Tag Archives: self-care

Why I Decided to Take a Mini Sabbatical

sabbatical_loresHey guys!

This is my very first sabbatical blog post.  By the time this post comes out, I’ll have finished my first sabbatical week!  Woo hoo!

I’m following Seanwes‘ advice (I pretty much follow all of his advice) to take every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day and recharge.  To learn more about the small scale sabbaticals, you can watch his short video or listen to this podcast episode.

If you’ve been following along my weekly blog, you probably know that I quit my day job to pursue art full-time at the end of July this year.  Ever since, I’ve been hustling pretty much non-stop.  I’m grateful for all the opportunities and all that I’m learning every day.

At the same time, I was drained.

It’s weird right?  You’re following your passion and are able to do what you love all the time.  I should be happy and more full of energy, shouldn’t I?

The thing is, it’s still work.  In a way it’s even more taxing than being in a day job because now you’re 100% responsible for whatever happens. I’m mentally more engaged every day, making all the decisions and thinking ahead.  And making a lot of art can be hard on your body, too.

When I was toying with the idea of taking a week off regularly,  I was hesitant at first.  I just started doing this full-time not too long ago, and my business is still at an early stage of growth.  Is it smart to take a week off now?  It’s not like I have paid vacation any more!  I started thinking, well, maybe I can take sabbaticals later when my business is bigger and then I can afford to take a time off.

And then I had to shift my mindset around a few things to really recognize the benefits of taking a regular time-off.

By taking a week off every 7 weeks, I may have a small loss in sales or client work.  But if I put off taking care of myself, I’m going to burn out for sure.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  And if you’re burnt out, there will be no passion to pursue.  That’s the worst thing that can happen to any creative people, right?

When I worked with people affected by domestic violence in my old day job, we often talked about self-care as an ethical obligation.  Working with people with trauma could cause you to have secondary trauma, which will lead you to burn out.  If you don’t recognize the signs of burn-out and take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to help people effectively.  Not to mention your own happiness, and your personal relationships will suffer too.

I know that growing a business is hard work that could take many years.  If I put off taking care myself until I could “afford it”, 1) it may never happen because there are always things to do, and there is never a “good” time to take a time off, and  2) my business may never grow to the point where I feel like I can “afford it” because I’ll burn out and quit.  Neither option sounds good, does it?

So I’m making a commitment to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge.  I’m not going to wait to implement a good plan that’s going to help me and my business grow long term.  My future sabbaticals are already on my calendar so I know not to schedule any “work-y” stuff, like client meetings and project deadlines during that week.  I’ll probably stay away from my regular blog-writing though I might continue writing for a different project or for fun.  I’ll prepare a shorter blog post for each sabbatical week, so you won’t miss me 🙂

Some sabbaticals may just be me relaxing for a week.  But here are some of the things I’d like to do during my week-off:

  • Make art for fun and/or exploration
  • Learn new skills and information whether it’s about creativity, business, or something totally different (like cat whispering!)
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Focus on my long-term project – e.g. web redesign, new service development, future visioning etc.
  • Enjoy other creative things like crochet and sewing
  • Cook more
  • Pamper myself

I know for sure that the long-term benefits of taking mini sabbaticals far outweigh any short-term losses.  Plus, one week is not that long…  It’s not as big of a deal as taking a year off or something!  If you get behind during the week off, I’m sure you can catch up in the following weeks because your time off will make you even more productive.  Win win!

Oh I can’t wait to report back what I did this past week in my post next Sunday!

See you soon!

xoxo Yuko

yuko_flowers

 

My productivity tip? Hit the pause button.

pause-button_loresHi friend,

I originally wrote this piece for my September Newsletter and got very positive feedbacks.  So I wanted to share this with you, my awesome blog reader, with some added contents!  Enjoy!

It’s already mid-September and is kind of crazy that more than one month has passed since I quit my day job!  It totally doesn’t feel like it.

I thought not having a regular routine would make my days feel a lot longer, but nope.  In fact, they feel a lot shorter than when I was juggling a day job and art.  Which is an interesting phenomenon.  Is it because I’m having fun??  Maybe.

