Thursday, July 26, 2012

Taking Care of Yourself, by Yvonne Mulhern


Librarianship has always been a service profession. People attracted to service (nursing, teaching, etc.) want to help others, which is great.  On the other hand, those who are “helpers” can sometimes suffer mental, physical and/or emotional burnout. Hopefully some of the tips below will remind you treat yourself well. I know these have helped me. Because if you don’t do it, who will?
  1. Get optimal amounts of healthful food, sleep, exercise, and medical care*.   The mental and physical benefits of good food, sleep, and exercise are woefully underestimated by most people. Who hasn’t heard those “humble brags” from co-workers about the four hours of sleep they scrape by on, the piles of work that overwhelm them, or how they can’t remember their last decent meal? Continual exhaustion, physical pain, and/or stress are not “a part of life” or a sign of your indispensability. Rather, they are indicators that something is amiss.  Medical check-ups should help catch problems early, which saves time, anguish, and expense.   Block out appointments on your calendar for appointments with medical professionals. Visit one per week (or month, if absolutely necessary) until you’ve gone through them all.  
  2. Enlist support and technology.  Many, many people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, eat better, “get in shape,” etc. only to fall back off the wagon in a few months.  Avoid this fate with realistic goals, concrete deadlines, and visible reminders.  Decide what you need to do differently: center less of your social gatherings on fast food? Go to meet-ups with people who share your health goals? Don’t forget to seek emotional support, whether it is in person or online. is a community of people pursuing goals like “lose weight and exercise more. If you have a mobile device, there is a plethora of health-related apps to choose from.
  3. Your health is not just physical. Although our society still stigmatizes mental illness, 1 in 4 people have an issue with it at some point.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, any more than conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or allergies.  Get professional help if you can afford it, or talk to friends or look for support online if you can’t.
  4. No one is irreplaceable (at work).   Don’t push yourself to the point of no return. If you have a chronic condition that is interfering with your work performance, you may want to look into the Family Medical Leave Act (in America, at least).  If you are doing double duty because of budget constraints, try a tactful discussion with your supervisor about what is essential and what needs to be let go. Use concrete figures and mission statements to bolster your case. If at all possible, delegate. It will save you time in the long run, and your delegate gets some much-needed experience. Win win!

*If you don’t have health insurance, good self-care is even more important.  In the meantime, you may want to take a look at some of Consumer Report’s tips for the uninsured.

Yvonne Mulhern is an academic librarian and co-director of the Texas Social Media Research Institute.  She wrote the guest post “Surviving Your Library Job Search” in 2011. She’s also a raw vegan. You can follow her on Twitter @MissCybrarian or circle her on Google+.

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