How can I care for myself at work?
How can I care for myself at work?
First of all, I would like to share that my understanding of self-care has changed a lot in the last couple of years. What I thought self-care was in the past is completely different to my understanding today. If I’m very honest I had no idea what self-care really meant. How could I love myself, when I didn’t even know how to care for myself?
What I discovered in the last few years was that self-care is a forever deepening process. There is no end point. Every single day is an opportunity for me to deepen my relationship with myself and to set a new standard for how I want to look after myself. The new standard then becomes my new ‘normal’ in how I am in life with myself and other people. Before I go any further about my self-caring activities of today, I would like to describe what my life used to look like a few years ago…
Working as an IT consultant in the corporate world for the past 20 years, I was constantly faced with time pressures. For me, the main goal was to get the job done, at whatever cost. To meet all the project milestones was always more important than how I felt and what my body needed at each moment in time. The result was that I was very exhausted over many years, although I tried to find a balance between working hard and paying attention to my body by going to the sauna or by doing sport on a regular basis. But what I didn’t understand at this time was that it was always an ‘either/or’ relationship –- either I worked hard and I totally forgot my body at work, or I was doing something ‘good’ for my body at a dedicated time, usually before or after work or on the weekends. This approach never worked for me.
I finally reached a point where a single weekend was not enough to get rid of the exhaustion and tiredness in my body. If I had continued in this way I’m pretty sure I would have ended up in burn out.
So what has changed that I am now caring for myself in a new loving way?
I realised that there was always a huge underlying anxiousness in my body, which I tried to avoid feeling at all costs. The way I tried to cope with this anxiousness was to identify myself with the ‘doing’ – to keep myself busy at all times. The big disadvantage of this strategy was that by doing so I was only in my head and couldn’t feel my body anymore. Therefore, I couldn’t receive the messages of the body, which would have communicated to me what it needed at any given moment. I never allowed myself to become really still because this stillness would have exposed all the issues in my body, which I was avoiding feeling all of the time.
To get to know stillness, I used the tool ‘Stop, Feel and Connect’. Many times during the day, when I caught myself in the doing, I stopped by sitting down, closed my eyes and felt what was going on in my body. Through this I was able to not run away from my unresolved feelings in my body. The more I felt them, the more they dissolved. Additionally, I connected to my inner heart by using the Gentle Breath Meditation™. After some time of practising, a stillness arose from within my body, which provided a new marker. I could always go back to it when I lost myself in the day-to-day activities, whether I was at work or at home.
Some examples that I applied at work included:
- If I felt tired in the day, I would lie down during my lunch break.
- If I felt my body needed some exercise, I would go for a little walk at any time of the day to enjoy the movement of my body. It took me 20 years to allow myself to leave the office building for a short time outside of the normal lunch break.
- I cooked my lunch the night before so that I could decide when and where I wanted to eat during the day. I was then not dependent on the opening hours of the canteen anymore.
- I ensured that my desk was always tidy because I realised that when I allowed the chaos on my desk to be ignored I easily felt overwhelmed.
- I claimed my space wherever I sat. As an external consultant I had to change desks all the time. The first thing I would do was to make sure that all the leftovers of the people who had sat there before were cleared and gone.
I have realised that there is no separation between work and self-care. We can care for ourselves 24/7, no matter where we are. The more we care for ourselves at work, the less we have to rejuvenate on the weekend.