This guest post was written by Northeastern University alum, Mary Taylor, a College Transitions Advisor at Tufts University.
You’ve just graduated and landed your dream job! You are determined to make a great impression on your boss and colleagues and work your way up within the organization. You show up to work early, stay late, eat lunch at your desk, and you NEVER call in sick. You volunteer to work on extra projects and assignments. You develop a great reputation in the office, but after several months you realize that you have no life outside of work. You don’t know what your friends are up to. You’re only home when you are sleeping. Sound familiar? If you don’t make some changes, you’ll burn out before you score that raise or promotion – forget about ever sitting in a corner office. The truth is, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will actually become less effective in all other areas of our lives, including our jobs.
Self-care can be difficult to prioritize, especially if you work in one of the helping professions. Society may view it as indulgent or selfish, but self-care is different than self-pampering. It means choosing and prioritizing positive behaviors or habits in order to create balance in our lives. It is important establish these habits as early as possible. If you are still in school, or on Co-op, this applies to you as well! So how can you work towards implementing self-care into your life?
-Start with balance at work. If you never say no, you will find yourself in a position where you don’t have the opportunity to say no – your boss and colleagues will just assume that you will take care of things or that you will be available to work late or on the weekend. Put a lunch break or a coffee break on your calendar each day if possible.
– Be kind to yourself. If you make a mistake, it’s ok to acknowledge it and learn from it, but then move on. Don’t say something or think something to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone you love.
– Prioritize positive behaviors. This will mean different things for different people. Drink enough water. Actually step outside into the sunshine at lunch time – even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Take a bubble bath. Exercise. Practice Yoga or Meditation. Eat fruits and vegetables. Call a good friend to catch up. Get enough sleep. Take a sick day if you are sick. Go on vacation. Pick something that is relaxing or feels good to you and do it on a regular basis.
– Be honest with yourself about your abilities and limits. Consider both your physical and mental health. Maybe you honestly love your job and really don’t mind working late. That is great – prioritize yourself on the weekends. Maybe your boss has offered you another opportunity to work on an extra project – consider saying “thanks but no thanks” once in a while if you know it will cause you stress. As long as you are honest with him or her, this will not likely have a negative impact on your career.
Of course there will be times in our lives that will be hectic and things will happen that are beyond our control. Maybe you’re at a conference or in a training and can’t get that lunchtime walk in. Maybe you oversleep ( probably because your body needs it!) and miss your morning run. It’s ok. You will get back on track the next day. Practicing regular self-care will have a positive impact on your personal and professional life. Taking that 5 or 10 minute break will actually boost your productivity. And you won’t have to give up your dream of that corner office!
Mary Lent Taylor received her M.S. in College Student Development and Counseling from Northeastern University in 2011. She currently works as a College Transition Advisor at Tufts University. She loves to travel, and her favorite self-care behavior is attending a Sunday evening Restorative Yoga class. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org