I feel busier than ever.  My calendar is filled with back-to-back tasks.  Some days, I can only accomplish one of those to-dos and feel bad.  Days and weeks pass by, and I wonder where all of my “extra” time has gone?

Although I’m excited and motivated every day, to be completely honest, I’ve been pretty overwhelmed, too.

I dreamed of becoming a full-time artist for a long time.  And now that I finally have the life I wanted so much, I want to make everything I do count towards my success.  I push myself every day to accomplish as much as I can.  And then only a few weeks into my new artist life, I started noticing signs of burnout.

It was a day after a craft show in August. I felt so exhausted physically and mentally.  My body was aching from carrying my show supplies, too.  I didn’t want to do or think about anything.  I didn’t care about anything.  I was running on empty.

But, wait a minute.  I can’t be burned out.  I’m living my dream!  Right?

I was confused and frustrated.  Am I not cut out for this?  Do I not have what it takes to have a successful business?  Why would following a passion make me burn out?

What do I do when I feel overwhelmed and lost?  Well, I decided to follow my own advice: slow down and be kind to yourself. 

So I hit the pause button.  

Let’s think about this.  I left my day job, where I created my community and my identity for the last 14+ years, only a month ago.  It’s one of the biggest life transitions I’ve ever experienced.  No matter how exciting it is, it is also massively stressful.  Working on my business and making art non-stop, though exhilarating, would of course result in burnout if I don’t take care of myself intentionally.

I realized putting in a safeguard from burnout is probably one of the best things I could do for my long-term success.

So here are things I’ve been doing to take care of myself and be productive.  As you can see, these are small things you can incorporate into your daily life, too, if you’re looking for different tools to try!

  • I try not to multi-task.  Instead, I try to tackle one thing at a time in a very focused way.  My focused time looks like this: turning my cell phone on airplane mode, setting an alarm (anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour depending on how I’m feeling and what I’m working on), closing social media and email tabs on my browser, and letting my husband/office mate know that I’m not available (we share our home office when he’s not traveling for work).  Then I’ll just start working on one task on my agenda.  I might work on a blog post.  I might work on a new art piece.  Until the alarm goes off, I’m not checking my email or social media.  Or talk to anyone (ok, occasionally I pet my kitty if he insists).  When the alarm goes off, if I’m at a good stopping point, I’ll stop and take a break (e.g. get up and stretch, grab snacks, check my social media, email etc.).  If I’m on a roll, I’ll just keep working on it until I’m done or at a good stopping point.  After taking a break, I repeat the process to continue working on the same project or work on something else.  This method helps me avoid wasting my mental energy from switching from one thing to another.  My ability to focus has improved by following this process, and sometimes I can go for a couple of hours without taking a break!
  • I try to eat healthy meals rich with protein and good fats.  Fortunately, I never forget to eat 🙂  I get hungry every few hours and am not functional if I’m hungry.  As hard as it is, I try to minimize my sugar intake to maintain stable energy level throughout the day.  It’s easier said than done, though, because I LOVE chocolate.  I allow myself to have small amount of sugar after having a meal.  My go-to snacks lately are: pistachios, dark-dark chocolate with some coconut butter (meet Coconut Manna, my favorite coconut butter), and LÄRABAR ÜBER™!
  • I don’t check my email after dinner.  When I had a day job, my boundaries were a lot clearer because my “work” email was not on my phone.  I wouldn’t know if people had questions or needed something from me on my off days unless I go out of my way to check it from home (which I hardly ever did.)  Now things are different because my “work” and personal email come to the same inbox.  Yes, I could just read it and not respond until next business day, but it would still take up mental space if I knew those emails were waiting for me.
  • I try to go to bed by 10pm so I can get up rested and early the next morning.  I usually get up between 6 and 6:30am and go to the gym or start my day early.  It’s a nice feeling to get a couple of things done before lunch.  I have more mental energy in the morning as well and feel more ready to tackle things I don’t like, like doing my finances, in the morning rather than later in the day.  7 to 8 hour sleep is my ideal.
  • No screen time one hour before bed.  I’ve read several articles that suggest blue light from your electric devices keep your brains from producing sleepy hormone called melatonin.  My naturopath once suggested no screen time two hours before bedtime, but I find one hour to be more do-able.  It helps clam my mind and makes the transition to bedtime easier.
  • No work on Sundays.  It didn’t help that my husband was away for work most of August.  I could’ve literally kept working during all of my waking hours if I wanted to.  But it’s not healthy for me or for our relationship if I focus on my business all the time.  As a person who thrive in structure, I decided to take at least one day off per week.  Sunday seems the most convenient as the rest of the world takes the day off too, but you can designate any other days that work for you and your family.  If you don’t need structure as much as I do, taking a few hours off here and there may work although your brain still has to work on switching from work to non-work mode, and you might not get as much rest that way.  And, of course, schedule your day off on your calendar.  Otherwise, you’ll just find more things to do and keep working!

