By: Erika Lehtonen, Youth Services Librarian, Shelton Timberland Library
When you work in libraries, you give so much of yourself to other people. While most of my experience has been in public libraries, I can imagine library workers from different fields have often felt the same stress, anxiety, and burn out. We can be so busy taking care of others, we forget about taking care of ourselves. One thing I’ve learned is to take time out of my busy week for self-care. Here are a few ideas that work well for me, and I hope they will work well for you, too.
- Make time for the things you enjoy. If you love to read, give yourself time to read! Make it a priority. I personally love acting and volunteering at community theatres. I’m an extrovert, so being around other people gives me energy. Working on a team to create art makes me happy. The best part is, when I’m at the theatre, I never have to think about work. All of my focus is on creating a character and telling a story.
Here I am (in the red costume) at one of my favorite places, Bremerton Community Theatre. Photo Credit: Christopher Martinez
- If you are able to, go to the doctor. It may seem obvious, but it’s something I've had to force myself to do in the past. Make those annual appointments, and let them know how you are doing emotionally and physically. If you are feeling down, consider talking to a therapist. Most libraries and other organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs, and you can visit with someone in-person or over the phone for free.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. I’ll admit, when I was in graduate school, I did not make this a priority. I had difficulty falling asleep and would wake up early to get homework done before work. Now, when I have trouble falling asleep, I listen to guided meditation to help calm my nerves and to remind myself to breathe. My friend Kristen introduced me to a free meditation app called Insight Timer, and it has been a serious life-changer.
- Give yourself things to look forward to. For me, this means going out to breakfast with friends once a month. I look forward to our mornings filled with coffee, bacon, pancakes, and good conversation. I also love to indulge in a massage every now and then. Did you know that some health insurances cover massages? Seeing these things on my calendar gives me a reason to keep going sometimes, especially on the days when it feels like the stress is never-ending.
- Take time off. One thing I plan to do more of in 2019 is to use my vacation days. I always look forward to three-day weekends, even if I am just staying home in my pajamas to cuddle with my furbabies and binge-watch old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I've spent some of my best days in my pajamas.
- Advocate for yourself. Remember your self-worth. Remember, you matter. Remind yourself how hard you’ve worked, and how talented you are. This is quite possibly the best advice anyone has ever given me. Words matter, and what we say and how we think can affect us more than we realize. Make sure what you are saying to and about yourself is positive, and that you cut yourself a little slack from time to time. You are doing the best you can do, and you are enough.
What are some of your favorite self-care habits? Share your ideas in the comments below.