I can’t believe we’re in the second to last topic for the #SelfCareMvmt series. I’ve been grateful to be a part of this series (and a part of the first Self-Care Summit–more to come on that, but be sure to register to attend!) because it has truly forced me to recognize what I do well, and not so well, for my own self-care. Last week we talked about psychological and emotional self-care, which you can read here if you missed it, and this week we’re moving on to workplace and professional self-care. (Read week one, week two, week three, and week four of the series to catch up!) Follow and join in on the #selfcaremvmt by searching the hashtag on social media.
This is a little bit of a tough blog post for me to write: I am not the most successful at workplace or professional self-care (full disclaimer: that’s probably putting it lightly). I love my job, and I love my career even more. I feel so grateful for so many things that have to do with my professional life. I’m grateful to have a stable job; I’m grateful for my wonderful health insurance; I’m grateful for flexibility and understanding leaders and coworkers; I’m grateful to be able to do what I love every day. I fight hard to not let my chronic diseases stop me from working full-time or hindering my career growth and professional life. Nevertheless, there’s a balance that is not only necessary, but also difficult to achieve sometimes. I work in two industries that frankly don’t ever shut off: digital communications and healthcare. Don’t get me wrong: I love them, and I chose this. So I know what comes with the territory, but also what is necessary and what is overkill.
A great deal of my downfalls when it comes to workplace or professional self-care stem from my struggles with depression and anxiety. They might not be exact causes, but they play an indirect roll at the very least. I will be the first to admit that I’m my own worst enemy. I’m a perfectionist and a control freak. Like I said, full disclosure, right? I honestly want to do everything myself, because I know that I can do it the best. That’s not meant to sound cocky or conceited, but more to show that I have worked so hard to hone in on my skill sets, and I’m aware of the type of work ethic I put forth. I do give blood, sweat, tears, and 200% into everything I do in my job and my career as a whole. I know the type of dedication I portray and the level of effort and expertise I provide. It’s not about being cocky, it’s about knowing what I’ve worked for and understanding the effort I will put in. Now, none of these are bad traits to have–and I know that I have gotten where I am today, and will get where I want to be, because of them.
However, there are still negative aspects of those parts of my personality. And that’s what I’m in no way afraid to admit that I struggle with, but that I am truthfully working on daily. I know that delegation, relinquishing control, and trusting others are all necessary and pertinent aspects of growing my career. I am working hard to learn how to not only relinquish some control over my work, but to also ask for help, or say no when applicable. I may not ever fully trust others over myself for tasks and projects, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get where I need to when it comes to honing in on the negative parts of these traits and characteristics.
Enough about that, but it does provide an important lead in to talking about my own workplace and professional self-care. As I stated, this is really difficult for me, so I’m a work in progress. I don’t always practice my own advice all that well, but I promise that I’m trying! So what are some of the things that work for me? Honestly, I’m a complete workaholic. I enjoy working, and not only do I put in a lot of hours for my full-time job, but I have a lot of freelance contracts on the side. In saying that, it’s extremely important for me to learn how to and practice disconnecting. Digital communications is an industry that never shuts off; if you wanted to, there will always be work to do and something to pay attention to. However, you have to learn priorities. For example, I know that I am someone that sleep is number one. I don’t really let anything or anyone interfere with the amount of sleep I get. So staying strong on that is a huge priority for me, and actually allows me to practice better self-care when it comes to work.
Another part of that professional self-care is taking breaks. My brain can only handle so much social media, or so much writing, or so many numbers and graphs for analytics. Taking a break and just breathing, or going to the bathroom, or walking around the office is essential for me on a daily basis. I just can’t spend 12 hours straight on a computer. One of my favorite ways to take that break is just to take a second to chat with a coworker. I work with some pretty amazingly smart, creative, and fun individuals. Taking a second to talk about your weekend, or their significant other, or what have you, just allows both of you to step back and see perspective into what we do every day.
One of the best things that I’ve begun to practice for better workplace and professional self-care is taking advantage of being on call or off call. My coworker and I have implemented this and we alternate weekends being on-call. I will tell you, when I’m not on call, I have the most digitally detoxing weekends of my life. I have started to really see the benefits of doing this and it tends to recharge my brain just enough to start over again on Mondays. It’s hard to disconnect in a world of social media and digital communications, especially when that’s your job, but I can’t stress enough how important it is. Another aspect of this is that I try to be very present when I’m with other people. Honestly, no one is on their phone and on social media among my friends and loved ones more than I am. So when I spend time with them, I really try to stay off my phone. Let’s be honest–I’m going to check it here and there, but having it super-glued to my hand is no longer important to me.
All of this is to say that not only is this important for emotional health, mental health, professional and workplace health, but also for physical health. When I take the time to breathe, take a break, engage with coworkers, detox from digital, or just focus on something else, there is a grander goal of managing my chronic illnesses as well. Stress is one of the worst things for chronic disease symptoms (and believe me, I am nowhere near managing my stress to a healthy level), so it’s extremely important to take perspective and try to get a handle on those aspects of life at work. So if you’ve mastered this, what’s your secret? Share in the comments below!