In the last month, my routine has significantly changed from something that was flexible and loose to something more concrete with the addition of a new job in my beginning career and my subtraction of an old job I was sick of. As a Social Worker in the mental health field it is important as in many other presumably stressful or somewhat stressful fields, taking care of yourself should be as a top priority as completing the work that is required of you in your job. Self-care is an activity that improves our mental, emotional, and physical health while improving our mood and reducing anxiety.
In most fields today, from the very creative to the very structured, there are employment and managerial (depending on your position) pressures that are placed on you whether it is from your boss, co-workers, customers, clients or company policies. On top of that, we need to balance out everything else in our lives, living situation, family, friends, leisure time, etc. So how do we balance it all without losing our minds?
Good question, but not as simple. Try and take the best way you learn something, either visually, audio, written, etc. and set up a seven day week schedule, like the seven day forecast. Start with Monday, as most people work starting on Mondays and end their week as Sunday being the day of rest. Now, fill up those time slots in each day with tasks you have to do, whether it is work, going to the gym, being home with the family or kids and map them all out each day until you get to Sunday, creating a time management grid. When you step away you realize how much is going on and yet if you look closely at each day, it does not seem so bad. Write down each thing using one word. So for work, write “Work”, for exercise write “Work-out” or the abbreviations for the name of the gym you go to. Anything at home, write “Home”, if on the weekends you want to go out or go a date write “Out” or “Date”, or if you want to spend quality time with family, write “Family”. Then starting with the first week, see how well you do with meeting everything on that schedule. Try not to over complicate it or else you will most likely burn out from your own schedule. The point is to make the schedule as simple as possible so that work does not seem so overbearing. Now here are some suggestions of what to do outside of work and reduce the stress that it can have on us.
I think working out, a few days a week, either before or after work depending on your hours is extremely important for sublimating your internal anxieties and frustrations. It is a way to release any pent up energy and as a result will calm you down, make you feel at ease in any demanding situation that may arise. I try to work out 4 days a week, for about an hour each day, I prolong that with swimming for an additional twenty minutes. All you really need is about an hour of working out. Give yourself at least a day in between the workout days to get some rest. At the end of the day when you get home, your workout will help you with sleeping more efficiently.
Eating healthy should always come hand-in-hand with exercise. However, don’t over do it. Do not starve or fast yourself, just find healthy alternatives to what you might eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and night snack. Have less bread and pasta and avoid the sugary sweets if you can. Eat more vegetables, protein like fish, eggs, and chicken, eat fruit like bananas, apples, strawberries, watermelon, eat Brown Rice or Oatmeal, and eat fresh unsalted almonds along with some carrots or celery sticks with humus at night. For weight lifting recovery, make a mixed shake of two scoops of Whey Protein, milk, water, bananas, and egg yokes. Over time, having a healthy alternative will make you feel less bloated and yet make you less hungry. Your pants will fit much better and thus become less constricting. As a result you’ll be training your metabolism to burn fat, not carbohydrates.
By setting up a routine schedule, you’re bound to get tired around the same time of night. Use this opportunity to train your body clock to fall asleep around the same time every night, give or take an hour. In doing so, you’re sleeping habits will naturally improve overtime. Important sleep of about 8-9 hours a night is linked to less stress, living longer and healthier.
Relax & Chill Before Bed
When everything is planned and ready for the next day, laundry is clean and folded, your lunch is packed and away in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch break, maybe you’ve brushed your teeth or taken a shower, then give yourself an hour before falling asleep where it’s whatever you want to do: read a fun novel, watch something exciting on Netflix, type up a blog about self-care (he-he), listen to soothing music or play on your guitar. Settling down at night gives yourself a reward from a long hard day and reinforces you to continue that trajectory.
Preferably on the weekends or on a day you’re not working, find a hobby to give you some pleasure. They say that if you find something you love as a career, you won’t ever work a day in your life. I think that’s nonsense. In every career, you’re going to find challenges and eventually when you do something all of the time where you spend most of your waking life in, it will feel like work. We all need to separate ourselves from our work, even the ones we feel most passionate about. Go sailing, surf the ocean depths, go skiing, visit a museum, learn a language, learn a new musical instrument, start a blog, read a book, go to the beach, go to festivals and carnivals, volunteer taking care of animals, least leave your house for one day in the weekend that is not work.
Vacation & Travel
As in America, majority of Americans are deprived the essentials of a long vacation where then traveling becomes few and far between. Other countries, especially in Europe demonstrate the importance of employees being given 80 paid vacation days in the year to go anywhere they’d like. In America, making profit and meeting deadlines are more important in certain careers than the wellness and health of the employees. I think the worker should be honored as the highest commodity, but it isn’t in the United States. So instead, any vacation time you do get, take it. Don’t worry about trying to catch up when you get back. Just spend an entire working day looking through emails. That’s not so bad. And when you go on vacation, go away and travel the world. I’d love to see new cultures and traditions, it’ll help me become a better person. Some innovative and tech companies now supply new employee hires with two weeks of vacation.
Make Time for Family
If you can, make time for some family. Maybe you’re family is a real pain in the butt, but I’m sure there are certain people in your family you gravitate more towards. Spend your family time with those family members more than your in-laws (just kidding). And depending on your situation, if you’re raising a child these other things on the list will naturally become more secondary and that’s the other challenge.
If you can at least fit a little bit of each of these things every week, you’ll feel less stressed, more energized, and more productive. Self-care is a skill that should be taught in every company, especially in the United States, because companies that do not take care of its employees are not worth the time. If anyone feels overworked and over-stressed they will be closer to being burnt out and much less productive than if they spent the time balancing their life and taking care of themselves, even on the small scale. Here is a great concrete life lesson, you cannot take care of others until you’ve taken care of yourself. I’m sure there are other more specific ways of effectively using self-care to sustain a healthy and full-filling lifestyle, but these are the basic examples.
What did you think about these suggestions? Can you come up with better ones? Leave in the comments below.