exercises you love and fit them into your daily routine in a way that works for you. Even just a few minutes of self-care each day will make a positive difference!
Once you decide what self-care and routines should look like for you, it’s important to consider these six elements of self-care: emotional, physical, spiritual, social, mental, and practical. In this episode, Allison focuses mostly on mental health, physical health, and routines (including practical guidance for making self-care work for you), but she encourages listeners to prioritize and make time for all six elements of self-care.
Allison believes that everyone can (and should) put self-care at the top of their list. “I’m a firm believer that if I’m not taking care of myself first, then all the other people on my list, all the other priorities I have, are going to suffer,” she says. “And, that’s not fair to anyone.”
In this episode, Allison offers three tips to prioritize self-care as a creative entrepreneur:
Allison says, “Entrepreneurs often put themselves last on the list when they should be first.” We focus so much on our awesome clients and loved ones, which is a good thing. However, we often don’t make time in our days to pray, meditate, journal, walk, or quiet our minds. And, when we don’t properly take care of our mental health, we can easily grow irritable with others and overwhelmed with our work.
Allison reminds us that it’s not selfish to put yourself (and your mental health) first. Rather, it can help you better serve others and avoid burnout when you have a healthier state of mind.
For example, Allison takes every Sunday off. That’s her day to spend time with her husband, do something fun, and unplug from work. Having a day of rest lets Allison recharge and start the week refreshed, not overwhelmed.
Allison encourages others to find a fun physical activity and pencil it into their schedules. This could be an at-home workout, a fitness class, weights at the gym, or a walk around the neighborhood. (If you’re in the Cleveland area, I’m sure she’d love to guide you through one of her yoga classes!)
Don’t love going to the gym, or don’t have time for a full workout? No problem! One of Allison’s favorite things to do is to take a walk during the workday. It typically takes her about 20 minutes, but that short break is enough to let Allison stretch her legs and enjoy the fresh air.
Along with physical activity, you should get plenty of sleep each night and eat balanced meals throughout the day—no matter how busy you are. (I know you’ve heard this a million times, but it’s so true!) Drinking plenty of water will also keep you feeling your best. As great as coffee is for a quick energy boost, you can’t beat H2O for helping your body function as it should.
Once you find mental and physical health practices that work for you, try to incorporate them into your daily schedule. You might choose a morning routine, an evening regimen, or both! Whatever you decide, consistency is key to making a self-care plan and sticking to it. But, it’s okay to try a routine for a week or two, then evaluate whether or not it’s relieving stress and improving your health.
Allison was kind enough to share her daily routine with us! Her mornings consist of:
And, in the evenings, Allison enjoys:
Self-care sounds great, right? But, how do you actually make it work in your daily life? Allison provides a few tips for creative entrepreneurs to take care of themselves:
We often think of self-care as something to help us feel better once we’re stressed or burned out. But Allison urges creative entrepreneurs to prioritize self-care from the beginning so they can avoid overwhelm or negativity in the first place.
If you’re not sure where to begin, she offers a few self-care ideas:
Allison especially encourages counseling in times when self-care isn’t enough. In her personal experience, along with attending—and eventually teaching— yoga classes, she found therapy quite helpful in coping with her anxiety. So, if your work or personal life is already causing lots of stress and at-home self-care practices aren’t cutting it, there’s absolutely no shame in seeking professional help.
It’s much easier to prioritize self-care if it’s on your schedule. Allison suggests physically writing practices like yoga, journaling, prayer, and walking into your planner or digitally blocking out time on your Google Calendar. When you see the self-care activity on your schedule, you’ll remember the promise you made to yourself to focus on your health—and you’re more likely to follow through and cross it off the list!
By carving out time on your calendar for self-care, you’ll also be able to anticipate how much you can take on that day, as well as what to say “no” to. For example, Allison takes off work the day before shooting a wedding so she can physically and mentally prepare for an eight- to 12-hour day. She’s still available to answer last-minute photography questions, but she’ll attend a yoga class, get lunch with a friend, or go for a walk. She won’t take on additional projects that day because she’s taken the time to pencil in self-care on her schedule.
In this episode, Allison isn’t afraid to give us a little tough love! She asks how long we’re scrolling on our phones every day, and if we can replace that time (or at least some of it) with a self-care activity.
It’s so easy to make the excuse, “I don’t have time for self-care,” but maybe we’re not using our time wisely—or in ways that relieve stress. As great as social media and Google can be, scrolling for 20 minutes probably won’t make us feel healthier. (By the way, we’re all guilty of this, myself included!)
But, while a 20-minute walk requires more effort, you’ll get to enjoy nature, fresh air, and a break from the workday (and technology). Although a short walk, meditation, or journaling session may seem small, self-care practices like these will do wonders for your mental and physical health—and they just might become something you look forward to doing every single day.
Friend, I hope Allison’s story and practical tips empower you to take charge of your health and make time for self-care! No matter how busy your schedule is or what season of life you’re in, you owe it to yourself to nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
If you’d like to see Allison’s work as a wedding and lifestyle photographer or to garner self-care tips and strategies on the regular, you can find Allison on Instagram (@allisonewingphotography) and at allisonewingphotography.com.
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