Self-Care in the Age of Hustle Culture: How Focusing on Transitions Can Improve Your Well- Being
There are days when you wish you could buy the first plane ticket out of here, land on a tropical island, and break free of the day-to-day routine.
There are nights when you stay up much later than intended because it is the only time you get solely to yourself.
The feeling of racing against the clock to get from one task to another is one that is familiar, but, nonetheless uncomfortable.
If there were more than 24 hours in the day you convince yourself you would be able to "get it all done" but deep down you would take a long solid nap.
The transition from work to home, to your role as a parent, to partner, to friend, to neighbor leaves little margin to actually connect with who you are, aside from all of your titles and roles.
You are exhausted but can't seem to catch your breath long enough to take inventory of where, what, and how you need to feel better because the world stops for nobody and the pressure to "do it all and have it all" is one that is felt within the body more than words can describe.
You google "self-care" and add more things to your to-do list with the intention that this will bring some ease but it just feels like another task.
The times you do engage in "self-care" are mostly when you are far past your energetic bandwidth and a response to stress rather than preventative or ways to care for yourself in the actual moment.
It can feel like defeat. And... it is.
But not because of you.
Self-care in an age where doing, being, and achieving "all of the things" is worshiped like a god requires us to disrupt a system that is designed to break you down.
Hustle culture, your roles, and your responsibilities are not likely to dramatically change overnight. Therefore, we can choose to focus on HOW we are transitioning from place to place, task to task, and role to role as a gateway for improved well being and mental health.
It's taking what you are already are doing and creating a bit of space to be more efficient, effective, connected, conscious, boundaried, and committed to yourself.
Therapist Tip: If the thought of prioritizing yourself feels far fetched and even scary, allow this to be your invitation to explore where you first learned that everyone and everything else has to come first.
First, let's try out a brief mental health exercise first, to gain some perspective (Try not to skip this part).
Zoom out on a typical day. See yourself from above like you just Google Earthed yourself. Witness your comings and goings. The energy. The people, places, and things involved. Zoom out even further to a typical week. Notice where you are feeling this in your body right now. Zoom out more on your month, seeing it from way above. Notice what comes up.
Then, zoom way back in from month, to week, to day, to parts of your day, and finally to the little moments between big moments: the transitions. The time and energy spent in between people, places, and things. Notice what comes up now in your mind, body, and heart.
If any of those parts included feelings of anxiety, numbness, rushing, confusion, sadness, chaos, panic, or dread this is a sign that something has to change and that something can change.
Here are my
Top 3 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During Transitions
(This is Part 1... Keep an eye out for more tips in my Part 2 article release in a few weeks)
1) Create a Ritual:
Bookend your day with something that symbolizes moving out of one role or task and into another. These rituals do not need to be super long or complicated. This could include taking a short walk before and after work, doing 1-3 minutes of stretching, dancing to music, saying an affirmation of the day, writing one thing you are grateful for, or writing in a journal to do a "mind dump" for one minute.
Use visualization to shift from one thing to the next. Try consciously shutting off your computer for work and closing your office door imagining leaving all of your work in that space. It could include drinking a tall glass of water and imagining cleansing all of the energy from the day or taking a shower and imagining all of the stress in your body going down the drain with the water. When you get dressed and undressed, imagine putting on that "role" and then taking it off.
2) Write Out the Ideal:
Literally write out your ideal schedule starting with day-to-day then expanding to week, month, and year. Include time spent for yourself, time off, and time spent transitioning from one responsibility to the next. Take your time with this and go BIG. It may seem outlandish and part of you may be saying to yourself, "This would never happen! What is the point?" The point is for you to give yourself permission and space to envision, ask for what you truly need and want. In EMDR therapy, we call this "creating a future template" which allows the nervous system to lay down a new track within your neuro-network. (In EMDR therapy, this is done working with a trained EMDR therapist and adds bilateral stimulation, which enhances the process tenfold). Even though what I am describing here is not EMDR, it borrows the practice of allowing your brain and body to move towards the ideal. This is a simple, yet, powerful exercise because many people start to make small changes to move toward the ideal. I did this exercise two years ago related to my business and private practice as an EMDR therapist and when I look back on what I wrote down, my schedule mirrors exactly what I wrote down.
3) Ask The Right Questions and Delegate:
Despite what social media, the wellness industry, and society touts, there is no glory in being and doing it all. An obvious (but often avoided) answer would be to see how much you can delegate out. For instance, can you have someone else pick up your child from practice, have another employee run the meeting, streamline the way you plan and prepare meals at home, ask a neighbor or hire a sitter to help with childcare so you can go for that walk on the trail? It is time to have a conversation with your partner about the division of labor in the home? There are many reasons why you may be doing too much, which is making transitions in your day-to-day life a complete anxiety fest.
Here are 2 important questions to help you take a deeper dive into examining why your transitions are the way they are:
1) If I am not doing it all, what does that make me believe about myself as a person?
Sometimes there is a part of ourselves that is avoiding stillness or being with our own company by jam packing our schedules with meetings, tasks, to-dos, and the endless search for "self-improvement." Perhaps there is a hidden fear about not being valued or worthy if you aren't overextending yourself and doing for others. Underneath your busy-ness, there may be a limiting belief related to perfectionism, unresolved trauma, undiagnosed ADHD, or low self-esteem.
2) Do I trust other people to help make my life and transitions easier?
If you have experienced relationship trauma and broken trust, you may carry the limiting belief that others cannot be trusted or relied upon. This can translate into you taking it all on yourself as a means to protect yourself from feeling abandoned or disappointed. As a result, you can show up in your relationship with covert control issues by 'doing it all" as a way to have a sense of control over the outcome. You sacrifice your own well being by focusing more on other's emotions and needs. This eventually leads to resentment, irritability, and the limiting belief of "if I want it done right, I have to do it all by myself." This type of learned hyper-independence may have been necessary growing up but when it shows up in our adult lives, it wreaks havoc (a.k.a. co-dependence).
You are not alone and are completely normal if you struggle with transitions. Perhaps you didn't even think to pay attention to how you are spending your time and energy in the moments between moments. There are practical and tangible ways to make things better for yourself that can happen right now. There may also be deeper, underlying issues that require your attention in order to make a larger scale shift. Mental health counseling and EMDR therapy can help you address the underlying issues that keep you stuck and support you in developing ways to feel more connected, confident, and less chaotic.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this article where I will offer more insight and tips on Self-Care in the Age of Hustle Culture.
High Fives and Hell Yeahs,