I’m not perfect and don’t always follow my own advice, but it’s been helping me feel more spacious and less drained.

It’s a fact: there will always be things to do, and you can’t always get to everything.  My learning is to be OK with not getting everything done and knowing it’s going to be fine.

Although it may feel counter-intuitive, by setting boundaries around how much I “work,” I’ve become more productive and happy.  My dream life feels more sustainable now!

As we move into the new seasons, there will be more things to do and transitions to manage.  Put your self-care plan in place before things get too stressful.  Just like everything else, daily practice will help you form a habit!  Your future self will thank you later 🙂

Thank you for hanging out with me and looking forward to seeing you next week!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. If you’re in Seattle next Saturday, September 19th, come by the Summer Parkways Event in Ballard!  I will be joining their craft fair from 10am to 6 pm.

 

yuko_flowers

Birthday Floatin’

When I first heard of the sensory deprivation float a few years ago, I didn’t really get it.  You float in the water with no sound, light, or gravity…  It sounded kind of dark and scary.

数年前、初めて「アイソレーション・タンク」の存在を知ったときは、何がいいのかよく分かりませんでした。音も光も遮断し、タンクの中の水に浮かんで重力も感じない。なんだか暗くて怖いイメージでした。

Since then I’ve been trying different meditation and relaxation techniques to manage stress.  A couple of months ago, I came across a coupon for Urban Float in Seattle.  I decided to have my first float on my birthday!  As one of my friends put it, I was going to “spend my birthday in a fake womb.”

それからストレスを減らすために色んな瞑想や、リラクゼーションの方法を試してきました。数ヶ月前にたまたまシアトルにあるUrban Floatという、アイソレーション・タンクを営むサロンのクーポンを入手し、誕生日に自分へのご褒美として試すことにしました!ある友人には「誕生日を、ニセの胎内で過ごすんだね。」とコメントされてしまいました、、、

I made my appointment for the 50-mins float session.   When I checked in, the nice woman there gave me a quick tour of the room & the pod.  It was comforting to know that there is an emergency button inside of the pod…

1セッション50分で予約をしました。チェックインを済ませると、受付の優しいお姉さんが、施設の説明をしてくれます。タンクの中には緊急用のボタンもあるということで、ちょっぴりホッ。

At this facility, you have an option of floating in a pod that looks kind of like a giant, sci-fi kidney bean (pictured below).  The water is kept at body temperature, and it is a highly saturated epsom salt and water, so your body floats even though the water is less than knee deep.  Once you’re in, you can close the top all the way, or leave it cracked, depending on your comfort level.  You wear ear plugs so the water won’t get in your ears.  This also helps shut out any noise while you float.

ここでは、SFに出てくるような近未来巨大インゲン豆のようなポッドに入るようになっています(下図をご覧あれ)。入っている水は人肌の温度に保たれていて、かなり濃い塩水になっています。なので、ヒザぐらいの深さなのに体がプカプカ浮きます!いったん中に入ると、屋根の部分を自分で閉めます。完全に閉じてしまってもいいし、不安な人はちょっと開けておいてもOK。耳の中に水が入らないようにと、渡された耳栓もします。これは外の音を遮断するためにもグッドです。

pod
space-age pod for floatation

After showering, I wasted no time getting my floatin’ on.  I got in the pod, closed the top all the way and lied down in the water.  It was a strange feeling to just “float.”  Normally, when I’m in the pool or the ocean, I’m trying to swim or move about in the water.  But here, you just lie still.

