I was supposed to write a light, funny article today about sick days. It’s been on the schedule for a few weeks, and I was looking forward to finally sitting down and writing it. Then Tuesday night happened. And suddenly I wasn’t in the mood to write jokes. I wasn’t in the mood to write something so trivial when something so huge happened in my country—something that affected me (as it did half of my fellow voting Americans) so incredibly personally.
This feeling happened to me once before, when I was assaulted by a stranger in 2014. I didn’t feel like being funny then either. So I did the parts of my job that didn’t require it. I edited other people’s articles, I answered emails, I led meetings, I brainstormed with my co-workers. But I did not write. I also did not take one single day off.
In 2014, I felt guilty for not doing my job at 100%. I felt guilty for not acting like myself. I felt guilty for being hurt and in pain and in need of a break. But when I got laid off just a few months later, I promised myself I'd never again sacrifice my mental health for a job. I quickly learned that those come and go, but the way you treat yourself affects you forever.
Now, a little over two years later, I’m holding myself to that promise to put myself first. I’m not doing everything at 100% and I’m not turning my feelings off and powering through my to-do list on auto-pilot.
For anyone who can take it easy on themselves at the office when things are tough in your life, do. Give yourself a break. Remove items that aren’t pressing from your to-do list. Not forever, but certainly for today. Get to the office a bit late, leave a little early. Take a longer lunch than usual, or if you’re like me, take a lunch in general. Push back meetings when you can and stop yourself from answering every single email the second it comes in. Everything will be right there waiting for you when you return. I promise.
I know I’m lucky to work at a company that subscribes to the whole human philosophy, that believes that we do better work when we know that we come before daily deadlines. I also know that many people aren’t that lucky.
I know that there are people out there suffering this week—but also suffering on every other week for a variety of reasons—who don’t have the luxury of just dialing it down a few notches. And to those people, I wish I had a magic solution for you, a tip or a trick or a hack that could give you that space you need.
But I don’t. So my best advice for you is to practice self-care in all the ways you can. If that’s impossible while you’re on the clock, do it while you’re off. Get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy (or don’t, if that makes you feel better), watch a mindless TV show, curl up under a blanket with tea, go for a long run, talk to people you care about and who care about you—do things that make you feel better.
We all have days and weeks that are hard, that challenge us, that don’t seem to take into account our busy work schedule. And it’s in these moments that we need to put ourselves first, to remember that we’re more than our job and that we deserve to be prioritized just as much as we prioritize everything happening in the office.