As we put the holiday season firmly behind us, it is time to plan ahead for what will hopefully be an amazing year. And besides your freelance career, there is one essential component that you don’t want to overlook — you!

Running a business, in any capacity, means taking on many detailed tasks and responsibilities that require one’s time and complete attentiveness. In the process of being thoughtful and conscientious freelancers, and setting aside time for everyone and everything else, it's easy to forget about ourselves.

But if you truly want to be successful and enjoy the proverbial fruits of your labor then it is important that you make self-care a priority this and every year. Here's why.

Why Self-Care Really Matters

Let’s be honest: We're busy. Many of us have also accepted that stress is an outgrowth of the work that we love and have dedicated our lives to doing. But if you're not careful, stress can morph into outcomes that have long-term emotional and physiological effects.

In a recent article in Psychology Today Dr. Shainna Ali writes, “Neglecting personal care can cause increases in anxiety, distractibility, anger, and fatigue. You may also experience decreases in sleep, relationship satisfaction, self-esteem, empathy, and compassion. Ongoing exposure to stress without proper self-care can put you at risk for serious consequences such as depression and heart disease. As people weight the costs and benefits, more and more are turning to the practice of caring for themselves.”

As Dr. Ali also points out, self-care can serve as an antidote to stress, especially if you're intentional about what you need to do and when it needs to be done.

Self-care and today’s freelancer

Many freelancers are responsible not just for providing a particular service, but also for juggling multiple roles such as operations, customer service, accounting, and even distribution and shipping. Making sure that your infrastructure and systems are working properly can be taxing — not just physically, but emotionally as well. Couple these responsibilities with mastering your craft and dedicating time for other responsibilities, including family and community, and the thought of consecrated time just for yourself may seem like a luxury.

However, self-care is a necessity, especially today. Because society has become so fast-paced, the cadence of life has picked up for most of us. With social media and e-commerce being ubiquitous, so is the need to be "on" 24/7.

The advantage of this increased pace and greater access is that we can enjoy a larger clientele base and truly engage in global commerce. The downside is that some of us seem to never close or get the rest that we truly need to be our best selves. Unlike working in a traditional brick-and-mortar building with set hours, in the digital ecosystem, it is tempting to be available, well, all of the time.

Many of us become entangled in this web without realizing it. I admit that I have been guilty of anxiously checking emails at 3:00AM in the morning. Although not frequently, it was enough to recognize that what I was doing was neither sustainable nor wise. A lack of sleep and a foggy brain were counter-productive and inefficient.

What Does Self-Care Look Like?

More than anything, self-care revolves around being aware of and responding to your body and your emotional state of being. You may ask: How do I feel? What are my triggers? What is my Kryptonite?

When you have a keener sense of when things are out of sorts, or you need a break, it’s easier to step back and get the extra boost that you need. Whether short term like a brisk walk in the park, or time out for a trip to a tropical island, the point is that your version of self-care should be aligned with your personality and your needs.

Do you

What works for one freelancer may not work for another. Whether your self-care routine involves meditation, mindfulness, reading a good book, or taking a vacation, make it yours. It is important to recognize that you are your greatest asset and you deserve a break.

Self-care allows us to rebound, regroup, and rejuvenate. Neither an over-abundance of money, a mega client roster, the most recognized brand, nor excessive fame or success is worth compromising your overall well-being and health. For those reasons and many others, take time out to make your needs a priority this year.