why taking time out for self-care makes your creative business stronger


Hi everyone! My name is Erin Duncan, and I’m so excited to join the roster of “Dear Handmade Life” contributors. Before I get started, here’s a little about me: I run wrenbirdarts, a creative hand embroidery business and write a weekly blog of the same name. I have a background in social work, and that primed me for a hawk-like focus on work-life balance and self-care practice, which will be my focus here at DHL.

We all work so hard, are so critical of our own work, and especially during the holidays have even tighter deadlines. Is your blood pressure going up yet with the mention of “holidays”? Mine certainly is.
I don’t have a magic solution to manage your workload or give you 10 extra hours in the day, but I will tell you that you cannot take care of the important people in your life, and you will grow to resent your work,  if you don’t take time for yourself FIRST, on a regular basis.

Self-care activities mean something different for everyone. It might be taking time each day for yoga, or going out for coffee. For me, self-care is going to a movie by myself, or laying on the couch and binge watching tv while flipping through magazines. I also take a walk every day to clear my head. And because I work out of my home, I find it to be necessary to physically leave my house for at least an hour every day.

I used to feel guilty taking time for me when I had 1 million things on my to-do list. While the guilt is completely normal, I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining interests outside of your work life-yes, even if your work is something you love so much you can’t imagine doing anything else.

Not taking time for you is the single easiest way to burn yourself out.  I have flirted with burnout, after embroidering wedding hankies for weeks on end in the spring. While incredibly financially lucrative, I was exhausted and worked myself like no boss should. I found myself starting to dread going to sleep, because it meant that I would have to get up the next morning, and have the exact same day for the foreseeable future, much like Groundhog Day. There were a multitude of factors that were contributing to the insane workload I had saddled myself with, but the gist was that I was undervaluing my work, my time, and mostly myself.

After making some terrifying business adjustments (pricing, limiting my work day, and small overhaul of products), which was nauseating, and made me wonder if I was putting myself out of business. My little business didn’t die, and that was a year and a half ago, and though some times are busier than others, wrenbirdarts is still my full-time job, and I still love my work. And I still have a social life.

Trust me, your whole world won’t melt down if you take 30-60 minutes for yourself every single day. At least give it a try for a week, and see if it makes any difference in your ability to perform the superhero duties that you take on each day.

About Erin:

Erin “Wren” Duncan is the owner and handmaker behind wrenbirdarts. She is a former bookseller, barista, grantwriter, event planner, and real estate agent with a Master’s in Social Work. Erin is known for her sometimes cheeky, hand embroidered hankies. Her work has been featured on Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Glamour Magazine, and in several local and international print magazines. Erin lives in Seattle, where you’ll find her walking around exploring farmers markets, the local craft beer scene, and scoping out local businesses. You can follow her on social media @wrenbirdarts.

erin duncan of wren bird arts

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