After realizing that I probably had no idea what self-care actually was and that I would need to build the foundation of my self-care from the ground up, I began stopping frequently to evaluate what it was that I was doing. I thought that it would be best to take a look at my normal, everyday actions and see if I felt that they merited entry in the mostly empty “self-care” category. I had been so focused on just having shadow work equate to self-care that I had been ignoring things. Sure, mental and emotional health is fine and dandy, but I’m not just a mind and heart: I’ve got limbs and teeth and organs that need to be taken care of, too.
So, I would do the dishes and ask myself if this was a part of self-care. And I would walk the dog down the block and wonder if that was part of self-care. And I would play a game on my phone for way too many rounds and wonder if that was self-care. And I would stand out underneath the sun, soaking up the rays before it got too warm, and wonder if that qualified as self-care. And I would sit on the couch and stare moodily into the distance, berating myself for my perceived failures at work that day, and definitely declare that probably wasn’t part of self-care.
I could find that I have a lot of negative habits, mostly rooted in deep-seated neuroses and anxieties that have to do with things from a while back, and that none of them really belong in the self-care category.
I tentatively had a game plan. I was doing okay, mostly, with the mental and emotional things that I felt were included in the self-care definition. I had a bunch of physical things, though, that I had to work on. And I began working on them, but I found that every week, I was backsliding somewhere.
That’s to be expected, of course, because I’m doing new things and attempting to teach myself to do those new things. However, when I was saying, “I will do these things and it will be great,” at the start of the week and within two days, on the verge of tears, eating an entire bag of M&Ms, bemoaning a million things and thinking about how much my self-care maybe didn’t mean that much to me, I thought perhaps there was an underlying cause.
Well, I was stressed the fuck out, which is probably a pretty normal cause in not doing self-care related things.I thought about the main cause in that stress – work – and wondered how I could diminish my stress levels while still achieving the ultimate goal of having a roof over my head. You see, I was beginning to notice that because I was stressing out about work related things, it wasn’t just impacting my self-care. Oh, no; it couldn’t just impact a small facet of my life like making myself better in some form or another, but had to effect all facets of my fucking life. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong and things were burning down around my ears and the even transient thought about trying to work on shadow work was laughable while I was so busy barely able to focus on breathing properly.
I’ve been down this road before and it didn’t end well for me.
As a probably not very quick backstory…
I worked for a job that I was really good at as a manager of a convenience store. I got moved to a store where managers went to get fired. Every manager who was ever put in that store was told to “clean it up,” which mostly meant there were personnel problems. Well, and that was fine because I had managed to clean up (mostly) the store I had been in before moving there, except that the personnel I needed to get rid of her been hand-picked by the owner of the company. So, it was kind of a catch-22. And knowing that, I got stressed the hell out.
Things were falling down around my ears and everyone said that it would be okay. So I began looking for other jobs, but not seriously enough, I suppose. Within three months of being sent to that store, I got fired. I didn’t even get fired for anything that I had actually done or said but because they wanted to fire my star employee. I got caught in the crossfire of all that and ended up with a serious dose of anxiety about working and jobs.
I remember how stressed out I was before, almost magically, it all stopped the moment that the security officer entered my store to inform me that my services were no longer required. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep, I was dreaming about work. My interpersonal relationships were failing because I couldn’t focus on a damn thing. I spent most of my time away from work either thinking about work or watching really bad horror movies in an effort to not think about work. (Bad horror movies are a passion of mine and I really can’t tell you how much they’ve helped me over the years when things get bad.)
I can feel the stress levels rising with work, but I also know that I’m pretty much set for a job. I could probably get away with a lot of not-working before anyone realized that I was too apathetic and pitched me out the door. Not that it matters because, as much time as I stare blankly at the computer screen in front of me at work, having a silent panic attack about something, I still manage to do a lot of shit in between the staring. But the stress levels are impacting me again, across the board, and I find myself coming home, more often than not, thinking about hiding in a corner and crying.
None of this seems very in tune with self-care, at all, does it?
This past weekend, I realized that I needed to do something for myself in this situation. I was so focused on what I may or may not be failing at for my boss, for my co-workers, for my clients and forgetting that I have a say in all of this, too. And as important as making sure that everyone that my work-related actions impact are seen to, I am the more important person because, if I’m not functioning properly, then I can’t do anything else properly. And as part of a quote by Parker Palmer attests, “Self-care is never a selfish act.”
Perhaps, if I tell myself that often enough, I won’t feel so bad?But what is the easiest way in order for me to relieve the burden of stress? I can’t just cross out stress. No matter how many memes are made about how you can just cancel out stress, it’s really just not that simple. Even if you know the root cause of the problem, treatment isn’t necessarily easy or painless.
Of course, the simplest answer is to leave the job. Unfortunately, as much as my instincts are screaming at me to run as far away as humanly possible, I don’t think swapping out one form of stress for another form of stress is really the way to go here. It seems very much as though self-care would be really thrown out the window by doing that.
The next available option is to bide my time while I job hunt.
I’m not sure if this is really the best answer, but I do know it’s an affirmative action towards removing stress and heading back towards self-care. I can’t do anything about the client that is causing me the most stress acting like an asshole and unable to take responsibility for themselves. I can’t do anything about reminding my co-workers that I am fallible and make mistakes (they seem to think that I don’t?) and I can’t do anything about reminding them any more emphatically that I am one person with about a trillion projects and can’t fine tune everything all at once. What I can do is look to myself and my desires. And my desires are saying: get the fuck out, homeslice.
So, I’ve been job hunting. I have found three jobs that I have applied for this week. According to the unemployment class I had to take when I was unemployed, in order to find a new job, one has to search between 5 – 8 hours a day in this economy. I don’t have the time or the ability to do that. Even though I spend a bit of my time staring blankly at the computer screen, it’s mostly because I am mentally incapacitated, semi-frozen, and barely able to register anything. So, I have to job hunt when I can, which is after work.
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that the jobs in my area are kind of scarce. Well, the jobs in my area that I am qualified for and willing to take. I’ve had to cross off a bunch of prospective jobs because they are part-time or the pay inducement isn’t enough or because I just can’t with retail any longer. But this is one of those instances, where I have to decide how much of these stress levels that I can handle before I flip my shit. (When I flip my shit, it can be pretty epic and I usually end up fucking myself over, honestly.) The thing is that, too, I feel that I am worth so much monetary value, I would like to have very good benefits (my current job has PTO and that’s it), and I would like to feel like I am doing something beneficial instead of babysitting a bunch of IT departments who haven’t had the time and wherewithal to accurately learn about their telecommunications service.
When I started thinking about self-care, I didn’t really consider it beyond my body. I didn’t even consider the physical body, at all, at first and it was only after serious thought that I began to encompass that into what I realized that self-care should be. I thought of it as a strict physical, mental, and emotional fashion after my initial post on the subject. There was nothing else. And while stress can impact all three forms that humanity has about them, it still didn’t occur to me that work and having a stress-free work environment could be considered a form of self-care.
Let this be a lesson to anyone – self-care is anything and everything at this point.
And while I have plans and ideas about how to take care of myself on a physical, mental, and emotional level, I have to recognize that the biggest hurdle at the moment isn’t my bad eating habits, my bad sleeping habits, the smoking, the laziness, or anything else. Right now, it’s the stress levels at work and I need to get those down to management levels or get them gone before something drastic happens.