Be the Change You Want to See in the World

Ok, despite the inspirational title, It’s not that kind of post.

This is a post about washing your hands.

Or, at least, that’s where it started.

I’ve been doing my best to avoid getting sick during flu season for the past few years: getting enough sleep, eating (sorta) well, and most importantly — getting the damn flu shot! And in addition to those basics, the other basic is employing proper hand-washing technique [source: the CDC]:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with “Happy Birthday” stuck in my head at work because I’m silently singing it to myself as I lather my hands.

Anyway, yes. I dutifully go through the song twice when washing my hands… except…

Except when there’s someone else in the washroom at the same time. When that happens, I default to my previous hand-washing routine where I just get ’em wet, cover ’em with soap, and rinse ’em off. In and out, lickety split.

Why? Why am I so self-conscious about washing my hands?

Ok, I can tell you why. It’s my dumb social anxiety and my somewhat intense need to not interact with anyone in the washroom. But it’s not so strong it needs to interfere with my Quest for Health. (No shame to anyone for whom this *is* a deal-breaker. Brains gonna brain.)

So this week I resolved to stick to my song and lather lather lather until I can wash those nasty germs away — even if there is someone else there.

And that’s when it hit me: maybe other people are doing the same thing I had been.

I’ve never witnessed anyone at work washing their hands for the proper amount of time. But maybe they’re doing it when I’m not around? Or maybe they’re not, but they know they should be. Either way, acting as an example may trigger my anxiety a bit, but it does that less when I think of it as doing a purposeful demonstration for the good of General Office Health.

I am well aware I over-think things. And there’s every chance no one will even notice except maybe to be like “who’s that weird chick who washes her hands for so long?” But whatever. If I can inspire even one person to wash their hands longer just one time, it could be the time that person would’ve come down with something righteously nasty, and I saved them by also saving myself.

You’re welcome, random co-worker. You’re welcome.

Dear Self

This post is for me, but I suspect I have a few friends/readers out there who might find it helpful, so I’m sharing it publically. 

Dear Self,

It’s ok to be sick. It’s ok to be anxious. It’s ok to be sad.

And when you’ve been these things for weeks and weeks on end, it’s ok to stop for a little while. Taking a break or a sick day is not an admission of failure. It does not mean you’re weak. It’s doing what is required in order to get through and move forward.

Even when you feel like you could do just one more thing, or go into work for just a few hours (which, let’s face it, will turn into the whole day), it’s still important to stop and rest. If you push yourself and keep going, you’re just borrowing that energy and that productivity from tomorrow or the next day.

Yeah, it sucks, and yeah it feels like you’re letting everyone down, but guess what? You’re not. That’s your dumb brain lying to you. Anyone who cares about you or relies on you in any way doesn’t want you to help them out right now if it’s ultimately not healthy for you.

You’re important, but you’re not that important.

So take a chill pill (literally if you have to) and lie down and read that book you’ve been wanting to read Just For Fun. Watch another episode of a TV show you are not watching for a podcast. If your head stops hurting, go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see for weeks.

Rest. Recharge. Recuperate. Get better.

You deserve it.

Yes, really.  You do.