Another guilt trip about the importance of self care and being successful? That is why many people will read blog posts like this. We know we should be practising self care and succeeding, but do we really know how to thrive?
(I could not find a concept analysis for either success or self care – please let me know if you do)
We must presume that both success and self-care mean something different to each and every one of us. I am no expert on these topics…. is anyone?…But I think I am pretty good at caring for myself now and working towards success…having learnt the hard way. So I thought I would share some of my hints and tips. Feel free to adapt them, use them, completely ignore them, or ridicule them as ‘poppycock’.
Most people will expect to hear things like:
- Take a bubble bath
- Watch your favorite film
- Curl up with a good book
- Work hard
But I am sure that you know about this kind of stuff already. So let’s look at self care and success for the academic, firstly by identifying the issues that some of us may face.
As an early career researcher, I am frequently told about the stereotyping and inequalities experienced by women in academia. I myself frequently worry about the insecurity of, and problems associated with being an early career researcher, especially a female one.…I worry about where I will find my next job, funding or co-author. I worry about whether I am making any impact at all and whether I will be able to reach my true potential as an academic in the current climate. Academic pressures are in no way restricted to those earlier in their career, many more established researchers are also feeling the strain. These experiences will undoubtedly result in some psychological distress for many academics. So what can we do both proactively and preventatively to improve the lives of ourselves and each other.
Tip One: Keep your eye on the goal. Visualize yourself being happy, frequently. How would it feel to publish that paper? Get that fellowship? Collaborate on that project? Create your own self-fulfilling prophecy rather than focus on a possible spiral of doom.
How to do this? – Identify what makes you happy, or what will make you happy. Then do more of what makes you happy, or have a real go at getting what will make you happy. I personally love my research work. I know that many other academics feel the same way. Happiness to me is succeeding, making a difference and making a real impact through my work. The stress I feel is associated with this not happening.
This stress and negative thinking serves no purpose unless it positively drives me towards my goal. Yet who wants to be whipped to the goal posts? I use visualization as a driver for success. I see myself feeling and being the way I want to be…and I allow myself to believe that this vision will come true. This makes me much happier than thinking about the alternative. So I stick with it.
The practice of meditation may also assist you to work through your thoughts, direct them towards a more positive outlook and allow your goals to become meaningful and achievable.
As these tips continue, think about your own goals for happiness…whatever they may be…think about achieving them in relation to these tips and your own experiences.
I behave in the way I want to feel or be… Surely if I continue in this direction. Good things will come…
Tip Two: The problem of job insecurity for early career academics baffles me as Job security for early career researchers is a significant factor in helping research make an impact. Yet this seems to play on my mind recurrently. It is always a worry. However, worry really does nothing to resolve this issue, and only seeks to get in the way of my progress. In order to progress, I will need to ‘work smarter’ and embrace confidence in my own abilities. Worry and negative thinking has no place in this strategy.
Negative thoughts often lie, and so I swipe them away one by one by placing them on a train that is passing the station (Visualization) – I then sit for a little longer, and imagine the way I will feel and be once I reach my goals. My mood and stress instantly lifts once I do this. I am more confident and feel much stronger. I am ready to be happy.
Tip 3: Say No and be proactive – We need to look at what successful academics do. From my observations, they often say ‘No’ to anything that doesn’t suit their own focused agenda (they remove the ‘noise’ and toxicity), they ooze positivity, they are confident, they are assertive, they tell people what they need to succeed and they hang around with the most inspiring people. Therefore, the most obvious strategy is for us to do the same. Say ‘No’ to negativity, and to the people and things which do not enrich us as people. Let people know what you need in order to thrive. Embrace those you feel drawn towards as positive people.
Activity: Making the best of me…
1: Ask yourself how others can get the best out of you
2: Offer what you can realistically do
3: Communicate what inhibits your productivity with others
4: Actively describe what you need from others in order to thrive
Tip 4: Express gratitude and forgiveness for enhanced wellbeing. Not always easy, but worth investing in. This task not only unburdens your mind, but allows you to see all of the good things currently going on in your life. Regularly write down 5 things that you are grateful for. Also…try to forgive yourself, and others…often.
Tip 5: Address your work life balance as a fluid entity. I believe that the idea of a separate home and work life is changing. This is a good thing. It takes the pressure off and allows you to be a whole person, rather than one split in two…See yourself as a whole being, a working, living and family centred being. You cannot slice yourself into pieces.
Living in the ‘now’ rather than being at either home or work also allows us to enjoy more of ourselves and our lives. Notice where you are, what you are doing…Smell the flowers, look around you as you move, work, play and just allow yourself to ‘be’.
Tip 6: Eat Sleep move, repeat. It really is that simple, but utterly essential for optimum productivity, stress reduction, health and wellbeing. Eat nutritious food regularly, sleep 7-8 hours a night and move…Exercise, walk, swim, run, cycle…Be outdoors as often as possible.
Tip 7: Write. Write your thoughts, your feelings, your ‘to do’ lists, your ideas, your goals down regularly. This not only means that they are out of your head, allowing your mind to be quieter, they are also made real…They are good to share..and worth addressing (when you feel able).
Tip 8: Talk about who you are. There is a tendency to talk about work first. What we do, what we are working on and what we are planning to work on. Start new conversations with how you enjoy your hobbies or your favourite music. This lets other people know that you are indeed human, and it also gives you an identity other than your work persona. Be authentic. It is healthy for you, and others to know the real and whole you. You are fab 🙂
Tip 9: Help other people and accept help yourself. Lift one another up, support colleagues, show gratitude, offer support and guidance where you can. Be a mentor. Be a positive role model. Be the change you want to see in the workplace and accept all of this in return. This will not only make you feel good, it will change the culture of your workplace, and bring about reciprocity for everyone’s success.
Tip 10: Celebrate the successes of yourself and others. Yes. Focus on the great things that you and your colleagues have achieved. However big or small, these feelings of success will snowball into a self fulfilling prophecy, where you feel valued, supported and part of a team that cares. Some people will feel uncomfortable about doing this, and feel icky when they see others wallow in their own brilliance. But what is the alternative? We all talk about how rubbish we all are? How will that make us feel?…
Spend time reflecting on what you have achieved. Write them down…use these achievements to inform your own vision of yourself…This is who you are. You are great.
As long as the feelings of celebration and success are reciprocated and directed towards others as well as yourself….Let the high fives roll.
I do hope that these tips will resonate with some academics looking for something new to try. In the spirit of sharing, please feel free to add more tips below.
You deserve to be happy – Until next time, look after yourselves and each other ❤💙💜