As a little girl, I took joy in watching my mother come home from work. One of my greatest accomplishments was getting my first job at 14. It was grueling work, and for whatever reason, I liked that I could help pay some bills, and still have splurge money left to buy clothes and candy. I took pride in the fact that my mom was a provider, and seeing her provide instilled a strong work ethic in me. I was happy to be part of a tradition of women who took joy in their work; whether it was gardening, retailing, or working an office job, the motto that I was given was whatever the task -- do it well. As a grown up, still learning the ropes of adulthood, this motto has taken on a new meaning. I look at the many other examples of women, specifically working class women and women of color, that I’ve had. Although they took pride in a job well done, they were often overworked and undervalued. The proof was in the way they carried their bodies: headaches, backaches, colds, laryngitis, fatigue, anxiety -- the list went on.
They were my greatest sheroes, and if I were to mention the words self-care and sustainability, they might roll their eyes at me and scold me about the luxury of taking time for self-care. In those moments, I listen to my sheroes, and acknowledge that their hard work makes it possible for me to re-evaluate my own relationship to work. I’ve had to step away from the workplace to reflect on what type of relationship I want to have to my workplace. Stepping away from a typical office job --economic consequences aside-- helped me re-evaluate how to prioritize my well-being on the job. Here are 5 ways I’ve managed to sustain myself as a working woman, still learning, still growing, and still honoring my legacy of the work and labor of many people I know and admire.
1.Essential Oils--One of my colleagues saw that I was stressed at work. Lovingly, she handed me an essential oil roller. The essential oils in the perfume dealt specifically with de-stressing. Just taking a few seconds to roll it on was helpful. If you have an essential oil bring it with you to work, rub it on your temples, underneath your palms. Sometimes I just like to sniff the oils and that alone makes me feel much better.
2.A Tennis Ball--Take your shoes off and roll the tennis ball underneath your feet. Doing this will give your foot a nice massage and help you feel grounded. It’s also great for refocusing your mind on your body and regrounding. Another great use for a tennis ball is to roll it against your back across a wall.
3.Aromatherapy Diffuser—A great diffuser can be found at a reasonable price! Just put a couple drops of your favorite essential oils into the diffuser (along with water!) and stick your head over the steam. I love mixing peppermint and eucalyptus together.
4.Find Sacred Time --Everyone’s workplace is different, but more people are seeing the need to practice meditation and mindfulness in the workplace, making the environment a more sustainable place for employees to thrive. There are a number of ways meditation transforms work culture. Some workplaces provide a meditation room for their workers, or encourage employees to take a moment to practice mindfulness before they begin their tasks. Find your sacred time. Is it going for a walk in a nearby park? Sitting quietly for fifteen minutes? Turning off all electronics for an hour? Find something sacred to do at work, and commit to practicing it every day. I try to give myself at least thirty minutes to just sit and breathe. I find a room or sit in the bathroom. For whatever reason doing this brings me relief. Check out these office-friendly meditations to add into your workday!
5.Yoga--If you’re a physical person this tip might be for you. The idea is to get your body moving in whatever way feels best. Whether that’s bringing a yoga mat to stretch at work, or jogging in place for five minutes. You can even do yoga at your desk. Do something to get the energy flowing so you’re not sitting or standing static all day. Here are some more ways to get moving during the workday.
Bonus--Find a morning ritual you practice before work. Do you pray in the morning? Do you meditate? Drink tea? Stretch? Treat yourself to a quiet breakfast? Read a good book? Having some sort of practice in the morning sets you up for the day.
Practicing self care is an act of bravery, and antithetical to a dominant culture that tells us we must work, work, work. Choosing to work while honoring the sacredness of life is one of the most beautiful things we can do. We not only do it for ourselves; we do it for the people in our lives who may not have had the time, resources, or community available to support them in sustaining themselves.