We've spent the past four weeks focusing on various aspects of self-care: physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. How have you been doing? Have any of these habits stuck? Where do you still need to make some improvements? For many of us, it's in the workplace. That's why our fifth and final week of the #selfcareseries self-care challenge is focused on professional self-care.
Work is the cause of a lot of stress in many peoples' lives, because most of us don't have control over our environment, tasks, schedules, and interactions with people throughout the workday. We are told where to be, when to be there, what to do, and who to do it with for (at least) 40 hours per week. For many of us, there are expectations that we will continue to work even when we're off the clock. This means checking and responding to work-related e-mails and phone calls late in the evening, scheduling to go into the office on days off, and completing paperwork after hours. These expectations can leave employees feeling overwhelmed, unsupported, and burned out, which can create high turnover rates and put extra stress on the employees who choose to stick it out.
For these reasons (and many more), developing a solid foundation of professional self-care is of utmost importance for sound mental health. See the list below, borrowed from the self-care inventory published by NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness), and choose a few things to focus on this week:
1. Allow for breaks during the workday
2. Engage with co-workers
3. Provide self quiet time/space to complete tasks
4. Participate in projects that are exciting and rewarding
5. Set limits/boundaries with clients and colleagues
6. Balance workload/cases
7. Arrange work space for comfort
8. Maintain regular supervision or consultation
9. Negotiate needs (benefits, bonuses, raise, etc.)
10. Participate in peer support group
How often are you doing these things currently? Were you surprised by anything on this list? What would you add to this list? This category can be especially challenging, because most of us don't want to make waves in the workplace, in fear of losing our jobs, healthcare, and financial security. I get it. I was that person. I was frequently asked to work double shifts (16 hour days) in a locked psychiatric facility because the agency was understaffed. I would work from 7 AM until 11 PM and had a 90 minute commute on both ends of my workday. This means that for 19 of 24 hours per day, I was either at work or driving to/from work. I was exhausted, burned out, and became resentful of colleagues who weren't asked to work double shifts.
However, when I took a step back and identified my role in the situation, I recognized that I was part of the problem. I was a yes man. I never said no, so of course I was the first person the scheduler would call! Once I learned to identify my own boundaries and set limits with my colleagues, my job satisfaction increased tenfold. My relationships with co-workers and clients were more authentic and I was given opportunities to participate in projects that were more rewarding. I prioritized my own mental health and it paid off big time.
I challenge you to start taking the steps to identify and respectfully express your wants and needs in the workplace, too. Remember, you may need to adjust your approach depending on the personalities and communication styles dominant in your work environment. If you need help to figure out how to have these difficult conversations with your supervisors and colleagues, please feel free to contact me to schedule a session.
Don't forget to use the hashtag #selfcareseries to share your progress on social media and follow me on Instagram (@uncharted_territory_counseling) and Facebook (@unchARTedTerritoryCounseling) for updates on my own self-care journey.
Ready to schedule your first session? Please contact me to discuss treatment options, fees, and insurance coverage.