Discover Why Self-Care Is Essential for Your Interior Design Business SuccessSep 15, 2023
Entrepreneurship is a dream for many working professionals. After spending years educating yourself and working for other designers, it’s a fulfilling step to strike out on your own and become the boss by launching an interior design business.
If you have already taken that step and ventured out into business ownership, you’re probably well aware that business owners often work long hours and wear many hats as they try to establish themselves and grow operations. While this is to be expected, it’s important that you work smarter, not harder.
This could mean streamlining operations as much as possible, but it also has to do with the hours you put in. You might think that working more hours will increase productivity, but the opposite could be true.
If you want to optimize productivity, it’s important that you understand the value of self-care and take time to focus on your own health and well-being. So, what is self-care? What can you do to incorporate practices into your busy life as an entrepreneur?
What Is Self-Care, and Why Is It Important to Entrepreneurial Women?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines self-care as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.” This could include any number of activities, from eating right and exercising to getting plenty of rest.
When you start your own interior design business, you may naturally prioritize your work over your personal life for a while. However, it’s all too easy to fall into bad habits when you’re devoting the lion’s share of your time and attention to your business.
It’s true that you have to hustle when you’re just starting out, but if you’re stressed, fatigued, and unable to concentrate due to burnout and a lack of self-care, you could actually hurt your business and yourself.
When you’re tired and overworked, things can start to slip through the cracks. Self-care is an important part of ensuring entrepreneurial success.
How to Recognize Burnout and Respond to It
You may have a vague notion of what burnout is and what it means in practical terms, but how can you recognize it when it’s happening to you? There are several symptoms that could signal burnout.
Maybe you’re suffering from intense and ongoing stress or even feelings of anxiety and depression. You may have trouble sleeping and spend your waking hours fatigued and unable to concentrate as a result. This could also leave you irritable, impacting both personal and professional relationships.
You might start to feel cynical about work or even dread going to work. You may notice a decrease in productivity due to low energy and forgetfulness, and even when you achieve goals, you may feel dissatisfied. It’s not unusual to suffer physical ailments like digestive problems, headaches, and other aches and pains.
If you doubt the importance of self-care, all you need to do is check your own symptoms against this list to see if you’re suffering from burnout. If you’re struggling with work-life balance, it’s time to make an honest assessment of your situation, create a plan to address the causes, and seek help and support as needed.
Seven Essential Self-Care Habits to Increase Productivity
Working more hours does not, in fact, equate to higher productivity — at least not according to a research paper from the Department of Economics at Stanford University.
Professor John Pencavel found that productivity decreases significantly for those who work more than 50 hours per week. Those who logged 70 hours of work delivered the same level of productivity as workers who completed just 55 hours of work.
In other words, you could be wasting time by overworking yourself. Even worse, you may suffer stress, depression, and sleep disruption as a result of burnout, leaving you fatigued, unfocused, and even less likely to reach peak performance and productivity.
How can you spend more time focused on self-care that revitalizes your spirit and boosts productivity during working hours?
1. Focus on a Balanced Diet and Regular Meals
If you frequently skip meals because you’re too busy, you’re gambling with your health and well-being. In the short term, forgoing regular meals throughout the day can leave you feeling stressed, irritable, fatigued, and hangry, thanks to decreased blood sugar and increased cortisol production. This isn’t great for productivity.
Unfortunately, if you make a habit of skipping meals, it can mess with your metabolism, causing weight gain. Over the long term, it can even lead to increased risks of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as a higher risk of mortality in general.
When you're considering the importance of self-care, start with activities like regular meals and a balanced diet.
2. Add Exercise to Your Regimen
Exercise is an essential part of self-care because it can help to improve not only your physical health but also your mental and emotional health. Regular exercise can strengthen your bones and muscles and improve or maintain physical function, as well as contribute to a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI).
In adults, exercise has been found to help reduce anxiety, improve mood, and maintain brain functions like critical thinking. It may improve sleep and reduce overall risks for anxiety and depression, and in the long term, it can reduce risks for conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Whether you prefer jogging, yoga, or group sports like softball, regular exercise offers major benefits.
