LeahCreates is the online moniker of Leah Shaver. As a designer and developer, she strives to bring art and whimsy to the web. She's been making websites since 1999, and opened LeahCreates Web Studio in 2009. LCWS specializes in websites and web strategy for artists and other creative entrepreneurs.
Leah grew up near Detroit, Michigan but calls Portsmouth, New Hampshire "home". She lives in a tiny bungalow with her fiancé, R.T., and a tiny zoo of little creatures. In addition to crafting a quirkier web, Leah's passions include mixed media art, photography, yoga, and riding her bicycle.
Right off the bat, here are some things that are true about me:
- I am self-employed.
- I am clinically depressed.
- I'm a workaholic.
- I gained 30lbs the first two years after starting my business.
When I say that last one, I feel so sorry for myself. Gaining a lot of weight is a good way to send yourself on a massive shame spiral. It's easy to beat yourself up. What's harder is to look at the reason – to look at what the weight gain is a symptom of, and then forgive yourself for that.
I wish I could say that I took that approach. That I wrapped the sad child inside of me in a giant bear hug and told her that it was okay. Instead, I buried my emotions even further in 16-hour work days and takeout Chinese.
Then, one day, in January of 2011, I woke up and couldn't stop crying. It all caught up to me. The two years I'd spent literally killing myself to build my business, the two years of neglecting every part of me that wasn't "on task".
That was a really scary day – but it changed everything in a big way.
After my little breakdown, I spent a lot of time with a wonderful therapist. (I was also medicated for awhile – I'm glossing over that because I'm not a medical professional and therefore have no relevant advice to offer in this area, but I do want to be very clear that there is no shame at all in taking such measures in the name of self-care.) She and I spent a lot of time getting down to the heart of a lot of issues, but the biggest thing I took away from my time with her was the art of caring for myself.
It turns out that caring for ourselves isn't selfish. As women who wear many hats -- business owner, artist, sister, daughter, mother, nanny, student, partner – this can be a difficult lesson to learn (and then relearn and then relearn again). I know that I have a tendency to want to check every item off the to-do list, to make sure everyone else's needs are met, before I even stop to consider my own.
It's no wonder that I gained so much weight in those two years. There was not a lot of Leah-love happening in that time, if I'm honest. It's really heartbreaking if you look at it from the other side, isn't it? It's really painful to reflect on the past month or year or decade and realize how much we've neglected our own self-care.
We all get to decide what self-care looks like for us. Here's what works for me:
Of course this tops the list! I can imagine that, like me, you hear the term 'green smoothie' so many times in a day that it's barely even worth reading this paragraph. But just in case you need a gentle reminder - green smoothies are a marvelous way to nourish your physical body in a way that takes almost no time at all. I don't have the cool kid blender – I use the Target version of the Magic Bullet. Lately my smoothies are kale, PB2, hemp protein powder, half a banana, frozen berries, and coconut water or almond milk. Bam! Self-care in a glass.
Creative play time
I recently turned my dining nook into an art studio. The area is in a constant state of disarray, and I love that. There's no pressure to clean up when I'm finished – sometimes I don't even wash my brushes when I'm done. (Note: I ruin a lot of brushes.) This means that I can easily show up for five or ten or twenty minutes at a time and just play. I highly recommend having a play place like this. If you don't have room in your house to dedicate to your particular creative pursuit, maybe there's a way to make a mini version that you can easily pull out & put away again -- an art journal in which you can quickly do a page or two, a just-for-fun knitting project that you can knit just a few rows, etc. – try to put measures in place so that your creative play time doesn't require a time commitment.
Fact: I hate exercising. It's the easiest thing for me to convince myself I'm too busy to do it. Unfortunately it's also absolutely paramount to being the best version of myself. Lately, I mountain bike a few times a week – carving out two hours here and there to make time for that feels really luxurious. When I don't have that kind of time, I go for long walks with the dog and my fiancé, or I bounce on my rebounder, or I do a yoga DVD. Even as little as 15 minutes of stretching makes a big difference. Fit it in wherever you can. There's this standard of early morning workouts being ideal, but that's not true for every one. I am most successful with working out if I do it around 3pm.
Those are the three biggest things for me. Pair these with "basics" like plenty of sleep & water, and I'm truly the best version of myself that I can be.
I would love to hear your self-care stories. What is your minimal daily self-care requirement? In what ways have you struggled to care for yourself? What obstacles have you overcome?
I believe it's important that we share this journey -- that we continually show up and give each other permission to love ourselves first.
If you're so inclined, I would love the chance to share your self-care story on my own blog. Feel like sharing? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. Sometimes self care comes in the form of releasing ourselves from our "do it all" expectations. I like to think that my Starter Sites are good tool for other creative entrepreneurs who need to break away from their DIY-website struggles. When you get in touch, mention that you came to my site via this guest post and receive a 10% discount on any Starter Site.
You can find Leah online here