May is Mental Health Wellness Month!
This blog’s May 2019 topic is: Career and Wellness Planning Along the Life Stages
When I was in 4th grade, about 9yrs old, I had a school assignment to write about what I career I wanted to have when I grew up. I remember thinking that I didn’t know much about how many careers actually existed for me to choose from. I also remember that I could include pictures that I drew myself, and that was my favorite part of the assignment.
It would be 14 years later that I learned about the importance of stress management and psychological and emotional self-care. I learned this the hard way when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness about a year into my first job. It would be about another 2 years after that when my body finally stabilized, and it’s been a long road to manage the aftereffects ever since.
I think, if I could write a letter to my 9yrs old self and send it back through time, I would begin it by writing this: The world of work takes up a lot of time in your life, but the quality of your wellness will be the quality of your whole life.
Then, I would offer an idea: Don’t plan on having one job all your life. Do plan on having several progressively advancing jobs, and have each job meet your income needs and lifestyle needs at different points of your life:
* In your last year of high school, or equivalency program: Do your own research about which vocational schools or associates degree (2yrs) college programs can help you get a professional license and good income.
Once you have a professional license, and some work experience, you may be able to open your own business and do not have to deal with being dependent on, and depleted from, working long hours and little pay working for someone else.
Go out, have fun responsibly, and start learning how to manage money yourself and figure out a ratio of how much you want to spend now and how much you want to save for your future. (Try to save two-thirds of every paycheck.)
* In your early 20’s: Check out the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and see all the types of jobs that exists now and see what interests you as a long term career (or earlier, if you or the kids get the same grade-school assignment I did). Look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook to see which careers have the best projected trajectory. Evaluate whether the job you have now is one you want to stay in, or if you want to advance in a new role that may or may not be similar to the work you’re doing now.
The good news is that you can move into a bachelor’s degree to advance your education in the new direction, and if you have a completed associates some of your credits may transfer into the bachelor’s degree requirements.
The better news is that if you already have a license and can work independently you can make your own hours to fit around your school schedule, and cut down on your school loans, or can pay your own way and have no loans. Pay your bills on time and start developing a great credit score- you’ll need this later.
Start being mindful of your family medical and mental health history. Learn to eat healthy and start a health regimen that includes physical fitness, and good sleep. Get a full check up with your doctors (primary care, sexual health, and any specialist doctors) at least once per year- and if you don’t get along with your doctors for any reason, find new doctors right away. Good health means spending less days sick in bed, and being your best at exam time, the beach, or at a job interview.
If you’re working and going to school, make the most of your summers and winter breaks to relax, take vacations, and spend time with family and friends. The pressure might be on to hurry up and finish school, but some of the best memories and friends you will have will be people you meet in school. Take care of your relationships and take care of yourself on the breaks. You’ve earned it!
* In your 30’s: This is where life tends to have another major shift. Notice how life is changing for yourself and the people in your life. You or your friends and family may be coupling up, settling down, and working more and relaxing a lot less. There may be one or more children in the picture now, and the need for a bigger home- where your good credit will be needed for a mortgage loan and other things.
If you like your job, then evaluate whether you like where you work, whether you are being compensated appropriately according to your market value, and the organization’s work culture. With less of a social life and more hours on the job, it’s really important that you feel good about where you are, the work you do, the pay and benefits you get, and the people you work with every day. If not, then start looking for a new place to work.
Upgrade your wardrobe. Professionally and personally, a good, smart style can help boost your image and self-esteem. If you invest in yourself, other people will invest more in you too.
Check out whether your current (or prospective) company offers employee health and wellness activities, that might include:
- Lunch and Learn presentations, with healthy potlucks, or offering healthy snacks
- A yearly company health fair; that invites local health practitioners to talk about nutrition and fun wellness activities
- Off site meetings, and in- the- field days, that can also serve as team building opportunities
- Company retreats that have diverse activities- something for everyone to participate in!
- Summer Fridays (half-days or whole days off)
- “Green Offices”: beautiful, eco-friendly designed workspaces that enhance wellbeing at work
- Having a game room in the break room
- Offers flexible work hours, or working remotely one day a week
Join new social groups and make new friends. Sign up for a community game night, house of worship events or activities, a sports league, or as volunteer for a social service or educational organization. Expand your world, professionally and socially- the people you meet can open up new opportunities for you.
Keep up with your self-care and medical checkup appointments. Chances are the likelihood you may be developing similar health issues as your family is increasing, and monitoring your health can help you manage any risks as best you can.
Consider going to see a psychotherapist for a mental health and relationship checkup. Try it out for 3 months, and see if you can benefit from some self-reflection, improved interpersonal skills, or relationship counseling.
Make time for your partner, family and friends. Kids are growing up, partners get busy and lonely, parents are growing old, and time waits for no one. Make more of your best memories now, get more wisdom from your elders, and pass on your wisdom to your kids before they’re off starting their adult lives.
* In your 40’s and 50’s: By now you’ll either be happy with where you are in life or you won’t. Some areas in your life may be more rewarding than others, but if you’re largely unhappy there’s still time to reroute- except now you’ll need to be especially focused to get your life, health, and finances for the long-term on track before retirement. Psychotherapy, individual or couple, can be very helpful here too. Check on your retirement savings periodically, and consult an advisor to learn more about how the whole thing works.
* In your 60’s and older: The retirement phase, for those who choose to retire. More people are realizing that life can be pretty boring without something to do every day, but what you can do may have significantly changed by now for a lot of reasons. There will likely be more health considerations and less physical strength, but a lot more cool adaptive gadgets to play around with to make life more comfortable. Do some research for adaptive medical equipment catalogues; there are many items that can enhance the quality of daily living, and your sex life as well! For short excursions and vacations, explore community group outings and expand your social connections; you could make some friends to invite to holiday dinners and biweekly brunches. In short, less work and more play! Sounds like fun, right?
There you have it, my main thoughts on this topic. For more information and food for thought on this topic, check out what the Gottman Institute, Esther Perel and Brene Brown are saying about wellness in the workplace.
Seeking to enhance health and wellness initiatives and activities at your organization in the Metro New York area? Visit Lifespan Wellness Marriage & Family Therapy PLLC at www.lifespanwellnessmft.com for a list of services, and contact Lifespan for a private consultation or a visit to your organization to discuss ideas today!
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