How do we manage when we stop managing ourselves? What IS self-care anyway, and how does it differ from the buzzword we're used to hearing?
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Issue #16

Project Management Self-Care

Happy Friday! It's been kind of a weird week, hasn't it? For one thing, this newsletter is going out about 10+ hours later than normal. My project life has been lightly dramatic (which I'm not used to these days). I've had a few shakes of PM confidence. My personal life has been a little in flux as I struggle to get enough sleep, stick to routine, and catch up with housework.

I know I'm not the only one who's had a week like this. In fact, I had several conversations with close friends and coworkers about various points of distress over the past two weeks and each of us seemed to be going through our own mini crisis or enlightenment in life and projects.

I went on a last minute trip across the country to visit a client a few weeks ago—it was a fruitful and beneficial trip, but it's been extremely difficult to find my life 'equilibrium' again ever since. Between that trip and the small issues that have piled up over the last week or so, I've been struggled to get back on track with meal planning, sleeping enough and getting the right things done in the time that I have. In the face of all of this minor-but-disruptive turmoil, the theme of the last few weeks for me has been self-care.

Scratching the mental health surface

I tweeted a little bit about mental health this week. I think it's really easy for us as PMs to get caught up in the stress, drama or general nature of other lives and projects. Our whole job depends on interfacing with others, taking on stress for other teams, solving problems (or facilitating problem solving), and generally being the communication hub for many groups of people. That's not always easy, and can quickly mean we take on someone else's stress—regardless of our own boundaries.

There are so many amazing, open folks out there talking about mental health in tech. Content strategist Nicole Fenton wrote about working through mental illness (with LOTS of great links) earlier this year. Last year, Model View Culture published Are You More Than Okay: The State of Mental Health in Tech in 2016. Sam Small, a digital product designer, wrote last fall about his mental health experiences openly and honestly on his personal blog. Refinery29 also published a very truthful look into one woman's experiences with bipolar disorder awhile back. They're all important and fantastic reads.

More Reading

Self-care principles for project managers (and everyone!)

Self-care is a recent hot topic/buzzword and probably still vastly misused or misunderstood. It's something I only recently started understanding after starting therapy a year or so ago and really taking my mental health more seriously. I think it's important to talk about exactly what self-care means to us individually, how it can benefit and affect our work lives, and what it entails. Self-care is not just a practice for when you're burnt out—it's a matter of mental health maintenance and treating yourself with kindness and respect. 

I wanted to quote bits of this article all about self-care, but I think it's probably better if you just go and read it. It's extremely insightful, offers basic strategies for self-care, and this fantastic reminder:  Self-care sometimes means making tough decisions which you fear others will judge. You might also find my newsletter on boundaries a helpful read after that post. Checking in with myself regularly really helps me realize when a difficult project or crappy week affects things like my basic needs—which of course then influences my state of mind.

This somewhat well-known list called Everything Is Awful and I'm Not OK is a great starter guide to questions to ask yourself when in need of self-care. I've printed out the PDF in the post to keep by my desk if needed. Aloe, a self-care Twitter bot of sorts, has an online form you can fill out with similar questions that will help tell you where to focus if you're looking for a little more guidance.

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Take care!
Happy weekend,
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Copyright © 2017 Natalie Semczuk, All rights reserved.

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