The following is a guest post by Leah Vanderveldt, a Brooklyn-based wellness writer and recipe developer. You can find Leah’s blog here.
As someone who always craved freedom and autonomy while spending the first decade of my career in a rigid 9-to-5 office situation, I was thrilled when I finally took the plunge into freelance and had complete control over my time. I’ve been working on my own as a writer, editor, and cookbook author for over a year, but I quickly realized how important it was to create a few guidelines for myself, to make sure I was using my time and energy wisely. The first step: Figuring out my natural rhythms.
After observing myself over the years and more closely when I was working solo, I realized that I was the sharpest in the morning up until lunchtime. My focus for challenging writing and close editing tasks plummets in the late afternoon and I often experience a dip in energy around 3 p.m. Knowing this gives me a simple structure for my day:
- Tackle my most challenging tasks before lunchtime.
- Save things like editing photos and cooking for the afternoon, when I’m craving distraction (I often edit photos with a podcast or TV show on in the background).
- Make time to get fresh air and nourish myself after prolonged periods at the computer.
While each day is a little different for me, I typically work best within this structure and use the following five things to help me stay productive:
I’m a big believer in having some kind of a morning routine. Even though it changes depending on my mood, I make sure I have some quiet time to breathe, move, and reflect. This calms my nervous system and helps me tune into how I’m feeling and why. An important part of this is not checking email (or my phone at all, if I can help it!) before breakfast.
A typical morning for me looks like:
- Lots of warm water with lemon first thing
- Some yoga, stretching, or a walk in the park
- Breakfast (which depends on my mood, lately it’s a smoothie bowl)
- Meditation + coffee
- Tarot card journal
A meal plan
This doesn’t usually look like an elaborate menu calendar, but more like having a big batch of soup or stew and a few elements to throw together a bowl (i.e. roasted vegetables, massaged kale, marinated black beans, and a sauce) in the fridge. Having a couple of these things on-hand guarantees I have something filling, delicious, and healthy that can be prepared in 5 minutes when I’m hungry.
Food is fuel and nurturance, and cooking for myself is one of my biggest self-care tools to make sure I’m feeling well enough to accomplish everything I want to.
Uplifting drinks and elixirs
Whether it’s my daily post-lunch kombucha, a late afternoon adaptogen hot cacao, or a herbal tea blend, these drinks provide an enjoyable pause in my day AND give the right boost of energy without overwhelming my nervous system or hormones. Kombucha, in particular, also helps me curb post-lunch sugar cravings that would inevitably mess with my energy levels. Plus, they keep my gut feeling 100, which brings me to...
Keeping my gut health in check
Beaucase I’m relying on myself to make most of the major decisions in my career, I actually have to check in with my gut A LOT. So keeping my gut healthy is kind of an occupational prerequisite. I do this by eating and drinking a ton of prebiotic and probiotic foods. I love kombucha for this, as well as fermented vegetables and yogurt. I also eat lots of fresh and cooked vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to give those probiotics something to feed on.
Rest and restore
It’s so important that I get enough sleep and give myself enough time to properly wind down before bed. I’ve started turning my phone to flight mode at 9 p.m. every night, which makes it very clear to my scroll-addicted brain that I’m switching from active to unwind time. When I get enough sleep and screen-free time I’m able to show up for myself and the projects I’m working on more present and focused, which makes me that much better at doing what I love. What helps keeps you on track and feeling good every day? I’d love to know!
Leah Vanderveldt is a wellness writer and recipe developer based in Brooklyn. She’s the author of two cookbooks, The New Nourishing and The New Porridge. She loves hosting laid-back dinner parties, traveling, and talking about astrology. You can find her cooking up vegetable-centric meals and exploring wellness in ways that are affordable, fun, and a little woo-woo over on her blog, The Nourish Exchange.