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.

  Questions   like:

● 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.



Delegation: Worksheets, templates, project plans...

Compartmentalize, in Steps

Self Care for WOC: Tips

Undoing Unnecessary Emotional Labor

Monique Liston