The digital age requires a new form of self care.
One of my biggest thrills in life is deleting emails. Not even kidding. I take an immense amount of joy out of whittling down my inboxes. (Yes, there is definitely more than one) One of things that happens in my ever-evolving attempt at being self employed is my business email gets overloaded. I sign up for all the help! Now that the digital revolution has occurred, access to information is ridiculously easy, and you can even connect with the big wigs of your industry (almost) personally. But, how much of that info, how many of those voices, do I really need? How much is just the same thing said a different way by a different person? Sometimes the truly valuable information gets lost in all the noise. As someone dealing with continual exhaustion, this is definitely a self-sabotaging trigger.
So last week, I deleted almost 2,000 emails
Yup, 2k. I also unsubscribed from almost every list I have been on for the past two years. So much of the information is irrelevant or currently unusable to me. I realized just how much of my professional development is tied to online content or digital sources. The “freebie” trap is real. Valuable, on both sides of table, to a certain extent, but still a path to digital and mental clutter. Again, too much noise to truly focus.
Unsubscribing felt so freeing. No more weeding out what I can and can’t use. No more offers I can’t indulge or asks I can’t answer. All these entrepreneurs are well meaning, and I KNOW that if I want to be successful in the digital realm (still on the fence), I will have to engage in SOME form. But for now, it is a weight lifted to take a step back from the mailing-list opt-in culture.
This made way for a new commitment – to focus on the resources I ALREADY have, and use them to their full advantage. Last year I learned a valuable lesson –
You MUST invest in yourself, but you also MUST get a return on the investment.
Sometimes the only thing you can invest in is yourself. So make it count.
Do your research when looking at any kind of education – classes, seminars, programs – and really ask what value you will gain and if it’s worth the cost. Remember that cost isn’t just money. It’s time and effort. It’s arrangements and travel and accommodations. Even if you don’t leave your home, even if it’s free. Stay at home mom who wants to take an online course? You need to find the available, child free time to get it done. Working mom who wants to do a specialized training that could mean a promotion? Along with extra childcare, you may need to miss some work, and find out what that means. Will your employer reimburse or pay you for the training? Do you have an opportunity go to a really awesome seminar, but it’s in another town, maybe a flight away? All the same things apply.
I know for myself even trying to carve out the time to do self-guided education can be hard. There is NO consistency, even when I schedule it out. Something always comes up, and I need to evaluate my priority. Mommin’ ain’t easy, especially when you are trying to enrich yourself.
This is why it is so important to truly assess the overall worth of any self-investment. What are you going to get out of it in the end? How much do you have to put into it to start? What’s the followup commitment?
That’s my biggest downfall – Follow UP
Not follow through. I can get things done. For other people. I have harder time finishing up projects for myself. You should see my stash of half completed knitting. If someone else has given me a task, I won’t rest until it’s done. But, no outside deadline or expectation attached… well… let’s say I’ve given my mom plenty of handmade presents the day AFTER whatever occasion.
In this, I’ve trapped myself. I paid the money, the big bucks, for the things, that I am sure are AMAZING programs, and I hear about the results, but where are mine? Oh right – I had to make the time, stick to the plan, follow the guides, DO THE WORK, and then FOLLOW UP. Keep going on my own. Be accountable to only myself. Going through all those emails made it so clear to me that I need to do more with what I have to get the fullest out of my investment. I have the tools, I need to use them. I know where to go for professional development, now I need to see where I can pare it back into doable chunks. Action beats intent every time.
These realizations keep in flow with my epiphanies about exhaustion.
It’s not that I am DOING too much. I am EXPECTING too much. Slow down, reassess, move forward. There are still emails to delete and more lists to unsubscribe. There are small things I can do today to make tomorrow easier. I have room to grow and room to rest. Maybe my professional development needs to move towards books and audio for awhile. Maybe my self care gaming should move offline more often. I have been greatly enjoying my simple bullet journal, instead of a preprinted planner. Might be a good time to expand on that and give my brain a real world location to fully organize itself.
We are in the digital age, and we are not going analog anytime soon.
How can we practice self care inside this digital space? What does it mean to engage in professional self care?
First and foremost, as always, we must give ourselves space. Space and time and breath. Moments to pause, reflect, and reassess. As for specifics, I can only say what I do:
- go through your inbox and declutter. Same process as decluttering your home/room/office. Take out anything that isn’t serving you. Rearrange.
- remove toxic people and groups on social media. Again, let go of that which doesn’t serve you. You can always add people/groups/interests back when the time is right.
- pay attention to what info you are feeding yourself and how much time you are spending in the digital world. Block out offline time for fun activities. Block off online time to focus on enrichment and work, and stick to the schedule.
- see if you can find the same info in the “real” world that you find online. I love reading non-fiction! I can cozy up on the couch with a book and a hot cocoa, and become immersed in what I’m learning. Screen glare can be distracting, as can other items online, such as ads, other websites, messages, etc.
- be real with yourself about how much you can take on, financially and time-wise. It’s okay to say no!
- if you begin to feel overwhelmed, there is no shame in stepping back. Take a break – it is necessary for your health.
A year and a half ago, I was working at a major regional theater, as well as raising a child “on my own” (thanks village!!). I pushed so hard to make it through the days, weeks, months, that I developed a repetitive stress injury as well as teetered on the border of depression. Thankfully I got help, and was TOLD to take a break. That was some of the best advice ever given to me. My 3 weeks off were incredibly refreshing, and I am eternally grateful that I had the support to make it happen. I know that not everyone has that opportunity, but I encourage you to take what opportunities you DO have to get a break. It doesn’t have to be anything big, and it begins with a mindset change.
Take help that is offered. Ask for help when needed.
It is NOT a burden to acknowledge a true favor. It is NOT too much to let someone else “do the work” for once. Now more than ever, when connections are so much more digital and less face to face, we MUST learn to accept graciousness, love, sharing, time, and space. We will crumble without these.
In my opinion, the best thing we can do to ease exhaustion and over stimulation is to learn we can always step back. There is nothing online that cannot be achieved offline. Learn to check in, reevaluate our online lives, and find balance. Remember it is okay to say “yes” to help, and to build those reciprocal relationships. Give ourselves grace, and really know that there are infinite forms of self care. Because, of course, self care is key.