Self Care in Work
Self care is one of the hardest things to do- especially for womxn of color. It’s often in our spirits to care for others and to put others needs before our own. In this day, with all the constant emotional labor that is requested of us, we must be intentional and persistent in caring for ourselves despite this.
Self care should find itself in everything we do. True self care cannot be limited to temporary fixes or only one aspect of our life. We need to develop practices in work, in relationships, with family, in our hobbies, and at home with care and with respect to our dignity. We have to give ourselves space to make mistakes, to be honest and to do what’s best for ourselves. It’s not healthy to only practice this care at home and to accept violence, burnout or dissatisfaction in other parts of our lives. I have struggled a lot in practicing self-care in my work spaces. As a scholar, an organizer, an advocate, a sister and so much more I'm in a constant struggle for balance and organization. I have often submitted to heavy loads of work when I didn’t have to. It’s never been enough to go home and take a long bath or spend time with friends. I’ve had to work hard and intentionally to unravel unhealthy practices in my workspaces. Two of the most helpful practices I’ve been taught to care for myself in my line of work are: delegation and compartmentalization.
Delegation is hard af. It involves assigning roles and tasks to other people. It’s committing power to someone other than yourself which can feel like giving up power and leaving yourself and your work vulnerable. Through my own struggle I’ve learned that delegation is a lot more comfortable when it’s meaningful. I, the minor-league control freak, can’t just hand any piece of work off to anybody. For one, that’s unfair to the other person. Additionally, it leaves me worrying the whole time and this practice goes to waste. An important lesson I’ve learned is that we must reflect on the work we do and the people we work with to direct ourselves towards meaningful delegation.
● What can get done without me?
● What is our timeline?
● What can get done at a slower pace?
● What’s necessary?
● What skills do my peers have?
● What work would they do well?
● What are my peers working on right now?
These questions give us the opportunity to work smarter and to delegate work where it fits best. Sometimes I ask myself these questions and the answer is only me, only now-- and that’s okay. But many times reflection like this provides clarity on what I really need to do, what doesn't need to be done, and what others can do.
Compartmentalization is a coping mechanism that involves separating the different pieces of your life (i.e. work, relationships, health, etc.) to foster more clarity and manageability. The nature of a lot of the work that I do, is emotional, personal, and heavy for me. So, compartmentalization has always been really hard. But setting time apart to care for myself and drawing lines between the different spaces that I’m in is a helpful way for me to cope. And it doesn't mean neglecting anything; it's just putting those things away for the moment and focusing on what you've chosen to leave out. The way that I see compartmentalization, it’s like stacking the boxes across- not on top- and moving from one to another as needed. I have been guilty of letting the emotion, time and energy of work, organizing, maintaining relationships, and supporting family pile on top of each other. This not only sets me up for burnout but prevents me from being fully present in anything I do. It's also important that, before moving on to the next box, we close the one we’re working on now. This is hard for me, to leave something imperfect, but it's been really helpful to learn how to step away from something when it's in a good place, leaving it there and placing my focus on what's next.
In my experience, I've had the most success with compartmentalization by literally separating my spaces. I don't do work in my bed. I stick as closely as I can to a preset schedule. I color-code and use different notebooks for different work. Sometimes I feel a little guilt when I practice compartmentalization, especially when it means being unavailable to my family or missing calls & emails. I want to be able to juggle all of it at once. But it's for my own good and the good of the work that I'm doing to sometimes let. that. shit. go.
It really is just applying some structure and allowing yourself to put things away when it's time to move on and take them out when it's time to come back. I am fully capable of “doing it all” but that doesn't mean that I- or anyone- can do it all at once.
Compartmentalization and delegation won't be good for all things or all people. But I do think that they're helpful tools for folks in liberation work. This work is messy and hard and trying and I've lost myself many times to heavy work loads and burnout. But, if I respect the work I do and want to treat myself with respect and love, I have to be determined to adapt efficient and healthy practices in my work and personal life. That is some good self care.
Below are some helpful resources that helped me learn these practices and more.
In love & peace.