Category Archives: Professional

How I Self-Care

In my line of work, people talk a lot about self-care to ensure that you do not forget to take care of yourself while being so wrapped up in taking care of others. Now that I have worked at my job for over a month, I have started to notice changes in my self-care routine. My nightly journal entries are often rushed. Sometimes there are long lazy lines my pen made as I started to doze off mid-sentence. If I exercise twice in one week, then it’s considered a good week. I eat unhealthy food late at night. My body struggles to recover from staying up all night for work. I find that I spend most of my days off inside, behind a computer screen. It has been weeks since I have done something for fun with friends. My job is going great, but my self-care is not. 

All of the self-improvement goals I thought were firmly implemented into my life have been thrown off balance by my new employment. There are a little more than three months until I turn 24 and, by then, I want to be on the right track in terms of my mental and physical health, my social life, and my rate of creative output. Hence, I think it is fitting that I update my goals to reflect my self-care goals. I want to be able to work full-time and also really focus on my own well-being.

The following are preliminary ideas I have for a quality self-care routine:

1. Pack healthy food to bring for work. With my current schedule, there are five meals I have to eat at work per week (one lunch, three dinners, and one breakfast). The breakfast is pretty easy to skip or to get away with just eating a piece of fruit, so it’s really those three dinners and one lunch about which I’m concerned.
a. Bring a healthy entree, but also bring healthy snacks in case there isn’t time for a full-            blown meal.
b. Make a salad from the salad bar and eat a vegetable side dish to satisfy your appetite               long enough before you get a break.
c. If the dessert looks like it’ll be really worth it, then eat a few bites or half of it.

2. Make plans with people for your days off. Find the people in your social network who may be free at any time during your free days and make a plan. See a movie. Get coffee. Get lunch. Go bowling. See a play. Something.
a. If no one is free, plan out your day doing something that is productive. Clean your                    room. Go to the bank. Go to the doctor. Complete a task that has been looming over                your head.
b. Additionally, make plans to do something that just makes you feel good. This can be              watching a TV show or lying outside or going for a bike ride. You name it. There are                  ways to be absolutely happy and content that are not dependent upon others.

3. Exercise as often as you can. Something I have discovered about myself is that I feel so good after a workout. It gives my whole day a brand new, shiny outlook. Based on my current schedule, my exercise schedule should be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before lunch, and then Saturday during my break at work.
a. Sign up for a fitness class on your day off or before 1:30 on weekdays to meet new                   people and peer pressure yourself into the workout.

4. Leave work at work. In other words, be completely present in work while at work, but leave it behind during my days off. Beyond a few sentences on how my day at work was, it should be out of my mind so I can relax.
a. Check work email once a day, but not before bed! This should reduce the frequency                of work-related dreams.

5. Use overnights for creative output. I’ve already started a few experimental writing projects during my two overnights so far. I would love to continue this, as the overnight is a time when I’m not supposed to be doing anything else. I can’t exercise or go outside. It’s the perfect time to sit behind a screen and write something!

6. Use those 66 hours well. Sometimes, it feels like I’m working ALL the time, but it’s not true. I did some quick math and discovered that I have 66 awake hours per week that I can use in whatever way I want!


How to Do An Overnight Shift

Part of my new job’s work schedule includes at least one overnight shift per week (I say at least because we have to sign up for “on call” overnight shifts, as well). So far, I have completed two overnight shifts and I’m proud to say I’ve learned a thing or two about getting through them in the healthiest way possible. I’m not saying that what I do will work for everyone (for example, I’m not required to complete any tasks but staying up during the night), but here is what has worked for me:

1. Sleep in the morning of the overnight. I start preparing the night before the overnight by staying up until between 1 AM and 3 AM. This allows me to sleep in as late as I possibly can the day before my overnight shift.

2. Don’t eat carbs and processed sugars during the day. I keep my diet very clean the day before the overnight.

3. Relax during the day. I don’t expend too much energy that day. I don’t exercise more than going on a walk.

4. Rest in bed. Even if you can’t fall asleep, spend at least an hour before dinner lying in bed with your eyes closed.

5. Shower after dinner. Before leaving for the overnight, I find that a shower helps trick my body into thinking that it’s time to wake up.

