This year in particular, self-care has been a huge topic to be discussed and considered and implemented. Whilst this is something great for the world to be open to, many (myself included) worry that it will be one of the first things to go as the world slowly returns to normal. And there is no way to know for sure, but if we can make it a priority and a habit now, then surely it will be much more difficult to allow it to slip through our hands.
Before the pandemic hit, I was one of those people who was so focused on being of value in my workplace, then at home with my daughter, that I rarely made time myself for self-care. In my mind I was being responsible and advancing greatly in my industry, as a mom, and my overall goal in NY. From the outside it looks that way, like I am not putting myself first because I have other priorities that will directly affect my future and that of my family. What I didn’t see was, the burnout, exhaustion, fatigue, lack of confidence, purpose, and self worth was approaching quickly.
In a place like New York City it is very easy to get caught up in this mentality. So many people from all over the world come to excel their futures in this grandiose city where dreams do come true! The caveat, it comes true for those who are willing to work more than the average person and be the best of the best at what they do because of the constant competition. This is true for every industry in NYC. Being a single mom who originated in a small town in Florida, I knew I would have to prove myself to the right people and be the best in their eyes, and I would reap the rewards later. So immediately I began to network with the most influential people and work at the locations where it seemed no one average was allowed to even apply. And it worked and I climbed up the social and business ladders quicker than most people I encountered. This sounds like such a great feat! But what it looked like on the inside was this:
- Working 6+ days a week
- 12-16 hour days
- Barely one full day of time with my daughter (many times not even that)
- Most of my earnings going towards rent and my nanny
- Not getting even 6 hours of sleep a night
- Running on constant exhaustion and an unhealthy amount of espresso
- Opting out of vacation time because I knew that put me one step ahead of co-workers
- Keeping my work email on my phone to always be the first to solve any issues that arise
- Not exercising- although I was always on the run anyways
- Forgetting to eat because in between being a mom and successful, there was no time
- Suppressing whatever emotions I had about anything and sticking to my plan
- Serious mom guilt
- The inevitable plummet of self-esteem
- Treating my colleagues and employees poorly
These things were done and endured because everyone knows that success comes at a sacrifice of something. What I wasn’t realizing is that I was sacrificing all the wrong things, all of the things that I hold dear and make me who I am. And to acknowledge the elephant in the room, how was I expecting to be fully successful and give it my all when I wasn’t even giving myself a chance to function at 100 percent?
I had forgotten that my alone time was sacred to me and, as an introvert and empath the only way I can recharge and fully function without getting snippy towards others was my sleep and alone time. I was so busy focusing on our future that I forgot my daughter was only going to be 5,6,7 years old once and I was missing precious moments. I was forgetting how much I valued boundaries in and out of the workplace and it was how I lived a better quality life previously. I failed to remember how exercising actually made me feel energized and better about myself and my abilities, and helped me reduce my stress on a daily basis. I failed to see although I had big goals, my co-workers were more than just competition, but colleagues that deserved to be treated as if they are also intelligent and capable and human, all in one and, perhaps they had goals too and collaboration will Always outdo competition. I had not remembered that having a social life with a select few was also an outlet for introverts. And I had let all of this go.
The list above are the examples of the mild effects of self-care neglect. I have witnessed multiple much more severe effects within colleagues who had the same mentality, or just a poor one to begin with. Different types of anxiety disorders, depression, physical illnesses, suppressants, addiction (alcohol/drugs) loss of family, and perhaps the most extreme example that I have witnessed is suicide. Self-care is so important to both men and women in any occupation or situation.
There are different areas of self-care and neglect WILL have a big impact on every single one. It affects the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual areas of your life. It will affect the energy you have throughout the day, your ability to think logically, your morals and standards, the relationships you have in your personal and professional life, and the way you view yourself. You can easily deduce and understand that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity to all human beings. The best part is, that all the negative effects can easily be avoided by simple shifts in daily life, and simple practices to be implemented.
Now that being said, there is a huge difference between self-care practices that are done for leisure vs. necessity. Those are the ones that are heavily marketed and why the term seems decadently indulgent when in fact, self-care has everything to do with your well-being instead. (although personally, a few spa days a month can only add to my well-being. Am I right?) But the simple practices and shifts can be (and not reduced to) :
- Making a list to realign your priorities
- Implementing a morning or night routine (both is better, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 more at night)
- Making sure you get at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night
- Time blocks every week, and preferably daily to spend quality time with your family and friends (a present/happy home life and social life is extremely healthy)
- Spend at least 15 minutes a day exercising (you can listen to a podcast that will help you grow personally and professionally. This will also help reduce stress/tension and keep you healthy longer)
- Have some alone time to reflect. Even if it’s just on your way to work. Instead of blasting music and singing at the top of your lungs, (which could also be an outlet for stress) this will help you be aware of yourself and others and help you understand the best ways to handle stressful situations.
- Set some boundaries! This could mean a variety of things and it WILL make a world of difference. For example, don’t put your work email on your phone or at least turn off their notifications and set specific times for checking it when not at work. Stop spending time with people who are not good for your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Not allowing others to insert theirselves or interfere with your personal life, etc.
These may seem like a big change or difficult to do at first but, I promise once you implement them into your daily life not only will you alleviate so much stress, but your conscious awareness, mood, relationships, self-esteem, and overall health will skyrocket! Doing all of these things will not only allow you to bring more valuable productivity to the table but, also allow for a healthy and happy work-life balance for yourself and your family. Your mental health is so important and taking proper care will set the tone for your physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well. It all begins with your decision to have a more positive lifestyle and not let outer circumstances affect or dictate the direction of your life.