Speaking of Self-Care: Tending to Our Spirits


By: Cathleen Miller, Curator, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England

As workers, we spend our lives tending to the needs of our organizations, our patrons, and our co-workers. Whether you work in a supportive or a difficult environment, we all live with the stresses of being employed in a service-oriented field, in which few understand the rigors of our jobs or the stresses that accompany them. So how do we tend to our spirits in the face of a frustrating encounter with a patron, a colleague who makes our day-to-day work stressful, or when we learn that funding for our projects will not come through?


Find Support

We need community in order to be happy and healthy. It’s wonderful when you can build alliances at work so that, in the moment, your colleagues can help you through a tough time. I feel lucky to have landed in a library where we truly care about each other and make time to listen. It is crucial to have other people in your life who can remind you of your value outside of the workplace and help you remember what truly matters.

One of my communities outside of work is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation center. When I was in a rough work situation, a fellow practitioner made me box that held cards where I could write reminders to ground me in the moment. We were studying Pema Chödrön’s book Start Where You Are, so I copied slogans from the book and put them on my desk for contemplation. The reminder to “always maintain only a joyful mind” still helps me to come out of a spin. I try to put things in my workspace that help me to remember who I am outside of the office.

Connect with Nature

When it seems like nothing is going well and all of my words are lost in some miscommunication spiral, I go for a walk. There is a cemetery right behind our library that has big, beautiful trees. Even if I only spend 15 minutes there, I begin to feel as part of the world again. If you work in a city and don’t have easy access to a wooded path, standing outside, looking up at the sky, and breathing intentionally is a good alternative. We are more than our work. We are part of the rest of life.


Nourish Yourself

I keep my drawers stocked with herbal teas, flower essences, and elixirs to help settle myself when things get rocky. I find myself dispensing these things to coworkers with some frequency. Some of my favorite teas to help calm my nerves are chamomile, rose, linden, and hawthorn. I also keep around a white yarrow flower essence that helps to keep my boundaries clear.

It’s easy to let people bleed into our emotional space, so all of these practices are things I call upon to help me get through tough times.