6. Keep yourself entertained at night. I always bring a bunch of different entertainment options with me, including a laptop, TV shows, movies, books, and review books (to study). Text people for as late as anyone else stays awake. Make to-do lists.

7. Walk around if you catch yourself falling asleep. I like to take a quick walk around the room, then sit down.

8. Drink a lot of water and eat food that is high in protein and low in carbs. I usually stick to walnuts, plain non-fat Greek yogurt, an apple, and peanut butter. Don’t eat too much, though. Being full will make you sleepier. I only drink coffee watered down with almond milk as a last resort.

9. When you get home, sleep for a maximum of four hours. If you sleep all day after the overnight, then it’s going to be very difficult to fall asleep the following night!

10. Go to bed before midnight and hug your pillow. You made it! Now, it’s time to go on with your life with a regular sleep schedule like the rest of the world.

First Day

mefirstdayorthoschoolTuesday was my first day of school, but this time I was not the student or even the teacher. I was the counselor. The dormitory counselor, to be exact, otherwise known as the person who spends every waking (and sleeping) hour with the kids when they are not in class. This school is different because the kids don’t leave; they live there. And for 40+ hours a week, I sort of live there, too. First days are special because you are often filled with all kinds of emotions: excitement, fear, nervousness, joy, and hope, to name a few. First days are magical because your impression of this new chapter in your life is completely untarnished by any negative experience that may be in your future. The first day is the most beautiful and pure experience you will ever have when it comes to that particular life journey. “Anything can happen,” you think. “Think of the people I will meet and the lives I will save.” But then, what comes after the first day is the real journey. The first day is just the beginning, as rose-colored and perfect as it is. After the first day is when relationships are built and progress is made–all the real important stuff. So, everyone, enjoy your first days, but look forward to everything the future holds!

I Got a Job!

I got the job! After lots of back and forth emails, phone calls, and missed phone calls, my background check finally went through and I received notice that I have officially been extended a job offer. And…I accepted! I will not pretend that this job is some kind of godsend or fairy tale. However,  I strongly believe that it is an excellent match to both my experience and interests. Without giving too much away for the sake of anonymity, I’ll tell you a little bit about my brand spanking new job. (I still have to figure out how confidentiality at the job works, but it’s safe to say that I probably won’t be able to say much about it here.)

The Job: I will be a dorm counselor at a residential school for severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. The school has a prestigious reputation within the mental health community for its effective therapeutic techniques in helping students grow and meet normal developmental benchmarks. Students are sent to the school with psychological issues that run the gamut from autism to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia (and a lot in between). Typically, students are sent to the school because the resources available to them at home and their traditional school are not enough to meet their diverse needs.

As a dormitory counselor, I play a vital part in successfully carrying out each student’s individual treatment plan. A member of the treatment team and the supportive therapeutic community, I monitor each student’s level of functioning and I collect data on their progress. In addition to planning therapeutic recreational activities, I also will utilize my counseling skills to provide support for all students and to promote pro-social problem-solving skills. When necessary, I will use nonviolent physical restraint methods that I will learn from my certification in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention to ensure everyone’s safety.

The school has students in elementary school and students in high school; they are separated into different dorms based on age and gender. This year, I will be working with the younger elementary-aged boys. The hours are irregular, which means that nothing is sacred. Not weekends, not nights, not Christmas–nothing. These kids need support 24/7 and that does not mesh well with a Monday-Friday 9-5 job. While I’ll only officially work 40 hours, there will be overtime for things like birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries (a way to celebrate the anniversaries of when students were first admitted to the school).

