Life is funny, I’ve spent so much of it focused on getting to the point I am at today: being a young working professional with a job at a global firm.
Every grade and most decisions had led me to my first job post graduate and to today.
My one year anniversary passed uneventfully and I’ve been spending some time truly thinking about what I’ve learned and how I’ve managed to balance it and what I aspire to do. I can mostly attribute it to finally recognizing the importance of self care in my life.
Self care, also known as a phrase that has exploded in popularity, is something I take very seriously and try to implement very lovingly throughout different aspects of my life. After spending the majority of my life truly running on 0%, anxious, forcing myself to do more and more, insecure, and unsure I actively decided to try to experiment with better managing balance and taking self care seriously. This has allowed me to spend this past year in the best mental space I have ever been.
I finally figured out that a decent amount of my anxiety stemmed from a lack of sleep and once I figured that out, a lot of my undesirable behavior and traits calmed down quite a bit. Starting with the foundation of getting enough sleep, I tackled my first year of professional life working to maintain a decent amount of balance.
Interestingly, this point of inflection came up when a close friend and recent graduate reached out to me to ask advice about balance. As I was talking to him, the thesis or the driving force behind my philosophy of how I tackled this past year manifested in an obvious force and have concluded that the key to my success has definitely been self care but a variety of self care that would not be possible without a healthy dose of discipline.
The discipline I’m suggesting is being “on” the entire time you’re working and then to immediately flip the switch when you’re done. While working you’re “on it” for 9 hours+ and during that time you are professional, proactive, timely, and responsive. But as soon as you’re done you’re done (as much as work, technology, and life can allow) and then you must engage in your various forms of self care that help to give more meaning to this new life you’re creating for yourself other than paying the bills.
Self care can look like any number of things but it, as a baseline for me, looks like: getting enough sleep, going out to dinner with friends and family and laughing, turning off tech, cooking, reading, exercising (which has been critical for me) and not talking about work more than necessary.
I went on to conclude that I can only be successful at work if I’m successful at taking care of myself which means down-time, self care, and me-time.
For my mental sanity, I’m currently not interested in comparing myself to peers because I’m only trying to compete with myself and perform better today than I did yesterday. Interestingly, I’ve never been in a better mental space, which was initially confusing but now comforting and has helped with my work ethic, my quality of work, and the way I hold myself. In addition, I’d probably say that being kind to myself, talking to myself kindly, and meditation has also been so helpful.
My self talk is enabling, kind, and encouraging. If I didn’t get everything I wanted to get done today, I know that I have tomorrow and that is okay and definitely not the end of the world (which is part of the negative self talk I would engage in on a daily basis, no wonder my mental health was being held together by a thread). Anytime I’m overwhelmed I actually give myself the opportunity to hit pause, to take a break, go for a walk, breathe, and meditate which helps with any feelings of near drowning.
I gave myself a full year of no judgement no goals no forcing myself to do this or accomplish anything momentous other than doing my job and taking care of myself. Ultimately, I felt as if it was a good way to go about this transition year and to fully settle into my new life that really is full of as much possibility as I allow for it.
My advice to recent grads is to find the activities that make you happy and to do them on a regular basis. However, this goes back to having discipline and to not just do the activities that are only comfortable, easy, and mindless (i.e Netflix. If you really do love Netflix, that’s great but how about you level up and try watching it in a different language?).
I know that one of the worst adjustments to working life is how much time I ended up spending sitting, inactive, and staring at screens. Also, due to the unpredictability of the end of the day, fitting in workouts, dinner, and social time usually ends up with me not having enough time to workout. Therefore, getting to sleep at a decent time and waking up before work to workout has been absolutely critical. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than getting an AM workout BEFORE my day is officially started.
On the subject of health, one thing that I struggled with was finding time to go to the doctor to checkout my increasingly long list of health concerns that piled on throughout the year (like an ankle pain that wouldn’t go away). At a point, I was getting uncomfortable and my day was getting disturbed my mysterious pains. After putting it off for too long, I finally scheduled a slew of doctors and physical therapy appointments, tests, and included time to go see an acupuncturist. Don’t make that mistake: when health problems come up you must take the time to recognize that you can’t perform and won’t be happy if you’re in pain and you need to get them taken care of. Luckily, HealthTech (i.e ZocDoc) has really done a great job facilitating scheduling appointments and it’s now on you to schedule appointments and go.
I’d also push to suggest that since you’re entering a new phase in your life this would also be a good opportunity to test and explore new activities which I’ve coined to be new “adult activities”. Some of my adult activities include biking, triathlons, working at a gym, organizing events, participating in the LatinxTech community in NYC, listening to podcasts, experimenting with different food substitutes, composting, meditation, reading about science, and going to farmers markets. Just because you graduated that does not give yourself the excuse to stop learning and challenging yourself and that is something I can’t stress enough and it is something I try to incorporate into my life on a daily basis.