As editors, we tend to comfort ourselves by thinking that we have everything under control, because what is editing? It’s controlling the words. But control is an illusion. Style guides change. Our lives change. Life changes greatly affect the quality of our editing and our lives.
What life changes might you expect?
- Your financial situation changes.
- You lose or find a life partner.
- You become a parent, or your child grows up and moves out.
- You become a caregiver to a partner or family member.
- You move house, maybe even across the world.
- You lose a major client or get laid off.
- You sustain a temporary or permanent physical or mental disability.
- You must learn a new skill.
- Your endurance level changes because you’re ill or aging.
- You take on too much work and too many personal tasks.
How can you make things easier on yourself?
Acknowledge that you are experiencing changes. Name them. Talk with family, friends and colleagues about them. I have been self-employed for 24 years now, but I found it necessary to relearn recently how very much I am not alone. I vented in a private online discussion group and realized how very like my colleagues I am. They gave me love and reassured me and shared their own stories. That experience boosted my endurance level so much.
Do some self-talk. You are not required to know everything, and it’s okay if you need to take a break when you’re overwhelmed. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. If your life situation has changed, acknowledge it and figure out ways to deal with it. As one colleague said to me, “For a long time it was mostly your nuclear family that needed your attention during the day. Now there is your granddaughter, your daughter-in-law, and your [elderly] mother-in-law’s growing needs. Also, you’re changing as you grow older, as we all do. You may find that you need to make adjustments you didn’t need to make before. Please give yourself permission to do so.”
Take care of your body and mind. Don’t ignore worrisome physical conditions. Make the time to get health care. Work with a therapist. Eat foods that will keep you healthier, and drink lots of fluids, but don’t forget to occasionally reward yourself with a small treat. Take frequent breaks from editing and move around. Find ways to play and make yourself smile. Go visit a friend. Take a nap. Go outdoors for a little sunlight, even when you’re facing a deadline. Listen to music that uplifts you. Stop trying to multitask. Get a good night’s sleep.
Get help. Maybe a colleague can edit a pesky reference list for you. Ask a housemate to take care of some tasks for you. Call or visit someone who will be straightforward when you need to hear a hard truth. Get some hugs or a foot massage. Ask a neighbour to move some heavy furniture so that your office feels more spacious. Get an extension on a project deadline if you need to, and don’t make yourself feel guilty about it. Ask colleagues how they handled a tricky situation similar to the one you’re facing. Ask for quiet in your workspace.
You can do this.
How do you ensure that you’re taking care of yourself? Share your stories in the comments below.
Previous post by Katharine O’Moore Klopf: How to Become a Medical Editor.
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