As someone who has decided to take a career break for the last couple of months, self-care is something that has been on my mind. Having been in touch with different people who are also on their own breaks, I’ve realised this time can be both exhilarating, exciting, but also just plain scary. For me, it has also felt super doubtful, and very uncertain.
The truth is, adjusting to life outside the workforce can be a stressful experience. While my 9-5 has changed and I’m not filling up my days with spreadsheets, meetings, and tea breaks (ok, I still take just as many tea breaks ), I’ve really begun thinking about my self-care, and what I can do to make sure I am looking after myself while I work out where to next.
So in my own way I’ve put together a small plan for my own self-care while I go through this time, to keep me sane and get me to the other side the job search.
Put my shoes on and get outside
This one has been my saving grace, though at the moment I am healing from a broken toe and haven’t been as active as I would like. But I still put on my walking shoes and try and get outside as much as I can get some air and walk those legs. It’s been a little painful as my poor little toe gets used to pounding the pavement again, albeit slowly (no running, though I can still run for the bus!), but I’m hoping by just getting some movement will remind my body that Krav training is not so far off. I’m relishing the time I do get out in the sun everyday and head to the park; it feels like the biggest bonus to have some time to contemplate, and pet all the dogs that wander over to say Hi.
Enjoy my sleep time
Some might argue this one is self-indulgent and killing my productivity, but instead I’ve chosen to focus on getting a lot of sleep as an opportunity to reset my body clock and just rest. Self -care demands good sleep, If you sleep well, you feel well and I feel it feeds my energy during the day to have laser-focus on the things I’m working on throughout the day.
Good food is my friend
This is the super fun one that I have taken joy in so much. Now I actually have time to cook proper, nutritious lunches for myself and its made a world of difference! When else am I going to have so much time to spend in the kitchen? Reacquainting myself with all these wonderful pieces of shiny metal on my bench tops that I don’t get to use very often has been revelatory ( hello there, juicer), and have allowed me to whip up some delicious meals and juices.
Like sleep, this comes down to one of those habits my body will thank me for, especially in helping cope better with stress levels. Drink more water. Herbal tea works wonders too, including the gut-friendly chamomile and antioxdant-rich Rooibos, and wean yourself off the copious amounts of caffeine. I don’t drink caffeine but others have told me giving it up has worked wonders.
This is an opportunity to grow
Seeing your current circumstances as an opportunity to grow can be challenging— particularly if the situation wasn’t your choice. Even the most positive people have their moments of self-doubt and frustration. This is also when the dreaded question of ‘What if I never find a job again?’ can rear it’s ugly head to the surface. When it gets difficult for me to not be over-run by doubt and self-pity, I make list of all the reasons why I’m awesome, and look at it often. It may feel a little stupid to tell myself that I’ve got great creative skills, and look amazing in baby pink; however, I figure we all have things we’re good at. Neuroscience suggests we’re a product of our own thoughts, and having negative thoughts inhibits our ability to see an opportunity to better ourselves. It’s a perfect time to reflect and think, ‘what do I really want?’.
While little stressful, this time has been great for taking a step back and figuring out what it is that I really want to dedicate my precious time to. To help me along, I found: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
I read books. A lot of books. I would walk, work, and sleep with a book in my hands if I could. Now is the perfect time to pull out those tomes ( or fire up the kindle) that you’ve been putting off forever because of lack of time, and get reading. You can read after breakfast, in between job applications, or just because you need a break curled up on the couch. The only caveat with this one is to keep your bank-balance in check and not buy so many books. Either discover the library, or if you just can’t help yourself, do like me and find yourself the best used-book stores in town instead. That way you can visit on the reg (almost!) guilt-free.
It doesn’t even matter what you read — fiction or non-fiction; just by picking something your brain will kick into gear and thank you for keeping it active
Play tourist in town
Never had a chance to play tourist in your home town? I admit I haven’t much. Since now, I’ve realised art galleries, museums, cafes, botanic gardens, or even a simple walk around town are interesting ( and free!) ways to keep the inspiration flowing and provide a little entertainment. Career-breaking can feel a little isolating, so what better way to surround myself with people than by doing a little touristing. I get to see different people ( not the regular weekend crowds), and enjoy quieter time (avoiding those regular weekend crowds). Taking along a camera, notebook, and my latest read, and I’ve got myself some quality ‘me time’.
A healthy mind = a healthy me
Learning is my absolute fave thing to do. As an adult ed. student for 4 years, and having worked for an online learning company for another 4, learning something new is a no-brainer. There are lots of free resources online to help keep your mind active. I love Open Culture, and TED Talks as brilliant places to start. When I get online to these sites, it’s almost like going down a rabbit-hole; for an information hoarder like me I find myself in an Aladdin’s cave. I found this playlist recently on TED called Talks for Procrastinators. If you love procrastinating and find yourself having a sudden urge to find out where camels come from (there is a talk!), this is the playlist for you.
Ditto for podcasts on Spotify; and SkillShare; while there is a small price to pay for their library, there are so many courses on painting, writing, social media, and tech. I’ve become a huge fan of their watercolour projects, and totally nerd out on these some nights instead of Netflix.
Part of having a healthy mind has also been learning to deal with the creeping little voices on my head that come in the middle of the night with persistent negative thoughts. It’s these thoughts that above all else I need to find a way around. Meditation helps, and is something I’ve begun to do on the reg as a way of entering and calming down. While this career break has been entirely my choice, I’m the first one to admit that the path I’ve chosen hasn’t been the easiest, but I know with super strong surety that it will be worth it.
*I originally posted a version of this post on my LinkedIn profile.