I'm an introvert who works in the service industry. Gaming is my coping mechanism. After a long shift and dealing with every type of horrible person ever, I want nothing more than to disappear into my Xbox. It keeps me sane. I waste hours every night just gaming, but my life never changes. There are other things I want to do with my life, but after a long day, all I want to do is disappear. I feel like I'm just going to do this until I die and never accomplish anything. Sometimes, I think that giving up gaming might help me do extra things and get out of this rut. But the idea of not gaming fills me with dread. Help?
Let's start with some re-framing: self care is not a waste of time. Just because capitalism doesn't deem it "productive," does not erase its value. Your well-being matters! It sounds like your current job is particularly draining, and if you were to take gaming out of the equation, you would still need down time. Your brain would choose something else to recharge your batteries. The simple truth is that you deserve to praise yourself: you are getting up and working every day, contributing to your life and the lives of others. You are holding down a highly demanding job under less than ideal circumstances. That is hard, and you are doing it!
That does not mean there is no room for improvement, but I recommend incremental steps that will not overwhelm your already stretched-thin energy level. To start, take a look at mindfulness. When we take a moment to acknowledge what we're doing, we can allow it to be more healing. Before you start gaming, give yourself a couple of minutes of calm. You might want to put on some music or a soundscape. Just sit with your feelings and breathe normally. Allow yourself to feel good about getting through your shift. Praise yourself for taking the time to care for yourself. Set an intention: what game will you play; how long will you play? I get the sense that right now you feel shame—you don't have to. Gaming is allowing you to be productive at work tomorrow. Honor that.
Of course, self care can take a number of forms, many of which can improve your situation while still leaving room for gaming or other evening recreation. Sleep, diet, and exercise are all big contributors to mood and can have a huge net-positive impact on the amount of energy you have. It sounds paradoxical, but devoting time to a healthier lifestyle will actually create more time and energy in the long run. You may also want to consider getting a light therapy lamp. Sunlight influences our well-being, and many service industry jobs confine you indoors with minimal exposure to the sun during the day.
Once you start re-framing your self care, I think you'll find some time open up. Perhaps as you reflect one evening, you may decide to watch a movie rather than play a game, or take a walk outside, or go to bed earlier. None of these are inherently better, but may simply fit your needs that evening in a better way. As your self care expands, as you feel more energy and space, that's when you can start thinking about how to move from surviving to thriving. That's when you can focus on improving your overall situation.
My gut tells me you might need to explore a different job, something where you interface with fewer people during the day. Your mind might be throwing up all sorts of errors at this notion: I don't have the savings I need to make a career jump! I don't have the experience! I don't have the right contacts to help me! I don't know what else I could do for work! This is normal; healthy, even. It can be very easy to feel trapped into one career. You probably think of yourself as someone who works in the service industry. If you have been a bartender or waiter your whole life, for example, the thought of finding an office job probably fills you with dread. It is an unknown, after all, so it is easy for our minds to dismiss it. Our brains are wired to choose miserable-but-manageable "knowns" over "unknowns," even with an upside. There is value is exploring occupations more in line with your temperament. Even if you ultimately choose to stay where you are, you will do so from a healthy and informed place.
This is all down the road, though. For now, focus on taking steps to re-frame the way you think about your self care, and then creating a small amount of mental breathing room to allow for expanded choices. The rest will be far more approachable with a broader foundation of care.
I want to open this up to the community: How do you restore your energy and take care of yourself after a long, hard day? What gives you the energy to keep moving forward?
As always, you can send your quandaries to [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!