I love pictures of people meditating or praying. It reminds me to take some time to reconnect with myself, which is what I forgot to do a while ago. Luckily, that has changed. I did something I have not done in a few months- I stopped checking email and did something creative. Let me explain. I have worked practically non-stop for the past two years and I have not given myself a break on the weekends. In the past, I made a point of not working on the weekends. I was very purposeful about this. Monday through Friday meant squeezing in every meeting and duty that I could, which also meant working until 11 o’clock at night on some days. However, if doing this meant that my weekends were free, then I was unbothered.
Two years ago (pandemic season) that all changed. Like many working professionals who had to fully blend family life and work like together, I had no “off” switch. My days consisted of 1) working and 2) my children interrupting me to help with their online schooling. That meant that I worked at night to catch up on duties missed during the day (I was never caught up). In the end, my Saturdays and Sundays became working days. Once, I even brought my laptop to the park and held a meeting while my children played. This may be normal for some people, but it was a low point for me because of this exact reason: I failed to allow myself downtime, fun, and creativity.
What does all work and no play mean (gotta love The Shining reference)? A very grouchy employee, spouse, parent, friend, and the list goes on. So this year, I decided to make a change. Unless it was an emergency, I chose to not answer emails on the weekends and get back to working Monday through Friday. Also, I took some time to be creative again. You can imagine how that felt.
I drew with my spouse and kids. I ran with my children at the park. I fell too and we all laughed. I made paper. You read that right. I made paper! I started journaling again and I began dreaming again (yes, there were a few months where I dreamed complete darkness).
Now I don’t know about anyone else, but here are my best pieces of advice from what I have learned:
- Take a few minutes each day to recognize how you’re feeling. The truth is that my body was reacting to being overworked and stressed long before I ever recognized it. Because I was moving 100 miles an hour, I missed the signs and made excuses for them (aches, migraines, anxiety, heart palpitations, etc.). So take some time each day to just check in with yourself and assess how you are functioning.
- If you need a break, take it. Most companies are allowing mental health days because employers recognize the toll the last two years has had on everyone. However, I remember former colleagues taking vacations every few months or even taking a day to themselves during the week. I now know that they were taking care of themselves before the term “self-care” was ever uttered. No one will take care of you better than you will, so take time if you need it. *Disclaimer: let people know when you’re taking a break so no one forms a search team.
- If you need help, ask for it. I recognize that this is hard for people, especially those who were raised to figure things out for themselves. However, guess what happens if you don’t ask for help? Stress, fatigue, and sickness consume your days. Confide in someone and reach out to them for help when you need it. Invest in counseling if that works too.
I encourage you to reassess your days and make time for yourself. It’s an investment that you won’t regret.
Take care and be safe,