How to Take Care While You Labour

Image by Anna Palinska

Pamela Chan,

While you work outside of the home, work from home, are involved in unpaid labour, or change your career path, it’s up to you to look after your physical and mental well being. Here are my two favourite ways to keep the self care going, and keep me motivated and feeling confident.

Get Outside and Get Moving

Since I was in my early 20s, I have prioritized getting sunshine during the day. Getting outside is good for vitamin D intake, which in turn helps boost my mood. My favourite way to do this hasn’t changed much over the years. When I worked as a summer student at a logistics firm in Ottawa, I enjoyed walking along Sparks Street and near the Parliament buildings during lunch and after work hours, taking in the views and the summer sun. I also joined a rowing club and took rowing lessons at a club based by the Ottawa river. This was my early introduction to the importance of maximizing your work lunch hour and time after work.

While I attended graduate school at UBC on the west side of Vancouver, I would bundle up in my coat on sunny, winter days and go outside to read in the courtyard of the graduate college where I lived. I read outside on sunny days, even when the temperature was cold. I didn’t see many other people prioritizing getting sun during the winter months; however, feeling the emotional and physical energy boost that came from getting sun on my face made the effort worthwhile. During the warmer cherry blossom season, I enjoyed sitting under one of the many cherry blossom trees while I plowed through my readings and I also enjoyed reading by the carp filled pond in the Japanese garden.

On rainy days, I put on my favourite wellies (long rainboots) and rain gear, and head to forest paths where the torrential downpour is more muted and I can enjoy the lush greenery. I also enjoy taking my Yorkshire Terrier/Silkie dog for long morning walks around the steep hills in my neighbourhood. While I’m walking, I listen to world news podcasts from Europe that give me a different perspective from the information that I’m receiving from local and national media. Half way through the walk, I take a break and sit in a beautiful and usually empty park, while my dog looks at the trees and mountains beyond. When It’s still light outside, I take long walks in farm country while waiting for my daughter as she attends dance class.

Pre Covid, I started going to a local gym in the morning, first thing, and worked on trying to become stronger and have better stamina. I’ve never been über fit but I could feel the improvements as my stamina improved while I walked up the steep local hills.

My current goal is to regain this enthusiasm and restart some kind of routine that improves flexibility and stamina, and makes me stronger. How am I doing this? While I’m continuing my daily walks, I’m noting what other friends and acquaintances my age (give or take a few years) are achieving. If they can amp things up considerably, I can make changes too.

It’s a circuitous and imperfect process but I’m going to keep dusting myself when I feel like I’m not reaching my goals. If you’re looking for an easy way to start moving, this routine from Korea – that’s based on the Korean National Exercise programme – is pure gold.

Create Your Community

When you’re working in a brick and mortar office, the opportunities to connect with colleagues, attend workshops and conferences, and network with new people are endless. In this new Post “Before Times” work reality more people are working from home or work in hybrid situations. This has led to a higher likelihood that employees will feel isolated. You’ve probably noticed print media, TV and podcast stories about increased rates of loneliness in people’s professional and personal lives. If you were already working from home full time pre Covid, or if you don’t work outside of them home, this has been your reality for awhile.

To help combat feelings of professional and personal isolation, I’m like to share ideas and connect with like minded people in my community, in workshops and on social media sites like LinkedIn or Instagram. My professional, academic and philanthropic efforts are focussed on topics related to education; alternative education; educational policy; educational administration and leadership; equitable access to educational opportunities for youth; youth advocacy; and, women in the workforce. My interests run broad and deep, and I’m interested to know what other people are doing and thinking about. While it might be hard to get out and about as much as you’d like, if you can carve out a digital space where you can connect with the same people on topics about which you are passionate, you can start to feel more connected to people in your local and global community.

How are you mentoring, caring and advocating for yourself? How are you recrafting your professional life and looking to head out in new directions?

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