SELF CARE: GRAD TIP #4

Give yourself that much needed downtime.

You can’t do well if you don’t feel well.

And you won’t perform your best if you don’t give yourself time to rest. I came up with that. I’m pretty proud of that. 
If you can manage to make time for yourself to do something you really enjoy and has nothing to do with work or research or teaching, you can help battle those weeks where you just feel burnt out.
If you find yourself feeling lethargic, feeling less enthusiastic about your work than usual, feeling fatigued, tired, exhausted, having a lack of appetite or sleep or both, lacking the energy to do the basic things like taking a shower or your regular exercise routine, or maybe you can’t get yourself to go to that bonfire because you are just out of it, then you might be burnt out. It’s important to notice these signs because when they start to occur, it can begin to affect your work. Whether you realize it or not, not paying attention to your body and mind when you need a mental break will eventually make your work sloppier and less thorough. And nobody likes half-assed work.

Your boss won’t like it and maybe even you will feel like you didn’t meet your usual goal.

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So that you don’t get overworked and that’s okay.
I feel like this could be especially true in America where we all feel like we are never doing enough. We’re never making enough money, never saving enough money, never having enough things, never having enough success, never having enough TIME. We try to do so much but then tend to forget about the important things and that almost always includes our mind and body. In fact, if you check your work e-mail as you are waking up like I do, you’d probably even qualify as a workaholic. Most of us would probably take $20,000 per year in salary over more paid sick leave and vacation time, right? Here’s your sign: you’re a workaholic and you’ve been ignoring your body and mind’s needs. 

Furthermore, half or more of all employed Americans consider themselves workaholics, are currently stressed about work, check their work e-mails while waking up, spend hours staring at a screen (which could have profound impacts to your eyesight with time), and more. We have a serious problem. The same survey I am getting this information from (click here for the NY post just published in Feb of this year) says the following of the Americans who completed the poll:

  • 54% said they prioritize work before personal life
  • 51% said they worry about work on days off
  • 50% said they struggle to switch off or will actually work while on vacation
  • 48% said they check their e-mails in the middle of the night (that’s just crazy)
  • 46% said they are the first person to get to work and the last to leave
  • 46% said they feel pressured or too busy to take annual leave
  • 45% said they work through lunch
  • 45% said they feel anxious if they don’t check in or do not know what is going on at work
  • 44% said they are being told by friends and family that they work too much
  • 39% said they check e-mails first thing in the morning
If you find yourself doing one or more of these things, you have to learn how to relax. For the sake of your mind and body but also for your work. Let yourself be the best you can be in all realms of life by giving yourself that downtime. Don’t worry about work, don’t think about work, don’t think about deadlines, assignments, gossip, none of that. Do the things you really love. Whether it’s knitting, riding a motorcycle, snowboarding, running, sleeping, watching TV, just give into those guilty pleasures and let yourself do something just for fun.
No guilt, no strings, no consequences. Just you being you being with yourself doing something you want to do. 

I’m still learning how to stop and give myself a break. It’s definitely easier said than done, especially when you add other factors into the mix like mental illness, physical illness, children and spouses, personal duties at home, etc. So giving yourself a nice work-life balance is essential. Getting those basic skills down like managing your time can not only alleviate a lot of worry and stress but can also provide you windows of time for you to relax and not think (if that’s what you want) without any guilt. But, if you ever do need to check out but feel like you might be letting someone down, reach out to them and let them know your struggling. If they don’t understand, consider cutting that person out of your life if you can. If it’s your boss, certainly consider working somewhere else.

You deserve to have a boss and work environment that supports you and encourages you to take care of ALL of you, not just the part of you that generates good work and if you don’t have that, I urge you to try to find it elsewhere. It can make a world of difference.

Having the support and encouragement from your coworkers and boss can really change the way you deal with stress and pressure at work. It will make you overall happier! So if you are in a position where you can get out of that crappy work life, do it. If not, I surely hope one day you find a way to make both your personal and work life a safe space.

​Learn to say “no”. Don’t take on too much. Don’t force yourself to do things when all you feel like doing is resting after working hard for long periods of time. Not only will you thank yourself in the long run but your body and mind will thank you with a happier, healthier, and longer life because your needs have been met properly. Your personal and work life will thank you, too, because you’ll be performing better in all areas when you make sure you take a break once and a while.

Self care: Doing something you purely enjoy just because you want to do it.

Other ways to ensure you have good self care:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Regularly exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Socialize with close friends and/or family
  • Keep up with medical care (daily medications, meditation, going to regular counseling sessions, going to the doctor when your sick, paying attention to that nasty cough)
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Give yourself at least one day off per week
  • Do at least one enjoyable non-work related activity a day like reading, writing a journal entry, writing a blog post, watching TV, talking on the phone to your long-distance BFF, whatever floats your boat

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