editor’s note: Hi Mavens! We’re happy to bring you a special guest post by dynamic wife and husband duo (and MC readers!) Kari Chapin and Eric Nixon. Here they share a chat about their own self-care habits and struggles, and it’s darn cute to see how they support one another throughout. Thanks for the great read, Kari & Eric!
Kari Chapin: Hey, Eric. Surprise! J and J from Maven Circle asked if I wanted to write an article in February about self-care. Since we are married, work together in the same room 7 days a week and are around each other 24/7, and both read The Maven Circle, I asked if they would be interested in an article written by both of us. I thought we could have a back and forth email conversation about self-care. What do you think? If you’re game I’ll go ahead and start.
What do you think self-care is?
Eric Nixon: Sure! I think self-care is about focusing on and taking care of your needs. This probably relates more to mental and emotional health, but can probably also be applied to your environment, social, physical, and spiritual needs. As for what form it takes for us individually, that’s a bit more complex.
Kari: Whoa. That is way more of an answer than I was expecting! I didn’t think you had any thoughts on self-care at all! And I can tell you’ve been working on a new website, that covers most these exact same topics you just listed. I would say that self care is the practice of meeting yourself where you’re at and making adjustments when you need to, all in with the goal of making sure ones personal needs are being met while one is going about the business of creating life.
My own version of self-care comes from trying to remain authentic, following my intuition, and cutting myself breaks when I need to. I have read a lot about self-care because I addressed it in Grow Your Handmade Business. From what I gather, to a lot of people, it means realizing when you need to slow down or honor yourself, but I generally find that kind of conversation to be too hard for someone like me to follow. I feel like I’m honoring myself most of the time and don’t consider it something I need to make a point of doing. To me self care is making sure I’m happy as often as I can be. Pretty much, if I don’t like it, I don’t do it. This doesn’t always work for me though, as I can often be so focused on making myself happy that I put off things that need to get done, because they are less interesting to me, but still important to my life overall. Ugh.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the BESTEST!) how do you think I am doing when it comes to my own self-care in general? I think that an overall view of what I consider to be your level of self-care would be around a 6. That is me considering all of those categories you just mentioned.
Eric: You are pretty darn good at the whole self-care thing, so I’ll give you a 9.5. You know when you need to focus on an area of your life and you do it.
As for me, I’d probably give myself a 6-ish too. I have a tendency to ignore my own self-care needs to focus on whatever the task is that I’m currently working on. I think it’s a hold-over from my previous career as a hotel manager where my own needs always came last compared to that of my guests, job duties, corporate bosses, and employees. Despite this, I’m actively working to improve myself, and a large part of that is through self-care.
Kari: We sound very formal. How do you think I manage my own self-care? I’m curious to know what you see me doing that makes you think I’m giving myself good self care? What do you want to do to improve your own self-care practices? Are there any ways that I can support you in trying to take care of yourself better?
Eric: I think we sound very formal because we’re typing this to each other despite us sitting ten feet apart in the same room.
I think you manage your self-care in your working life by first ensuring your environment is set up the way you like it to be. Before you start, you tidy up, light candles, incense, put on a TV show or audio book you like, and get to work. You make sure that you like where you’re going to be, so you have an easier time functioning in that space.
When you find yourself being unable to concentrate, you often will go snuggle the dogs, or go for a walk since you find these helpful to clear your mind.
As a couple we also go on an annual retreats where we review the past year and plan out the new one (in regards to our work projects and our relationship). This really helps us focus on what’s most important to us and allows us to work on changing things we think need adjusting.
For my personal self-care, I’m trying to recognize when my brain is mushy and use that as an opportunity to step away from what I’m doing. I’ve found that playing a video game for half an hour, or going for a quick walk helps to get me back on focus and helps with my mental self-care. Physically, I’ve been using an app on my phone to help keep track of calories and exercise, which has been extremely eye-opening and very helpful.
I’m pretty good at taking care of my needs emotionally through a mixture of music and my poetry. I’m somewhat of an emotional sponge, so often if I am feeling a certain way, I put on some music (all of my playlists are organized by the emotion the songs invoke) and write a bunch of poems.
