A project director has been feeling down on herself at work lately.
Q: I’ve been feeling down on myself at work lately. Things have been stressful and I blame myself, even when it doesn’t make sense. It’s carrying over into other aspects of life, too. What should I do? — Dee, 50, project director
A: Love yourself, and treat yourself as kindly as you would someone else you care about.
Imagine your sister or best friend in this situation. What would you say? I’m sure that you’d be comforting and nurturing, and provide a realistic perspective about what’s going on.
Now do that for yourself. In detail. Write out what you would say or record it into your phone. Don’t dwell on negative self-talk, create positive narratives that you can use instead.
Don’t take it on alone. Find the person who can provide the kind and realistic insights you need, and ask them to help.
In fact, it’s important to let others in. Negativity can spiral when it’s confined to the echo chamber of your own mind. If you don’t have relationships where you feel safe enough to talk about how you’re feeling, commit to developing them.
Create other ways to nourish and sustain yourself. What activities make your spirit sing? Spend time on them, whether they’re physical, spiritual, artistic, or intellectual endeavors.
Notice how often these are the very things that get cut when we’re under stress. My hunch is that at some level, we don’t feel that we deserve to feel good. Well, guess what? We do! Plus, when we give to ourselves, we set ourselves up to succeed in our external roles.
Seek out community. Even if you’re a private person, whatever you tell yourself about staying home and licking your wounds, being out with positive people in an energizing setting makes a difference. There are so many ways to find connection with people.
One example in Minneapolis is Assata Speaks — a monthly coming together focused on racial and social justice issues, and building enriching connections among people who would not otherwise meet. Seek out community that speaks to you.
Give back to others. There is nothing that builds one’s spirit like helping others. When you notice others need a pick-me-up, be there for them, and it will come back to you.
Tend to your physical health. Neglect can sneak up on you, especially if you’re stressed out. Maybe you usually are a healthy eater and more junk food is sneaking in. Maybe you’re not getting regular exercise. Again, this can contribute to a spiral that will erode your resilience.
Two warnings: if you are in a toxic situation, consider making a change. If you think you’re in the realm of clinical depression, seek help now.
Otherwise, keep track of how you’re doing. Catch yourself when your self-talk turns against you, and also appreciate yourself when you’re being self-nurturing. Love yourself to ride out the hard times and to be able to truly give to others.