My Commitments: Prioritizing Self in 2017
Last December I began a new job. I was grateful for my newfound employment. The opportune timing of the offer stymied growing unrest and budding self-doubt. Still, after a day in the office, I wondered if I made the right choice.
I’d only been there a week before I displayed the unsettling, yet familiar habits of self-neglect—habits that ultimately triggered my decision to leave the classroom two years ago. Afraid to ask for lunch, I’d go 7 hours without eating. When I did eat, I’d take a working lunch, quickly devouring my meal within 15-minutes. So enthralled by my assignments, my religious 3-4 hour blood sugar checks dwindled down to an inconsistent 3 times a day. I woke up an hour early or stayed for an additional two—all to ensure that I didn’t drown under the load of my assignments. I labored with such intensity that my shoulders stiffened and were perpetually raised. My chest tightened. And every so often while acknowledging my stress, a tear would roll down my cheek.
I’ve always been drawn to fast-paced and demanding environments. I attended a rigorous magnet school, specialized high school and have two Ivy-League degrees. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve wondered if I’m actually well suited for these spaces. It’s not just their intimidating or competitive nature, nor the bouts of academic and professional burn-out I’ve endured as a result, but instead it’s the ways in which these high-intensity environments conflict with my intentional and growing desire to prioritize self-care. Now I’ve never experienced any job that was a gleeful stroll through the park. Still, I also don’t expect to feel like an overworked lab rat desperate for some reprieve. Since starting this job, my body accustomed to incremental breaks, has been in shock and my blood sugars have been suffering.
It hasn’t taken me long to realize that my response to this high-intensity environment is not conducive to a pleasant and productive stay. As such, to ensure I stay healthy, sane and effective at my new job, I’ll be honoring the following commitments in the New Year:
- Check my blood sugar regularly. Even if that means pricking myself during team meetings, on Zoom conference calls or stopping whatever I’m doing to make it happen. Lately, I’ve entertained the idea of setting phone alarms or calendar invites reminding myself to test. Considering that I don’t have a consistent eating schedule though, it may make more sense to deliberately prioritize checking every few hours.
- Wear my CGM on a consistent basis. To be quite transparent, I have a love and hate relationship with my CGM. Though I enjoy the reassurance and comfort it provides, I don’t always like the feeling of wearing a second device. After being traumatized by a few painful sensor insertions in the past, I now dread them. It’s this fear that causes me to take extended breaks from my Dexcom. Considering how busy work gets, and the fact that forgetting to check has become more of a frequent occurrence, I now see that there IS value in wearing my CGM—value in wearing it consistently. Bye, bye, fear!
- Eat lunch by 12:30 pm. I’m up by 6:30 am and eat breakfast by 7 am. By 11:30 am, the rumbling in my stomach becomes audible. Still, time after time, I’ve ignored its nagging, allowing “pressing” action items to quiet my hunger. When I do finally eat, I over-indulge, often wolfing down foot-long sandwiches that propel me into a state of lethargy. To put an end to this cruel cycle of starvation, overeating and fatigue, not only do I now commit to taking lunch at 12:30 pm, but I also look forward to being more mindful of my carb intake.
- Bring more meals from home. I work in Time Square, one of the more expensive parts of the city. Salads, sandwiches and lunch platters range from 11 to 15 bucks. Because my nickname is “the cheap one,” I’m always on the hunt for more affordable options. That means, more often than not, I’m settling for a burger or a sandwich (You know, anything less than $6.50). To appease both my ass and my wallet, this girl will start taking advantage of those rare moments of down time to cook for herself. Even opting for a cold-cut sandwich and a couple of snacks from home will not only cut down on my expenses, but also on the additional pounds. Lunches from my kitchen are the only answer.
- Walk for at least 15 minutes. I will break free from the pull of my laptop and the smell of stale air. Previously, I only left the office for as long (or as little) as it took to get my lunch. I’d powerwalk to the Subway across the street, while anxiously checking my phone to see how much time had passed. Considering how frantic I felt upon returning, I’ve realized that I do need a physical and mental break from work. Not only does this increase my productivity, but it also enhances my mood and patience (yes Lord!) Though, a 15-minute break can seems like an ask, taking the stairs (instead of the elevator), or making a bathroom or coffee run on another floor, are also more convenient ways that I lure myself out of my chair and guarantee a mental recharge.
- Not making it a habit of taking work home. “Habit” is the key word here. I don’t mind finishing an assignment at home. However, I refuse to make this the norm. In prioritizing self, I’m learning that there’s always tomorrow. Some things can be put off until then.
- Advocate for myself. I work in a “yes” culture. However, I’m learning that for the sake of self-preservation, I need to become comfortable with saying no. I understand the need to be flexible at work. It’s a desired trait for any employee. But when unanticipated assignments are consistently added to my plate, forcing me to routinely work overtime with no added pay, I’m not okay with that. Despite the discomfort it may bring, I will become increasingly okay with having difficult conversations, especially if they allow me to protect my well-being.
- Check in with myself. Lately, I’ve prioritized honoring my feelings, particularly as it relates to the people and things I’m involved in. As I consider the nature of my work environment, I’ve found it necessary to check in with my spirit around questions of fit. If I can manage my health and maintain my peace, great. If and when that becomes difficult to achieve, I must acknowledge that and act accordingly.
- Feed my soul once a week. Lately, as I’ve worked to maintain my joy, I’ve found solace in reading, listening to sermons, journaling and hanging out with loved ones. Though I used to be the type who when immersed with work, never made time for people or things—I’ve outgrown this phase. Time is precious and opportunities are fleeting. While I’m here, I will indulge in those activities and connect with those people who add great substance to my life.
Photography: Alfred Sarpeh