By Maggie Merritt
Steinberg Institute Chief Operating Officer
Have you lost sleep over your work? How many days in a row did you forget to eat lunch, or take time away from your desk to get some fresh air? How often do you work through the weekend forfeiting time with friends and family? And when we add the stress of these last couple of years on top of it all, it’s no
wonder most of us are having a hard time.
So many of you have dedicated your lives to making your corner of the world a better place. You are changemakers, givers, and advocates. You get up most days ready to give your all to your family, community, and work. Though I believe this is the most righteous way to live, I also know the toll it can have on our well-being if we’re not paying attention to what we need to keep our own cups full. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes:
As someone who has worked in the public policy arena for more than 30 years, I know the pressure we face every day. The powerful feeling of a job well done can be quickly erased by the wall of exhaustion we hit when we neglect ourselves.
To deal with the stress, we can easily fall into coping mechanisms that are not serving us well, like over-or under-eating, alcohol and/or drug misuse, smoking, or avoiding others through engaging in endless hours of screentime.
It’s critical for all of us to take the time to figure out how we can champion our own well-being just as we champion others. Though I’ve seen folks make huge changes all at once successfully, I believe that small, incremental changes to our daily routine make the most difference over time. Consider adding one or two of the below activities at a time to your life. “Nice and easy” is the key to creating a lasting habit.
- Commit to taking a walk every day or every other day. It can be as short as 10 minutes, fast or slow. Just move your body!
- Consider adding something healthy, like a salad or an extra serving of veggies to your daily diet.
- Get serious about sleep. Research shows us that getting enough sleep has a huge positive impact on emotional and physical health.
- Slow things down” with Yoga, Thai Chi, meditation, or something similar.
- Pamper yourself! Identify the ways that make you feel pampered and set time aside for those things on a regular basis.
- Keep a journal. Writing “gratitude lists” regularly is a great way to shift your focus and lift your spirits!
- We know the work we do is never going to stop, so take time to “unplug.” Set time aside to exhale for an extended amount of time — and sneak in as many long weekends as possible.
- Dance, hike, fly a kite, go to the theater…let your inner child out! What makes you feel happy? Do more of that.
- Set clear boundaries. Let everyone know what you are and are not available for. Unlike popular belief, letting folks know what you can/can’t do is really helpful to everyone.
Finally, make sure you have the support you need. Consider hiring a coach or therapist to support you as you navigate life. Even athletes have a coach and that’s because coaches see things from a different perspective and can suggest adjustments you might make to reach your goals more readily. You don’t need to do this alone.
Practicing self-care does not mean you are choosing yourself over your loved one. It means that you understand that to do all you are committed to and to support the people you care about, you must first take care of yourself.
Here’s to having both a successful career and healthy, happy, (somewhat) balanced life!