Your Mental Health is YOUR responsibility!
As Private Service Professionals, we take great pride in what we do and tend to hold ourselves to a higher work standard than a vast majority of others, at least in our minds. But our industry is less of a “job” or “work” and more of a vocation, a passion, or as I like to call it “a deep seeded psychological issue that drives us to find joy in the service of others.” It’s easy to lose yourself in the search for approval or in the pursuit of knowing you gave everything to the job and earned the Principal’s trust, respect and your paycheck. What you will never stop are the calls, texts, and requests. It is up to you, the Professional, to manage your time and your own health.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily hustle of a job you love, but if COVID-19 taught us anything about isolation, it’s that over time, isolation has a negative impact on society and human behavior. I could cite Tulane University’s study on the effects of social isolation, but I’ll just point you to the news headlines reporting someone else that forgot to behave like a decent human being.
Socializing can have a positive impact on your mental health, especially in such an isolating industry. We all need a safe space where we can decompress and connect with people who understand how we think and know what not to ask.
As Private Service Professionals (PSPs), we are, above all, professionals. Perhaps more so than others, we leave the stressors of our home lives behind to perform our professional duties of ensuring that our Principal’s stressors don’t include the minutia that we leave behind in our own lives. We drive into the chaos with great vigor and zeal, the Conductor unwaveringly set to create a symphony. We ‘leave it all on the field’ and head home to grab the laptop to get admin work done while we eat dinner, watch TV, have conversations with our two- and four-legged companions, and try to find time to pay our own bills before falling asleep with one hand on the space key, the phone in the other and drool running down our chin. How are we supposed to find time for you? Again it is up to you, the professional, to draw the boundaries. Will some boundaries cause you to lose your job? Maybe, but do you really want that job?
Occasionally, you find a Principal that doesn’t want or allow their PSPs to network or socialize with colleagues after working hours, some even putting into their Non-Disclosure Agreements. In the corporate world, this would never be acceptable. They can tell you what you cannot say, but they cannot tell you where not to say it. You are a Private Service Professional, not a Private Servant. Always remember that you represent your principal wherever you go and should act with decorum. But, your off-hours are your own; short of immoral or unethical behavior, what you do with those hours is your business. Principals trust their PSPs with their homes, family members, and valuables. They also have to trust us not to share confidential information. While sharing sensitive information or gossiping can be a concern of a Principal who has had a rough experience, more often than not, I find that those PSPs who are instructed to avoid networking groups are being compensated below industry standards and performing the work of two or more people.
Why Networking & Socializing are Important
Social interaction is the currency of all humanity, minted at birth and exchanged throughout our lives. A recent TEDx talk speaks about the importance of socialization and mental health with vital insights like:
- 1 in 10 people outside of mental health settings reports feeling socially isolated.
- 7 in 10 people struggling with mental health issues report feeling socially isolated.
- Lack of socialization creates episodes of depression or life setbacks last longer and take longer to recover.
There are numerous benefits of socialization, especially how it improves mental health and enhances your work and home environments. Happy people are healthy people. That’s why good leaders should encourage their staff to network and cultivate resources that benefit their work environment and mental health.
Our jobs can be insanely stressful. We regularly need to meet the demands of someone that rarely hears the word “No.” They have an idea and/or want in their head, an often unattainable one by any human standard, but not to us. A Private Service Professional’s job is to make it happen… period. Harvard Health Publishing posted an article about protecting your brain from stress, where they state, “Scientists have seen changes in how the brain processes information when people experience either real-life stress or stress manufactured in a research setting. Either type of stress seems to interfere with cognition, attention, and memory,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, Chief Scientific Officer of McLean Hospital.
With stress, trouble sleeping is bound to follow. With all these amazing characteristics comes a drive to get it done. Where we fail is when the requests add up to 30+ days without a day off, and you’ve put in no fewer than 12 hours each day. I can assure you that after the first 10 days, your efficiency will have dropped substantially and your ability to make informed decisions has suddenly taken longer than it normally would. The National Institute of Health did a study comparing the relative effects of performance with sleep deprivation and alcohol. We’ve also heard it from many other sources; driving tired is just as bad as driving impaired.
So do you really think you are doing your principals a favor by working yourself into stupid decisions? No! You’re Not! Dozens of studies show that stress and sleep deprivation have a direct impact on your ability to make decisions, especially in the event of an emergency, when your principal needs you at your best. Cambridge Cognition posted on their blog, “Atrophy of brain regions, resulting from repeated exposure to stressful conditions, has a cognitive cost. Indeed, working memory, attention, response inhibition, and cognitive flexibility have all been found to be impaired by stress (Girotti et al., 2017). At work, impairments in these domains translate to a reduced ability to concentrate, control our impulses, remember and plan”
Don’t Skip Brain Day
With all the benefits that networking and socializing bring to your mental health, there’s no good reason to skip brain day. However, if you are trapped in an environment that feels more like conscription than service, it’s time to reach out to more experienced PSPs full of good advice.
Private Service is a welcoming world full of people who care about the job as much as you do. Find them, connect with them, and reach up while you are reaching down.
But most of all remember that you can’t take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Medice, cura te ipsum: Physician, cure thyself.
- Always focus on staying and making things work, but also be prepared to walk off the job. Have your resume ready, stay in touch with your preferred recruiters, have your savings account padded with 6 months of coverage, and keep up on your documentation so that you can hand everything off at a moment’s notice. This will give you the confidence to insist on that day off you haven’t seen in over a month.
- Time Boundaries can be set by setting your phone to activate DND mode at 9:30 pm at night and turn off at 7:30 am. Set your principals and your family as VIPs in your contact list. If set up properly, calls from the VIP will ring through, but texts won’t. “Call in the event of an emergency, text when it’s something that can be dealt with the next day.”
- Join one or all of the social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Easemakers, and connect with other professionals.
- Post on one of those sites that you want to get together for coffee or a drink. “I will be at XYZ from 6 pm – 8 pm; I’d love to share a drink with a fellow PSP.”
- Reach out to the networking group(s) you belong to and encourage them to start coordinating meetings in your area. Better yet, offer to head it up!
- Tune into ClubHouse on Thursdays at 6:30 pm Central/7:30 pm Eastern. Latricia Friend hosts a room where she and I discuss various topics, yours can be one that we discuss as being from an anonymous source.
- Tune into the EaseMakers’ and/or Philippa Smith’s podcasts on your fellow PSP’s struggles and how they were able to overcome them.