After years of studying and hard work, you did it. You graduated, earned your degree, and landed a job you love. Everything is wonderful. Sound about right?
Maybe, maybe not.
Reality is, you're tired. You work all the time and you miss your girlfriends. Your group chat is blowing up your phone all day but you barely have a moment to read the messages, much less respond. You miss the days when you could bop over to a friend's place at a moment's notice- the days when your personal life didn't take such a back seat.
You get to work early, stay late, eat dinner in a rush, and hop into bed so you can be rested when it all starts again tomorrow. As you drift off, you find yourself wondering, "Is this really it? Is this what I want to be doing?"
You're grateful for your job and have big career aspirations, but you can't help but think you're missing something. There has to be another way to live... right?
YES! 100x yes. You can choose a different way of living. Even if your core circumstances can't change right now (you are genuinely happy with your career and want to focus on that right now), there are tangible, specific ways to improve your life. Give these tips a try to feel less anxious, more calm, and at peace in your daily life.
5 tips for busy young professionals
Use all your vacation days.
Seriously, do not leave vacation days on the table. Before I worked as a counselor, I worked in the finance department of an advertising agency- which is, in itself, a story for another time! Anyway, a lot of people at the agency seemed proud when they didn't take time off. They appeared to flaunt the fact that they were in the office week after week, without a break.
I always thought that was such a bummer- for the person and for the agency. And it wasn't just my agency that had this issue- in 2016, 54% of workers had unused vacation days at the end of the year. Taking all your vacation days is actually beneficial to both you AND your boss/company. When you are well rested, you will bring more creativity and energy to your work. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Eat lunch somewhere besides your desk.
Even if you can't take a leisurely lunch, do something to make this break in your day completely separate from work. Eat in the break room, walk to get take out, bring your lunch to a nearby park or bench, or if you're in Minneapolis - St. Paul, meet a friend at a food truck- as a sidenote, there are SO MANY delicious food trucks in the Twin Cities! I recommend Dough Dough and Misfit for a treat.
Regardless of where you eat lunch, make sure to give your body a chance to stretch. Give your mind some time to shift away from work tasks. You will feel rejuvenated and will return to your project with a fresh set of eyes.
Schedule in time for self-care... don't cancel on yourself!
Once you believe self-care is essential to your overall wellness, it will be difficult to cancel on yourself. This is an intentional mental shift. Treat your self-care plans with the same amount of seriousness as a meeting with your boss. Practically, this means you will follow through with your plans even if something pressing comes up that day.
For example- you have a wine and cheese night with friends scheduled for Friday evening. Friday afternoon, your boss gives you a project due next week- you're tempted to change your plans in order to get this project done- but since you value taking care of yourself, you keep your original plans and have a relaxing night with friends.
Or, if you're planning a solo night in with a book and a bubble bath, remember that you've set this date with yourself, and you can definitely turn down that dinner invitation.
Knowing yourself is key here- what one person considers self-care can be quite the opposite for someone else. For instance if you are an extrovert, you actually recharge by being around people- which means you need to be social to be energized. Introverts gain energy by being alone, and so choosing a night in would be a great way to take of yourself.
Find a bedtime routine that transitions you into a restful slumber.
I know lots of professionals who hop right back on their laptops at night, and then work until bedtime. I suggest finding a different way to spend your evening. Engaging your brain in work projects so close to bedtime is not helpful for quality sleep.
Yes, some evenings you probably will have to (or maybe even want to!) do some work after hours. On those nights, make it a priority to shut down your laptop an hour before going to bed. Then do something to transition into relaxation- my favorite options are yoga, reading something fun, or taking a bath with epsom salts and essential oils.
Give yourself a break. It's time to stop being so hard on yourself. I've noticed that most people really are doing the best they can. You cannot do it all, and to expect yourself to do otherwise is setting yourself up for disappointment. Practice self-compassion, and treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love.
Does this resonate? Have you noticed your pace at work getting in the way of how you want to live your life? Let's talk. As a therapist, I love working with young professionals to find more balance, more peace, and a better life. Contact me to get started.