先にシャワーをしていざポッドに入ります!フタを全部閉めてから、水の中に横たわります。水の中でただ「浮かぶ」という行為にあまりなれていないので、ちょっとヘンな気分。

honeyberry_floatinglg

It took me a few minutes to relax my head.  I’m so used to laying on something solid, something to support my head, so letting my neck to relax in the water was hard.  I was afraid my face is going to be under the water.

頭をただ横たえるというのにも少し時間がかかりました。いつもは何か中身がある(?)ものに頭を横たえるのに慣れているので、水に浮かべるというのはちょっとドキドキしました。力を抜くと、顔まで水の中に沈みそうになってしまって!

I was eventually able to let the water support my head, and my eyes, nose and mouth stayed above water.  They play a soothing music for the first and last 5 minutes of your session.

それでも段々力を抜いて、頭もプカプカ浮かびます。ちょっと沈んでも、目、鼻、口はかろうじて水面上です!セッションの始めと終わりの5分間はリラックスできる音楽が流れます。

I tried not to move my body once I got the hang of floating.  For some reason I was drifting inside of the pod.Eventually, I stopped drifting.  But whenever I focused on not moving my legs or arms, it started twitching!  Because you don’t have other sensations, I became very sensitive to every little move I made in the water.  I felt the water around me rippling with the subtlest of moves.

いったん体を浮かべるのに慣れると、体は出来るだけ動かさないのが◎。浮かんだ初めは何故が体がポッドの中で流れ動いてしまいました。それも何分かすると止まりました。「手足を動かすまい」と思えば思うほど、ピクっと無条件で体が動いてしまったり。他に感覚があまり無いので、少しの動きにもとても敏感になってしまいます。ほんのちょっとの動きでも水に波紋が立ってしまうのが感じられます。

I thought I read on their website that the light inside of the pod would automatically turn off with the music, so I just floated there for several minutes.  I opened my eyes to see if the light had turned off, but it was on…  Actually, it stayed on for the entire time.  I could’ve turned it off manually, but at that point, I didn’t feel like getting up to push the button, so I let it go.  I could also hear sounds from outside as the facility is right by a busy street.

確かこのサロンのウェブサイトには、音楽とポッド内の明かりは自動的に消えると書いてあったと思ったんだけど、何分か経ってからちらっと目を開けると、まだ明かりが点いてる。それはいつまでたっても消えないで、結局セッション中はずっと点いたまんまでした。自分でボタン押して消す事も出来たみたいだけど、その時点で起き上がって消すのも何だったので、そのままにしときました。ちなみに、外は結構大きな通りで交通の雑音とかも何気に聞こえてきました~。

I went in and out of sleep while floating.  Had mini dreams.  Then the music came on to let me know that my time was ending.  It went by too quickly!

そうこうしているうちに、うとうとと眠気が。ちょこちょこ夢も見ました。そうしてあっという間にセッションの終わりを告げる音楽が流れ始めました。早い!

I got out of the pod, showered, and got dressed.  I felt super relaxed and a little groggy afterwards.  I drank lots of water and cooled off before heading out to the busy outside world!

起き上がってシャワーをして、着替え。後はとーってもリラックスし、ちょっと頭がボーっとしました。お水を一杯飲んで、体も冷ましていざ外界へGo!

My very first floating experience didn’t exactly knock my socks off, but it really helped me feel relaxed and detoxed.  I would be very curious to see how I would feel if I had an actual “sensory deprivation” experience, you know, without any light or sounds.  I’m sure it affects different people differently.  If you ever wonder what it’s like, try it and see how you feel!

生まれて初めてのアイソレーション・タンク体験は、思ったほど目からウロコ!とは感じませんでしたが、すごくリラックスできたし、デトックスもばっちりできました。本当に音とか明かりが遮断できていたら、きっと違う経験になっていたでしょうね。こういうのは個人差もあると思うので、興味のある人は是非一度お試しあれ。