The lesson I learned in yoga that stuck with me the most is the balance between pushing myself and giving myself rest. This was taught through the poses in yoga: hold that warrior two a little longer but ease up when it’s time. Give your body what it needs whether that’s more effort or more rest. This lesson has translated to every area of my life. I use this pursuit of balance when I decide what to do with my time, my exercise, and my work. I like work a lot. Like, Leslie Knope levels of liking work. I like to be busy and work hard, pursuing projects and solving problems. I have a tendency to push, push, push, constantly taking on more without taking into account whether I have the time or energy to do more. Because of yoga, I’m learning to temper my work love with some self care. If you’re not familiar with the concept of self care, you might be interested in this blog: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/take-care-yourself-feel-like-shutting-down/. If you need more convincing, take a look at this blog post about how one librarian uses self care outside of work to be a better librarian :http://inalj.com/?p=89972 Self care outside of work will make you a better worker, a better librarian or library professional, and a happier person. But what about those hours when you are at work? Those can be, even for a work lover like myself, some very stressful hours of the day. Here are ten small strategies that can serve as jumping off points for self care at work:
- Take your breaks: You have them, take them. What can you do in 15 minutes? More than you might think! Walk around, get a drink of water, read a book, do anything to give yourself a break from your work and preferably from your work station and screens.
- Let yourself off the hook: Did you just do something kind of dumb? Maybe you screwed up and told a patron something not quite right. While it’s a great idea to honestly evaluate your work and look for improvement, obsessing about something that’s done and over with isn’t any good. If you did something wrong ask yourself if it can be fixed. If it can, fix it and learn from it. If it can’t, learn from it and move on. You are only human.
- Self-sooth: As a person who struggles with anxiety, I have learned the value of having a list of self-soothers at the ready. If you get stressed or anxious or have a bad day, what can you do to get yourself together again at work? Try some things out and see what works for you. My list includes a cup of super hot tea or coffee, a brisk walk, a piece of dark chocolate, one of the songs from my Anthem List on Youtube (more on that in a moment), or, when things are really dire, a good quick cry.
- Refocus: It is easy to let one bad interaction with a coworker or patron to get you down. Once you’ve tried to process the situation, try to gently shift your focus. If you find your mind returning to that situation, try to think of the positive things that have also happened. Our minds tend to hold on to the situations that made us unhappy and forget the happiness. For example, on a day I had a patron yell at me very harshly, I also had three patrons who thanked me sincerely for my help, and at least ten patrons with whom I had neutral interactions. I am not going to let the yeller be the thing I remember from an otherwise great day
- Call in sick when you’re sick: If you have the sick time, don’t come to work when you are sick. It does a library no good to have you sniffling at the desk, not doing your best work and infecting coworkers and patrons alike. Stay home, you’ll feel better faster!
- Ask for help: If you aren’t sure about a policy or procedure, ask your supervisor or a coworker. I can’t tell you how many times I have stressed myself out over not knowing an answer or suspecting I’ve been doing something wrong instead of turning to the person sitting 3 feet from me an asking their advice. This wastes time and valuable energy and is no good for you.
- Breathe: Seriously. Deep breath in, slow controlled breath out. Or even listen to the rhythm of your breathing without changing it. You will be amazed how calming this is.
- Laugh: It doesn’t even have to be laughing about a stressful situation, simply having a laugh with your coworkers can help take away the stress.
- Play an anthem song. I created a play list of songs (some songs are a little NSFW so tread carefully) that pump me up and make me feel like I can take on the next challenge (or at least do a quick dance when no one’s looking). I’ve linked to my list but I think it’s important to choose your own songs. The Meet the Press theme isn’t going to do it for everyone, but it helps me!
- If allowed, take a quick look at blogs or Twitter: my blog feed in Feedly and my Twitter feed are full of librarians. Taking a quick glance can make me feel connected in a larger way to my profession. It’s encouraging to see what other smart, funny, great librarians are doing.
So remember: whether it’s your work-self or your home-self, take care of yourself! You’ll feel better, do better work, and enjoy yourself more. You’re the only you you’ve got! Take care of you!