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small business: looking after your brain while working from home

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Working from home certainly has its benefits (sleep-ins, no peak-hour commutes, slouchy pants all day), but as any long-term freelancer can attest, rolling straight out of bed and over to your desk presents its own set of challenges, especially during a pandemic.

You might feel a little lonely without someone to bump into at the water cooler or colleagues to bounce ideas off of. Keeping to a routine, too, can become tricky. Below, we asked some lovely business owners to share some of their self-care strategies, whether it be rethinking their idea of productivity or eating a whole bag of M&Ms. 

NGAIO PARR, ARTIST AND DESIGNER
“I’m learning to be easy on myself – for example, I’ll only write a few things on my to-do list so it’s manageable. I’ll try and correct my judgmental thoughts about myself as they come up (hard!) or even take the day off work if I need it. These are weird times, so it’d be strange if you were working in the same way as before. My other tip is to have some fun. I’ve been working through The Artist’s Way (a book that helps you focus your creativity) and one habit I’ve picked up is remembering to give yourself time to play. Do something you aren’t good at, but are interested in (basketball), learn how to use a new material (FIMO) or try something in your work you’re not sure you’ll be excellent at immediately."

KITIYA PALASKAS, CRAFTER
I have a morning ritual: I make myself a coffee and sit in the sun to catch up on a bit of leisure reading (not the news), jot down a few thoughts in my journal, do a quick meditation or just enjoy some peace and quiet. I also try to clock off from work at the same time every day – working from home, your job and life can blur into one, but having boundaries around when work ends and you-time begins can help. At the moment I'm pausing all work at 4:30pm every day to do an hour of exercise, even if it's just stretching on the studio floor.”

MADELEINE DORE, WRITER, INTERVIEWER AND CREATOR OF EXTRAORDINARY ROUTINES
“Being a freelance writer – or running any independent creative business – is often like being a sponge. Sometimes self-care means absorbing the world around you, taking it in, taking a nap, finding inspiration. But you can’t sponge too long or it soon becomes inertia. Like a sponge, sometimes self-care requires squeeze – you need the doing and the action. For me, it's about honouring both, and not feeling guilty for the unproductive moments because I know they help prepare for the squeeze. I run Momentum Mornings every Monday as an incentive for people to wake up early and start the day on their own terms. I find that one-hour of connection with other people and peer-pressured focus creates a sense of momentum throughout the day.”

TAHNEE EDWARDS, DESIGNER AT GAMMIN THREADS
“I get anxious and depressed following the news – between COVID and Black Lives Matter, I just needed to consume light-hearted content for a while, so I’ve rewatched all my favourite TV shows and old movies. I don’t beat myself up for not being my most productive self, either. I’ve struggled with the most trivial tasks: it took me over a month to sort out my NBN, but I knew I just had to ride out whatever I was going through. Being kind to ourselves can be the biggest form of self care.”

TRISH MARTIN, MARKETER AND OWNER OF CHROMATICAL
“My biggest self care tool is actually my business. But I’m talking about when I get to work on it instead of in it. COVID has allowed me the time to get on top of things that would normally be pushed aside for client work – the innovative, strategic and creative things that bring me joy. It’s done wonders for my stress levels! The other self-care tool is sleep-ins. I’m NOT a morning person – I’m much more productive when I have that extra sleep in my system.”

LAUREN BOYLE, OWNER OF ELBE TEXTILES
“Stepping away from my workspace and going for a long walk (preferably amongst nature) is a necessity for me – my best ideas come to me while I'm exercising. It can get pretty isolating as a solo business owner, but I've found others like me through Instagram to chat to. Having this outlet to talk, ask questions and vent with people in the same position has been so reassuring. Finally, I’ve been eating all the snacks, like an entire family pack of M&Ms in one day. I’m trying really hard not to feel guilty over the occasional bad food choice. It’s an uncertain and stressful time, and sometimes you just want comfort food."

ASAMI KOIKE, YOGA TEACHER, MUSIC THERAPIST AND FOUNDER OF JUST SHAPES AND SOUNDS
“I started my website in October 2019, but COVID really threw my plan out the window and my anxiety was exacerbated seeing other businesses pivot so quickly. Allowing myself some time to sit and process the impact of COVID on my life has really helped me feel more capable of supporting others in a meaningful and genuine way. When COVID hit, I carved out a little work nook for myself at the edge of my bed, which probably doesn't sound great, but it works well for me. I'm on the floor with my yoga mats, which feels really grounding, and my makeshift wine-box desk forces me to set up and pack up, which gives a good sense of starting and closing each work day.”

KRISTY “KMAC” MUJANA, CO-OWNER OF FLOOZY COFFEE
“I struggle to take up hobbies if they don't serve a purpose within Floozy (e.g. learning new photo editing software or how to make gifs). Since COVID I've given myself the time to learn about plants and gardening – something I can also do with my toddler! I also got used to having a huge number of small social interactions every day through Besties, the cafe portion of my business, and when we closed, I filled the void with Instagram. This however had the opposite effect than intended, so I turned off my notifications. Now it makes the times that I do log on more positive.”