I am ready to delve into this adventure headfirst! I have already started brainstorming different activities I can lead with the students and I have started looking up research articles on the treatment the school follows. Now it’s time for the next chapter in my life. I have a college degree and I’m about to go use it. It’s an exciting time to be 23 and alive. 🙂

The Job Search: What I Have Learned So Far

In February, I finished student teaching in Appleton, Wisconsin and I moved back home to the Chicagoland area. For the next two months, I worked on paperwork to become a substitute teacher, as well as on a (pretty darn awesome) teaching portfolio. Between February and now, I also aced the two education exams in Illinois and successfully substitute taught at my old high school without being too weirded out. However, do you know what I still don’t have in hand? A job! I have been actively searching for a job since April and, although I am still on the prowl, I certainly have learned a thing or two along the way. Hopefully my advice will have a bit more credence after I have sealed the deal on a job for the upcoming year.

1. Network! It does not take very long in the job application process before you realize that, as frustrating as it may be, the majority of jobs are secured as a result of connections. Use. Your. Connections. I cannot stress this enough. Make sure everyone you know is aware that you are seeking a job in a certain field. Anyone could be the person who gets your resume on top of the pile or to even get an interview. For example, just because your mom’s close friend is a pharmacist does not mean that her brother is not the assistant principal at a school where you applied. Don’t think you’re above using your connections to get an interview; everyone is doing it! If you feel like you’ve exhausted the connections you already have (or perhaps you’re new to the neighborhood and you don’t know anyone yet), I recommend getting involved in volunteering, a church group, an intramural sports team, or anything that will help you meet lots of new people.

2. Proofread your applications. Toward the beginning of the job search process, I read over a few applications I sent out and grimaced that I was missing a word in one of the sentences I’d written. D’oh! If your application initially stands out from the rest, but then whoever is reading the application notices a typo, then that’s an easy surefire way to get your resume tossed out. From what I’ve been told, there is often such a volume of applications that the hiring people need to find reasons to eliminate you from the process; a typo is an easy way to lose (especially for someone looking for an English teaching job, like me)!

3. Apply to as many jobs as you can find within a certain distance. So, let’s say you’re looking for jobs as a secretary and you live in Seattle. Decide how far you are willing to commute for a job, then search for and then apply to every secretary job you can find that is within that radius. Statistically speaking, the more applications you send out, the more of a chance you have in getting a job. The less picky you are in terms of job description and distance from home, the more likely it will be that you’ll get more interviews and/or offers.

4. Do not apply to a job that you would not accept. Now, I know it may be tempting to apply for lots and lots of jobs, some of which may not be exactly what you’re looking for. I know you want to have as many options as possible. However, you should also consider before applying if you would accept a position if offered one. What if that job is the only one that makes an offer? Would you take it? This is very important when considering; you don’t want to waste time applying to something that you could not really see yourself doing.

5. Ask relevant questions to the employer at the interview. Congratulations! You got an interview. Even though you may feel that this interview is all about the potential employer sending you through the wringer, you should take the opportunity to interview them, too. There are several different types of questions you can ask, including questions that show you did your research on the company,

6. Send a thank you letter immediately after the interview. This one doesn’t require much explanation. It’s a great to touch base with the person or people with whom you interviewed to thank them for taking the time out to interview you. You can also take this opportunity to remind them of the reasons why you would be an excellent match for the job.

7. Don’t miss that phone call! I am ashamed to say that during my job search process so far, I have missed a whopping three calls from potential employers. Once I was walking around the cacophonous city of Chicago, once I was in the bathroom, and once I was asleep. Regardless of the reason, you should do everything in your power not to miss those calls, even if it means bringing your phone to the bathroom with you. Answering the phone shows that you are interested and eager; it will also save the time for the person who is in charge of making those calls.

8. Don’t get discouraged. Depending on your approach to the job search process, this could be one of the most difficult points on the list. About two months into the job search process when I had not gotten a single response from an employer (not even an email to say that a different candidate had been selected), I had a brief period of time when I felt helpless. My self-efficacy was at an all-time low and I couldn’t bring myself to put another three-hour stint into an application. But, you know what? I slapped myself (figuratively), got out of my funk, and continued to apply. Just keep trying. Never give up. You never know when that follow-up email or phone call could actually produce an interview!

Good luck, job seekers!