Self- care is not a dirty word when it comes to your career. Follow these five easy steps to looking after yourself and work will get a whole lot easier, even if at the moment you feel overwhelmed, says career psychologist Sinead Brady.
You are busier than you have ever been. Work is overwhelming, your to-do-list is jam packed with overdue tasks, you have meeting after meeting to attend and targets to hit. Your calendar outside of work is pretty crazy, too. You literally have no time to breathe. But you keep your head down, push through, work harder and longer hours in the unwavering belief that ‘hard work never killed anyone’. Instilled with this virtuous work ethic, you start to skip lunch, stop exercising, stay late, reply to emails afterhours and reschedule catch-ups to get on top of things.
Physically and emotionally exhausted, your productivity is down, your output is poor and your focus is reduced. You feel like someone, or something, is sucking the energy directly from your bones. You are going through the motions and enjoying less and less of life. Starved of time, self-care is the last thing on your mind. In fact, even thinking about self-care feels like a luxury that you cannot afford.
Yet you know your time and your energy are your most precious resources. Choosing how, where and with whom you spend your time and energy is beyond important for your wellbeing.
So, if things are out of control, how can you grab back the reins of control? You can start by making these three mindset shifts about self-care.
- Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is not a reward. Self-care is not a treat. Self-care is knowing what you need and want in order to mind yourself. In doing so you give yourself the opportunity to be the best version of yourself, which in turn helps you to care for the people and things in your life that are important. Self-care protects against burnout and stress. So here are two questions to reflect on- ‘Do you really take care of yourself? and ‘What specifically do you do to take care of yourself?’
- Self-care is not about balance. Balance applies an impossible mathematical equation to life, which suggests that anything less than a 50:50 split of your time equates to failure. Self-care is about striking a blend between living life and making a living. It is giving yourself permission to spend more time at work some weeks, more time at home other weeks and vice versa. It is about having quality time across the days, the weeks and the months to do things, see people and take part in activities that both personally and professionally ignite you. Different things work for different people. Understanding what works for you is your starting point.
- Self-care does not just happen. Self-care needs to be actively planned so that it becomes part of your routine. Add it to your calendar, tell people what you are doing and commit to consciously practicing self-care. Then make the ways in which you care for yourself a personal and professional priority.
With these three mindset shifts in place, use the following checklist to get started on a routine of self-care. Relatively straight forward, it is possible to incorporate them into your life by tweaking your routine or thought process ever so slightly.
Sleep - Try to get 7 – 8 hours sleep per night. To make this easier on yourself you might start going to bed 15 minutes earlier every second night until you hit your target. Your brain and body are guaranteed to perform much better.
Move – Including physical movement in your daily routine is vital. Start by getting off one bus stop earlier than normal, walk when you talk on the phone, take a 10-minute brisk walk at lunch. Whatever your normal routine is, try to add a little more conscious movement.
Hydrate – Drinking enough water can be tricky. Slowly add in a glass of water each time you have a tea or coffee. Add some orange or lemon slices to hot water and sip it as you work.
Take lunch – At 11am, 1pm and 3pm STOP what you are doing. Remove yourself from your desk, get up and take a break. Take 15 minutes at 11am and 3pm and your entire break at lunchtime. You need the time to rest, refuel and recalibrate. When you go back to your desk you will be more focused, more productive and in better form.
Socialise – Spend time with people you love, make you smile, and who are a positive influence on you. And by extension, limit your time with people who have the opposite effect.
Self-care is not only vital for your health; it is also essential for your career. If you are contemplating a career change, progression, transition or pivot, looking after yourself will leave you with the energy and confidence to follow through on that big decision.
Photo credit; Autumn Goodman, Unsplash