Full-time employment can be tough on a lot of people. At some point, every full-time worker has come to the realisation that they spend more waking hours with their high-maintenance boss than with their spouse and loved ones. That stings! Unfortunately, as a full-time worker it can be easy to fall into the trap of spending your hours outside of work in recovery-mode; mentally, emotionally and physically preparing yourself for the next day/week/month at work. Your sense of self can deteriorate, and with it, your joy and inner well being.
Years ago I was working in a full-time job that drained the life out of me. I struggled to connect with my colleagues, I worked long hours, I was constantly dealing with unhappy customers, and as the bottom-rung person in my office, I felt extremely under-valued by my employer. Saturdays were the only day of the week that I felt truly liberated, and once Sunday rolled around I would find myself dreading the work week ahead.
If that sounds familiar, you’ll be pleased to know that this isn’t the end of the story!
One day I realised that I was constructing my entire life around my job. Even when I clocked off at the end of the day, almost everything I did was affected by my job. I would wake in the morning and immediately start getting ready for work. I would get home in the evening, cook a quick dinner and glue myself to the couch in order to recover from work. I would go to bed at precisely the time that would allow me an 8-hour sleep before waking for work the next day and repeating the process all over again.
I wasn’t just a full-time worker. I was a full-week worker! No wonder I felt so liberated on Saturdays – it was the first time all week that I felt my time was truly my own!
Once I recognised the patterns I had fallen into, I began to make changes. I decided I couldn’t let my whole life be led by a job that made me unhappy. So I came up with a few ways to claim back the spring in my step while still maintaining that 9-5!
Here are my top self-care tips for the full-time worker:
Claim back your mornings
Set your alarm at least an hour earlier than you currently do, and let yourself live a little before even thinking about getting ready for work in the morning. You’ll find it a lot more fulfilling than that extra hour of sleep! Do something that will make you feel good: exercise is an obvious choice, but you could also try cooking lavish breakfasts, reading with a cup of tea, playing a musical instrument, getting into a writing habit (I absolutely love 750 Words for this!), exploring your neighbourhood, or working on a hobby. Even getting a few chores done will do wonders for your soul. When I started taking back my mornings I was happier and more energised. It truly felt like work was just a part of my day, rather than my whole day.
Claim back your social life
Socialising isn’t just for weekends! There are so many ways to squeeze friends around your work schedule. Here are just some suggestions:
Before work: Find a friend who lives nearby and is on a similar work schedule, and set up a regular plan in the mornings before work. There are many ways to spend time with a friend in the morning: go for a walk, sign up for a yoga class or boot camp, meet for coffee at a cafe that opens nice and early, take it in turns making breakfast for each other at home. For a season, I met a friend at a local beach a couple of times each week, just to talk and pray together.
During work: Find a friend who works nearby (or your work bestie!) and tee up your lunch breaks. Meet at a local cafe or shopping centre and buy lunch, or arrange a mini picnic at a nearby park, with one person in charge of bringing salad or sandwiches and the other bringing something sweet to share. Arranging a mini outing and socialising in the middle of your work day will seriously refresh you (and give you something to look forward to all morning!).
After work: Drop in on a friend on your way home from work for a quick cup of tea and a chat (pre-arranged of course!). Meet up at a local pub or coffee shop after dinner for a quick drink. Invite friends over for some weeknight take-out. Pick a Netflix series and have a binge-buddy come over to watch it with you once a week. Pre-arrange it on the weekend, and give yourself something to look forward to during the work week.
Claim back your brain
Work can easily consume your brain, leaving you with little else to think or talk about even when you’re not at your desk. Your brain was made for so much more than that! Commit to learning something new. And I don’t mean something easy that you’ll pick up in a week, but something meaty and ongoing that will challenge you and that will require discipline. Read biographies or non-fiction books on a topic that interests you. If you’ve always thought about taking on study in a different field, now’s the time to find your dream course online! You can get degrees, diplomas and certifications from the comfort of your home these days. This is especially important if you feel stuck on a career path that you’re no longer interested in – hey, it happens all the time! You will never regret taking on study. You may regret not doing it in ten years time, when you’re still feeling stuck in a career you don’t love.
Claim back your evenings
Avoid the trap of coming home, cooking a quick week-night dinner and recuperating on the couch. It feels healing at the time, but over a long period of time it’s the kind of habit that can lead to depression and dissatisfaction with life. So cook food you love (prep on the weekend to help save time during the week). Work on a hobby. Call your mum for a long chat. Go late-night shopping. Sign up for a weekly fitness class. By all means, give yourself Netflix nights, but make them a special treat, not the norm.
The life of the full-time worker is not an easy one, but it can still be a very good one. There is no greater self-care than building new habits and spending your time more intentionally. By practising these self-care tips, your happiness should improve. Plus, taking meaningful breaks from the full-time work cycle may even increase your job satisfaction!
How do you take care of yourself as a full-time worker? Let me know in the comments and help inspire others!
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