Self-care can feel like a fantasy, especially for marginalized people in this industry. Maybe you just earned your degree, and you’re getting ready to tackle your first ‘real’ job, or you’re anxious about what a career in STEM might look like. Either way, you’ve undoubtedly felt some pressure to “prove” that you have what it takes. In such a male-dominated field, you might feel like you have to put in constant overtime, even sacrificing your health and wellness, but it doesn’t have to be that way!
It’s easy to give in to the mindset that we have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get half as far, and even easier to talk ourselves out of critical rest and care in the pursuit of success. In fact, women and non-binary people may be at a higher risk for Imposter Syndrome, which describes unfounded feelings of inadequacy—or being a ‘fraud’—in life and the workplace. A lack of self-care can also lead to consequences like isolation, depression, and anxiety, as well as setting a poor habits for how we approach our careers moving forward. It can also set a negative example for other women and nonbinary folk as they enter the field alongside you, rather than working together and lifting each other up.
Just because self-care is important doesn’t make it easy. It takes time and practice. We’ve compiled a few steps to help you on your journey to wellness and self-care–try some of these tips to help yourself get started practicing daily self-care!
Step One: Identify Your Stress
Sometimes stress can sneak up on us in unexpected ways, even if we don’t necessarily ‘feel’ stressed. Physical symptoms, like toothaches, irregular menstrual cycles, muscle soreness, and even excess thirst, can all be sneaky signs of stress in our lives. By keeping track of the way we feel on a daily basis, it can be easier to spot these symptoms early on, before they lead to bigger problems. Keeping a journal can help you to have a record of your thoughts, feelings, and stress levels throughout the day.
It is also important, once you’ve assessed your stress level, to identify what is causing you stress. Most of the time, you might find that your stress actually has a combination of factors, like an unbalanced workload, poor sleep schedule, and trouble in interpersonal relationships. By identifying these factors individually, it becomes easier to begin dealing with them.
Step Two: Respond With (Radical) Self-Kindness
Okay, now that you know where your stress is coming from, you need to do something about it–but what? Self-care is more than just bubble baths and fancy lotions (although those things also have their place). If you want to get to feeling better and overcoming your feelings of Imposter Syndrome, you might need to invest in other forms of self-care as well.
Self-care can look like a lot of things; maybe you make time to try a new hobby, finally start meal-prepping, or try therapy online. Even just carving out an hour to spend time with a close friend, putting your phone on airplane mode before bed, or getting your hair done could help you to see positive change. Whatever you decide to do, you should know that there’s not a right and wrong way to practice self-care. Instead, you should focus on doing more of what makes you feel happy, refreshed, supported, and nourished–whatever that means to you!
Step Three: Help Others!
Self-care is important because it reminds us of how worthy we are and how much we have to offer—if you learn to find balance and freedom from Imposter Syndrome, you can share that knowledge with others! Some great ways to help the amazing women and nonbinary people in your life who might also be struggling include sharing your own experiences in self-care, encouraging others to speak out about toxic workplace cultures, and making space and time to engage meaningfully with your community outside of work.
It can be really meaningful and rejuvenating to engage in service and community aid, especially if it gives you a chance to speak to others who might be going through some of the same things you are experiencing. Long term, these acts of service can hopefully help to push us forward into a time when STEM doesn’t pose these kinds of challenges, and where everyone can make great innovations together while being treated equitably—in the workplace and beyond.