Heart of Service: Taking Care At Work
Author: Roma G Velasco
IDEAL: Heart of Service: We operate from loving care for ourselves, our clients, and our mission. We do good work in ways that feel good to us and those we partner with.
Before joining Integrated Work in May of 2018, I worked for a local housing authority as a Community Manager for three years where I worked closely with clients who belong to the vulnerable and underserved population. During those times, I have learned so much about myself, personally and professionally. I always say that that job was the most challenging job I have ever had but the most rewarding one. Challenges were plenty and the rewards were few and so I have held on to those small successes and little rewards from getting a client housed to assisting clients in finding the services that they truly need.
Most days it felt like it was one of the hardest jobs I could ever ask for. There were plenty of times when I felt like I have failed so hard even though I knew I have given and tried my best. Some days I am faced with more challenges, one after the other, when I am already physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. There were times when coming to work and leaving work both felt very painful because I knew that the work that I do matters but I also felt like none of my efforts mattered. I have given my heart to my work. I cared a lot about my clients and I tried to express it through my work. I worked to serve my clients. If only all my clients would appreciate and recognize all the work that I do for them, I thought, I will feel better.
I kept giving more of myself to my work and my clients because I thought that would make things better for me and my clients. I would forget and forego even quick bio breaks because “there’s so much work to be done” and “I am a hard-worker”. Then one day my body finally took a hit from how I have been treating it. I got an infection that could have potentially spread through my kidneys if I continued ignoring the pain because “I got so much work to do”.
Did I have to get ill to realize that I have forgotten to take care of myself and my needs? That incident allowed me to not just check myself physically but also how I was dealing with work-related matters mentally and emotionally. My patience was getting very thin, I was smiling less and less at work, I was closing my office doors more often than I really wanted to, and I have broken down in tears during one of our community meetings. I was pulling all the positive energy that I can get from my personal life so I can put it in my work life, giving me a little bit of positive energy left to give to myself and my personal relationships.
I was reminded about “self-care” — from my physiological needs to my psychosocial needs. As much as I care about my work and serving my clients, I also have to take care of myself. Working hard, being exhausted, and feeling pain do not correlate to a job well done, success or accomplishment. Taking some time off does not mean being lazy or running away from my responsibilities. Doing things I love, participating in activities that I enjoy, and having fun is not selfishness. Instead of telling myself that “I need to work harder and longer” to show my clients and the people that I work with that I care about them and the work that we do together, I now tell myself that “If I am at my best physically, mentally, and emotionally, then I can do good work for my clients and do good work with my team”.
Being a part of the Integrated Work team, I am continuously reminded of caring for myself at work and outside work. We have opportunities provided to us that allow us to “take that extra time off”, from wellness days to additional paid holidays that staff can take throughout the year. We support and remind each other that taking a break or taking time off is good and not frowned upon. We do not strive through exhaustion but from being at our best physically, mentally, and emotionally to perform our work daily. Every Monday morning we share with each other our work capacity and the projects that we are working on. But we also provide space for sharing fun and relaxing things that we did.
When we think about “caring”, we sometimes forget to include ourselves on our list of people and matters to provide love and care for. Self-care has become an important part of how I am able to operate at work with heart of service, love and care while leaving me with plenty more to give to my personal life and relationships. I am grateful for being a part of a team that encourages and advocates for self-care because we know that aside from “feeling good when we do good” we also “do good work when we feel good”.