In most people’s minds, self-care refers exclusively to that time outside of your job when you’re settling into a bubble bath or going on a long nature walk. However, your career is also a part of that process and shouldn’t be seen as something exclusive of it.
Self-care refers to the activities you engage in with the purpose of maintaining mental, emotional, and physical well-being on a regular basis. They’re acts that re-energize and rejuvenate you.
Effective self-care shouldn’t be something that you mark on your calendar as 3 hours a week and then the rest of your time is spent miserable and helpless. Self-care is a 24/7, constant process of acceptance, being attentive of your own wants and needs, and analyzing your own behavior.
These rituals are key to improving your anxiety, anger, depression, and can positively impact how you interact with both yourself and others.
Your job should always be a part of that internal dialogue. Humans spend, on average, 90,000 hours working in their lives. While stressors are certainly a part of that experience (it’s just part of the human condition), they should not overwhelm or make up its entirety.
In everything you do and every ritual you undertake, there should be meaning.
In the jobs we work to afford our necessities, comforts, and our way of life, we see our efforts as nothing more than a list of tasks to check off.
How can we possibly find meaning in work?
Not every source of gainful employment is impacting the world positively in an obvious way, and sometimes you need to look inward to find a reason to pull meaning from your work.
Here are some possible reasons to glean some aspects of fulfillment from your job:
- Utilizing your creativity
- Practicing critical thinking skills
- Growing your marketable skill set
- Interacting with coworkers, clients, and business partners and growing your network of friends and colleagues
- Being dependable and giving your life structure
- Adding directly to the success of a company that represents a cause you care about
- To protect and provide for your loved ones
- Innovating, disrupting, and injecting change into a slow-changing organization or field
Even if indirectly, your job can be a source of confidence, discipline, growth, learning, and a place to exercise aspects of your mind, emotions, and personality that you don’t otherwise get to flex in everyday life.
Stepping Back and Reflecting
It’s easy to let the positives of your job get overshadowed by the stress and expectations, but it’s important to take the time to (figuratively) step 20 feet away and take a look at your career from the outside.
Are there things you’ve learned doing your job that you wouldn’t have otherwise had experience with? Are there people you’ve connected with who you would not have met otherwise? Have you had the opportunity to contribute in a quantifiable way to the success of others or a concept or an organization?
It’s easy in the throes of day-to-day drudgery to focus entirely on the negative space. It’s natural to want and feel unfulfilled when you’re not in control, but this humbling experience can also be a blessing. Service to others can be a great way to build confidence and teach you gratitude.
As you carry out the duties of what is expected of you each and every day, take the time to look back on the work you’ve put in and the ways in which the challenges have expanded your knowledge or made you feel accomplished.
The journey shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the destination.
Putting It All Into Practice
Mindfulness is the most important process that contributes to effective self-care methodology. Recognizing the branching emotional and mental pathways of your day is the first step to understanding and caring for yourself.
After you achieve a level of understanding, however, it’s time to turn that right thought into right action.
After finding places to draw meaning and examining your work from a distance, what can you do to continue these rituals everyday to keep building and refining your new positive, aware, grateful mindset?
- Go on a morning walk or do some type of physical exercise first thing after waking up. This will be a framing moment for your entire day and starts you off in control of the situation.
- Take 15 minutes of your lunch break to meditate, practice breathing exercises, focus intensely on an object or word or person, and take control of your wandering thoughts for a few short moments. Hold a thought instead of letting your thoughts hold you.
- Wait 2 minutes before responding to any ping, phone call, or email message and consider the purpose of the message and what you want to convey in the response. Be in control of your message.
If you’re arriving at the end of this discussion and you’re wondering about one single thread that ties all of these thoughts together, it’s taking the power back.
Sure, we’re all human and we all have moments of anger, sadness, anxiety, and quick decisions, but even small changes and moments of reflection on the ways we think and act are vast improvements.
We can take the time to understand, examine, and be aware of where we are and what we have to be thankful for.
These are all bricks to lay toward effective self-care.