3. Get Your Zzzs
If you’ve been skimping on hours of rest due to a busy schedule or difficulties with sleep disruption (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, insomnia, etc.), you’re probably already well aware of the fact that inadequate rest and/or poor sleep quality can impact your mood, thinking, performance, and health.
While the amount of sleep a person needs will vary by age and a range of other factors, it is generally accepted that adults require seven hours of restful slumber or more each night. When you’re working with a long-term sleep deficit, it can adversely affect your physical, mental, and emotional health.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness has to do with being present in the moment and having intentional awareness of yourself, your surroundings, and your situation. When you’re practicing mindfulness, for example, you might notice that you’re hungry and tired and that you’ve become frustrated and irritable as a result.
This knowledge can help you make decisions that are better for your health, like taking a lunch break. Mindfulness isn’t necessarily easy to master, but it can help you pinpoint problems and address them in real time.
5. Connect With Family and Friends
Although research is limited, studies related to the neuroscience of human social behavior seem to indicate that humans are inherently social creatures. When you spend much of your time focused on work and neglect personal relationships with family and friends, your work-life balance will suffer and you may start to feel lonely and unsatisfied.
Emotional well-being has been linked to the number and strength of friendships, but studies also show that strong social ties and support can reduce risks for illness and mortality.
6. Pamper Yourself
Prioritizing self-care and overcoming burnout can take many forms. This should go without saying, but setting aside time to pamper yourself now and then can really recharge your batteries.
Pampering could mean different things to different people. Maybe you’ll benefit from a monthly massage to work out some tension and help you relax. Or you might spoil yourself with weekly trips to the nail salon. You could hire a cleaning service regularly to get your house spick-and-span.
You might recharge by meeting up with friends for a meal or a hike. Perhaps you enjoy working in your garden, making time for a hobby, or taking a fun class. Maybe you like to set aside time during the week to indulge in a long, hot bath, or you find nothing more relaxing than spending an afternoon reading a book in the park.
Find what makes you happy and restores you, then do it.
7. Speak With a Mental Health Professional
Society is slowly making strides toward destigmatizing mental health concerns and treatments, but when it comes to overcoming burnout, which could contribute to both anxiety and depression symptoms, you might not immediately think of counseling as a potential solution.
If you’re feeling helpless, it’s time to speak with a professional and figure out how to take better care of yourself.
Tips to Fit Self-Care Into Your Busy Lifestyle
Even if you understand the importance of self-care and you have self-care activities in mind, prioritizing yourself isn’t always easy. The best way to put yourself first is to schedule in time for you, just like you would for clients.
If you constantly get caught up in work and forget to eat, schedule lunch breaks and set reminders. If you’re working seven days a week, it might be time to schedule a day off each week, or even take the whole weekend.
Are you on the clock before the sun comes up and after it goes down? Consider setting regular work hours and stopping on time. Your interior design business may require a lot of time and energy, but prioritizing a work-life balance ensures that the time you spend on work will be high-value.
Setting Boundaries With Clients
When you work in the interior design field, clients can be demanding. They may contact you at all hours of the day and night with questions, concerns, and ideas about their projects. You may feel like you have to allow this in order to keep clients happy, but most people understand the concept of business hours and will respect yours if you set boundaries and stick to them.
Benefits of Incorporating Self-Care for You and Your Employees
There are endless benefits to making self-care a priority and creating a business environment that supports self-care for every employee. Limiting work hours and prioritizing work-life balance can not only improve physical, mental, and emotional health but also increase productivity, which is great for your business and your clients.
If you need help setting boundaries and improving life balance, Behind the Design has a range of resources geared toward education, coaching, and community for interior design professionals. Join our community now to learn more.
Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter
Get helpful career, business, and design tips right in your inbox each month.
At Behind the Design, we are committed to building a stronger design community by reimagining education, training, and support for interior designers. Through our various software training options, educational articles covering everything from leadership to marketing, and soon Continuing educational courses, we are committed to helping you. Join our newsletter to get the latest education and training updates.