Two areas where I think I need to improve are my environment and my spirituality. I tend to have a cluttered desk and I think that stuff hampers my focus and creativity. That’s solved easily enough by tidying up before I start to work, like you do. As for my spirituality, it’s just something I need to make more time for. Over the past few years I have been becoming aware of a need to focus on this more. It’s one thing to read books on spirituality but it’s another to take the time to meditate and focus on it, which is something I need to be better about.
I kinda got carried away and wrote a lot there.
Kari: We have talked a lot about meditating as a couple. Focusing on the same things at the same time. I think actually doing this would help us stay on a positive track.
This brings me to moving meditation, a term I thought I made up, but turns out is quite common. I think that moving meditation is the biggest way I practice self-care. It’s a sort of mindless activity that allows me to sort of shut down my brain and it makes a big difference, especially if I’m floundering or can’t focus.
Working from home and for myself has a lot of challenges. Learning to shut off work and thoughts about work is really tough, and I’m not very good at it. But when I take the time to enjoy something that would normally make me feel guilty, like crocheting, reading a whole book in a few days, wandering around town, or spending an entire day cooking, I always feel better about everything.
I mean, why should I feel guilty about doing things I like, just because I do them in the same place where I work? When I worked for a company outside the home, like I did for years, I hardly ever felt bad about doing things I loved for no reason at all. I was always like, “Woo hoo! The weekend! Now I can do whatever I like!” Now that I work for us, I treat weekends or holidays like workdays. There is no 5 o’clock or happy hour. Just more work or more thinking about work. That’s a mistake. I think being responsible for so much has blurred my vision for my own life. Does that make sense?
Pretty much I’m saying I shouldn’t feel guilty about my guilty pleasures, (even the term “guilty pleasures” sounds so wrong to me. If it feels good, why should I feel guilty?!?) because they are what helps me to do everything that I need to do… like wrap up this article. I asked you what I could do to help support your efforts with your own self care, but you didn’t answer. So I’m asking again, what can I do to help you? As for me, you already support me by checking in with me when I seem stressed or neglectful of myself, or our relationship. Thank you for that.
Eric: You’re welcome! Oops, I must have missed your question. I think more co-meditating is something you can do to help me. You’re right, working for yourself is challenging in that it’s hard to separate work life from personal life, but I think we’re doing a good job at it. It’s possible that you were being too hard on yourself up there.
Kari: Ha ha, you’re right. I feel like we do a pretty good job of taking care of ourselves too. Yay us! Do you realize that we just told the Internet a bunch of personal stuff about ourselves? Like that we go on annual retreats to focus on our marriage and business, and that we want to meditate together? And like poetry and candles? We sound very woo woo. I guess we are. Are you comfortable with all that?
Eric: Sure, why not! I think the basis of good self care is being happy with who we are and how we live our life, both professionally and personally. I like our life and think we’re on the right track for us.
Thanks Jen and Jena for letting us chat about self care!
Kari Chapin Nixon and Eric Nixon are a married to each other in case you couldn’t tell. They don’t have a bio that describes them both, so they are just winging this one for The Maven Circle. They can tell you that they are both writers. Kari has written two best selling books for creative business people: The Handmade Marketplace and Grow Your Handmade Business. Eric is a poet with three poetry collections under his belt and released his first novel, Emily Dickinson, Superhero, last year. Eric quit his corporate job back in the spring of 2012 to help Kari support her growing business mentoring creatives through her popular e-courses, speaking engagements, digital products, and books. Coming up they will be co-authoring a blog all about their journey to lead whole, healthy lives. There is not much there yet, but you are welcome to bookmark http://RootDownLife.com check in on their healthful adventures, which will begin very soon. In the meanwhile, Kari very occasionally blogs at http://KariChapin.com and Eric writes much more regularly at http://EricNixon.net. They live in a beautiful farmhouse in the wilds of Vermont with Kari’s amazing mother, three dogs, and one cat.