Dear Grace Q & A: How do I find flexibility balancing demands of working in a professional environment with taking care of my health?
Thanks for asking such a great question. I hear how tough this is for you, it sounds like your health -care and self-care needs don’t feel met or accepted in a professional environment. I’ve been there! How many times have I longed to just lie down on the floor in a meeting, to close my eyes for a nap and be in a little less pain…
But I believe health and professionalism go together – self-care and health-care that help you feel as well as possible will, I believe, help you do your job as well as possible. And in a sustainable way. That’s something we can all work towards.
To begin, let us figure out what the demands of working in a professional environment are – often we make assumptions and are taking on work we don’t need to or unknowingly, unintentionally making things harder for ourselves (hello other Type-A recovering perfectionists)…
What are the job requirements and are you meeting those?
What’s your goal in being in the job and are you directing your energy to that? Working for passion or professional development is going to lead to different actions to working for a wage when your passion is elsewhere.
What healthy initiatives are already in the professional environment? Lots of companies do healthy lunches, fund a bike schemes, have a gym or a reduced fee for company employees to use a local gym etc, on-site employee counselling, flexible working and compassionate leave allowances. Are you taking advantage of all of the options available? If you don’t know they exist you can’t use them – this is where a company handbook or a talk with a boss or HR might come in.
What can you instigate? A lunchtime yoga class? Mindful Fridays? There are lots of resources and studies showing the efficiency and team building these activities can give. Check out Leading into Motion, Sing and Inspire, or Mindful Movement.
What are your needs? What do YOU need to do to take care of your health? Do you need to drink enough water, take screen breaks, work at a standing desk, take frequent breaks?
What are your rights? If you have a disability, does the company have a requirement to make provisions for you? For example, can you take rest breaks during the day but make up the time with flexible working hours? Is there a conference room that’s rarely used that you can lie down in and rest? Take an eye mask and folding yoga mat in a reusable bag. Do you need to store lunch in a fridge or meds?
If meetings are overrunning or are too tiring, do you actually need to attend the whole meeting? Does everyone? Do some people come in for their piece and then bow out? Perhaps you can attend for the piece you need to present or be a part of and then read the minutes for the rest of the meeting.
In a professional environment, if I felt self-conscious about the need to rest or if I was struggling with spasms I would go and chill in the accessible loo and also use it as a breakout space when my sensitive, empathic, introvert nature got overwhelmed by all the people and stimulation.
What can you make easier, systemise and save energy? What drains you now and what would make the biggest difference if you could change it? Can you start there?
Would a healing morning routine be helpful? Or an accessible, healing lunch?
To balance the challenge, it can help to think of your goal or mission. Maybe it’s to do the best work, to earn a wage, to share your gifts, to focus on your healing. What actions are supporting that and which are diminishing it? My goal is to be of service, share what I have to share and earn enough to be well. If something doesn’t support one of those things, I don’t do it. Working with this is a practice that takes time, but I believe in you and your possibilities.
How do you manage professional demands and health needs? Let me know in the comments!