Self Care Strategies
Author: Mike Scaletti
There is no doubt that for many people their work environment is one of the leading contributors to stress in their lives. It can also exacerbate depression and anxiety. It is easy to get so caught up in building your professional career, or fretting about your performance at work, that you overlook the needs of your emotional and mental well-being. Remember that no job is worth seriously injuring yourself over, and that includes mental injuries.
Your mental health is something you should be aware of and monitoring all year long. Plus the reality is that when you are in a good state, mentally and physically, it is easier to stay motivated and excel in your job!
On that note, I have gathered some of the most useful techniques and tips I've found for staying on top of my own mental health. They may not all be applicable to your circumstances, but hopefully you will find at least some of them helpful.
Talk It Out
One of the most useful things you can do to work through your stresses and concerns is to start talking. Check-in with your support group, your friends and families, and get their input on what it is you're going through. These people care about your well-being, may have some insight into how you can address your issues, and even if they don't you can still benefit from venting to a sympathetic ear.
Additionally, don't overlook the value of therapy. Remember that there is no shame in mental illness, and there is no shame in therapy whether or not you suffer from mental illness. We can all benefit from an unbiased, insightful, and educated voice in our lives, and that is often what a therapist can provide. Your friends, your family, your coworkers, they all have preconceived notions of who you are. A therapist simply has a desire and obligation to help.
Get Some Sleep
Most of us are guilty of running up a sleep deficit sometimes. It happens. You get carried away with work, then you have errands and chores to take care of, then you need time to decompress, and before you know it it's 3 AM. This happens to me all the time. But the bottom line is sleep deprivation isn't going to help your work, and it's certainly not going to help your mental or physical health. Studies have shown that exhaustion can impair your ability to function similarly to alcohol. Just like you wouldn't drive a vehicle or go to work when drunk, you should avoid doing so when exhausted.
Try to get into a routine. For example, make the attempt to get into bed at the same time every day. You may not be able to fall asleep right away at first, but you'll likely find that your circadian rhythms will adapt and you will find it becomes easier the more consistent you are with this. This is especially true if you are working remote. What works for me is setting a consistent alarm for waking up in the morning. I find that it's easier to establish a routine at the start of my day, and once that is established it makes getting into a routine at the end of the day much more doable.
Set Aside Some Downtime
We all need outlets. For some that could mean playing video games, for others reading a book, for some it might be grabbing a drink with friends (which we will hopefully be able to do in real life rather than via video soon, now that we're all getting vaccinated!), and for still others, it could be some combination of all of these and more. Whatever your outlet might be, it's important you give yourself time to pursue it.
I know, there are chores to be done and errands to be run, but if you are not giving yourself time to relax and to have fun, you're going to run right into burnout territory. And believe me when I say that that is territory no one is happy in.
Limit Your Focus
The world can come at you fast, and it can feel like a million things are piling up on your to-do list and deadlines are constantly looming. Believe me, you're not alone in these feelings. Don't feel like you need to tackle everything at once, however.
I find I do best when I have a list with objectives and projects clearly outlined and prioritized by importance. What tasks are going to improve my life and career most? What tasks will have the largest negative outcomes if they don't get done. Once those tasks are prioritized it becomes easier to focus on the most immediate needs, and once you can do that you'll find that to-do list shrinking before you know it.
It's Okay to Say No
You're not a superhero. You don't have a magic hammer or an infinity stone (side note: if you do please get in touch, I have a couple of favors to ask). You can't be everywhere at once and you can't be expected to successfully complete every task that anyone ever wants of you. It's okay to say no.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, or are finding that you can't complete everything on your plate in the time that others want it to be completed, talk to them. Let your boss or your coworkers know that you don't have the time or energy for this task right now. You'd be surprised how often people will be more understanding than you'd expect. Remember, most people would rather a task is done well by someone who can devote the time and energy it requires, than for it to be rushed through by someone who's focus is in a million places.
I just want to say it one more time, because it's that important. It's okay to say no.
Take Time Off
More and more companies have moved towards generous, or even unlimited, PTO options. If you are lucky enough to have paid time off, make sure you use it! You're company isn't going to burn down nor your department fall into the sea just because you're not available for a week. You have PTO for a reason. Use it.
Even if you don't have paid time off, make sure you find away to get away from work. If you can afford to do so, take a vacation anyway. If you can't, figure out a staycation. Use that long weekend to disconnect from your work. Don't feel obligated to answer every little email or phone call when you're no longer on company hours. Take time for you, because you deserve it.
Whatever stress you're dealing with on a daily basis, remember that you're not alone in those feelings. You're not broken, there's nothing wrong with you, you're not a bad person just because you're stressed, or overwhelmed, or anxious, or depressed. People all over the world feel those feelings all the time. They are valid and real, and so are you. Take the time you need to care for yourself, and to let the people who love you care for you, and you'll only end up helping yourself succeed in the long run.