The Role of Your Job in Your Self-Care

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.

Finding Meaning

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.

How to Make Your Mind Let Go

“The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go”

Atiśa Dīpankara Śrījñāna

Letting go of things both metaphysical and physical is one of the hardest, but most fulfilling achievements of a human life. Meditation helps a person practice what it takes to let go. It focuses your thoughts away from the millions of swirling ideas and feelings passing through your head.

Think about when you sit in quiet stillness and close your eyes. Your mind is very active. It does not linger on one thought very long. Images, sounds, memories, emotions, sensations all seem to pop up and vanish as quickly as they materialize. The goal of meditation is to let go metaphysically. You are practicing the ability to accept each moment with awareness and without expectation, as these expectations lead to suffering. The goal is to experience each moment fully.

The reason that meditation is such a necessary training exercise is the same reason that we write first drafts of essays and show them to friends and editors: it’s a safe space to try new things. We don’t have to worry about the weight of our new routines and ways of thinking completely obliterating our credibility or ruining our lives. Practice is the key to success, after all.

All of our difficulties would be alleviated if we possessed thoughts that didn’t need to attach itself to expectations.

Granted, this is no easy feat and even the most self-actualized of us all find difficulty in maintaining this separation, but the self-awareness and want to live this way is an achievement in and of itself. It allows you to strip away at least some of your preconceptions, and those are important bricks to lay to improve your life.

Here are a few tips to help get you started on the path to easing your attachments:

Begin by recognizing each time you obsess or repeatedly derive value or comfort from an object, person, or behavior. Take note of it in a journal or in your phone.

Along with each noted experience, write down how these feelings affect your day. Do they make you anxious, angry, or put other negative thoughts in your head? Do they cause you to behave or speak differently? Write down every granular detail, to the best of your ability. This will help you identify patterns and root causes.

Practice daily meditation 15 minutes a day, when it is convenient for you. I find my best time to meditate is after a long day of work. It helps me stay calmer in my personal, night time hours. Some other people feel it is best in the morning. Do what works best for you.

Monthly, go through physical objects like clothing, decorations, toys, etc. in your living space and get comfortable with the idea of getting rid of them. Sell or give away objects that you don’t use at least once a week.

Take a look at the relationships in your life. Those that do not bring you joy, comfort, and peace, consider employing my method of removing toxic people from your life ethically. The more positive individuals and energies you surround yourself with, the easier it will be to rely on yourself and not the approval of toxic people. This will help shed some expectations and self-doubt.

Take the time to understand the perspectives of others. You shouldn’t be bound by their perspective, but you should acknowledge, understand, and appreciate it. Understand how these attachments affect all humans and realize that not everyone is on the same path to shedding these attachments. Help them in any way you can. This expansion of perspective allows you to step outside your preconceptions and compulsions and understand with an open mind the way that people interact, their needs, their wants, and how their attachments and yours lead to suffering.

Notice, accept, and appreciate every moment, in the moment. Recognize your exact place on the planet at this time will never happen again. See the beauty and recognize the bewildering intrigue of life. Realize there’s no time for suffering and spend your energy only on curiosity, understanding, creative thought, compassion, love, and wonder. 

Yes, letting go of all attachments may seem idealistic and impossible, but that’s only because you’re not living this way day to day. The more you try to live life free of clinging, the more you will see it is the only way to live.

I still have a long way to go myself as far as attachment. I cling to validation and objects way more than I should. I cling to memories. I cling to other peoples’ opinions of me. I cling to vanity and smugness and arrogance.

Recognizing these shackles is the first step, now get out there and start breaking the chains.