Self-Support Tools

I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I've had a hell of a few weeks. It feels like when it rains, it pours, and it can be so difficult to remember kindness—both for myself, and the people that I work with in the inbox every day.

When I read the prompt for this week's Support Driven #challenge, Tools, the first thing I thought was "Well. I don't use any of those. I guess this week wasn't meant to be the week I started in on this anyway." But then I thought deeper on one of the key tenets that I try to remind my team of every day: support is more than just being in the queue. 

Support, in and of itself, is empathy. As a support agent, you need to be emotionally ready every day to receive whatever the world puts out for you, and you need to be capable of handling that burden. You must handle it, otherwise it will crush you.

Yikes, that's a heavy start, Mercer.

Well, yes, but it's true. We get paid to be empathetic, to feel and take on the problems of everyone else as our own. Even just today I reminded my team of that, and urged them to take an hour or so away from their computer, away from Twitter, Facebook, Think Pieces, and just be quiet in their own minds without the influence of others' emotions. Because it's so important to give yourself the space and to support yourself before you help others.

Anyway, long intro. Here are some tools that I use for self-care and self-support every day that prime me to do excellent work in the queue:

A Regular Schedule

I try to keep to the same schedule everyday. I find that knowing what is coming, especially with the tumultuous nature of support, helps me to feel even-keeled and steady. In all transparency, I am bipolar, and so that was the original motive for this.

I try to get the same amount of sleep each night, and I try to wake up at the same time every day. I set three alarms. The first one wakes me up, and tells me it's time to roll over and snuggle my husband. The second one tells me that it's time for him to roll over and snuggle me. The last one tells me it's actually time to get up. This helps me wake up slowly, and sort out my thoughts for the day.

After that, I get up and meditate. Brush my teeth, wash my face, walk my dog, eat breakfast.

I end work at the same time every day, unless something has happened that requires me to stay late and help. I can count on this punctuation, and my brain now knows that, at that time, it can go from being in work/help mode to self-help/self-care mode instead. Finding this separation between work and home is so important to me not only because of working in support, but also working entirely remotely.

A Journal

I write in a journal every night. Every night. No excuses. Even if the journal entry is "Today was hard. Will write more tomorrow. Going to bed now." I try to write down and acknowledge how the day went and what I did. This helps with unpacking, and allows me to "get things off my chest" in a fruitful way that isn't just complaining. My journal is also a place where I can go and share things that maybe I don't want to say out into the universe, but I still need to say somewhere.

A Hobby/Exercise

I do yoga every day. Whether I teach it, take a class, or just think about sequencing a new class, it is a thing that I can use my brain to do that is not work. I also play video games, read, and make things with my hands. That being said, finding something that you really devote all of yourself to while doing it is important. If you play Magic: the Gathering and, while you are doing it, all you think about is M:tG, then perfect. But if you find your mind starting to creep back to the things that you're worried about, your anxieties and insecurities, you need to find something else.

I know that for the hour that I am teaching or taking, I am only thinking about that one thing. My brain gets a chance to shut off and reset.

A Reminder/Mantra

I have a mantra tattooed on my forearm. Om Namah Shivaya. Translated it means: I invoke Shiva's Name, or I honor the Shiva (divinity) inside of myself. I use this every day to meditate, but also try to think on it when ever I'm having a tough time. I think that having something nearby, whether that be a token of someone who you care about, or just a picture that reminds you of a positive time in your life, can be a huge impact on days when you need to remember to breath, and that things will all be okay.

I realize that this may not give you some actionable new advice to implement a hotkey that will make your support 10x faster, and these might not even be things that fit into your day-to-day life. What I can say, though, is that you need to take care of yourself. You need to give yourself the time to breath and defrag from the work that you do every day. This is how I do it. Being centered and able to step away from the fray of the queue is just as important to providing excellent support as being able to type 125 words per minute is.