- September 1, 2022
- Posted by: James Haggerty
- Category: Employee Development
We’ve all heard how having a work life and home life balance is important to our wellbeing. The problem with only focusing on establishing a balance is that many of us tend to ignore so many opportunities in the day to bring back that peace of mind. Life, both at work and at home, can be filled with moments of joy and moments of stress. Unfortunately, many of us practice self-care at home, but how often do we think about how to take care of ourselves at work?
Think of your psyche as having several metaphorical buckets that carry your emotions, your work-ethic, your willingness to help others, and more. It is easy to empty our buckets every day in pursuit of doing the best you can at your job. Maybe you empty your bucket a little to help a co-worker get caught up, or you take on extra tasks to help the company succeed. You empty your buckets when you work late or take work home to stay ahead. With all this emptying and all this giving, who or what gives back to you to replenish what’s gone?
The easy answer is to hope that others will help replenish some of what you gave back, but that doesn’t always happen. Instead, there are ways to fill your buckets back up each and every day. Self-care in the workplace can help you not only refill your own buckets, but can promote your own well-being so that you can stay productive and motivated at work.
Why Is Practicing Self-Care in the Workplace Important?
As you know, work can sometimes feel very draining, like returning to “normal” after a pandemic. Often, this sensation comes from a combination of mental, emotional, and physical stress. Most people experience this at some point in their working life, but will simply call it “burnout.” It’s important to remember that every profession comes with its challenges and stresses, and many employees experience burnout. Still, there are a few additionally susceptible professions such as education, social work, and healthcare where you may often be confronted with very emotional or demanding situations that can increase the intensity of burnout more quickly.
Whether you are working in one of these fields or in another, the side effects of burnout are the same: decreased productivity, moodiness, fatigue, and lack of focus to name a few. Unfortunately, while many people understand how home life stresses can impact work, not many people recognize how work life stresses can impact home.
If you are experiencing burnout, then you may find that not only are not at your peak at work, but you may experience a change in your sleep cycle, eating habits, and even your sex drive. When the body feels stress, it moves into survival mode and focuses blood flow to areas that it deems are necessary for the immediate future. As you can see, while temporary stress happens, long-term stresses from a job can have lasting impacts, so find ways to promote long-term happiness.
Self-care acts as a combatant to these symptoms. In fact, employee self-care routines at work can not only increase your production, but also increase your overall enjoyment of the job. The World Health Organization defines self-care as “what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness.” It is important to incorporate self-care into your daily work routine so that you can prevent burnout before it even happens.
Ways to Practice Self Care at Work
Just as we all have our own ways of managing “me time” at home, practicing self-care at work can look different for everyone. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate healthy self-care habits into your daily work routine.
Make Health a Priority
Taking care of your physical health can help to maintain your mental health—and it just plain feels good. There are a few simple ways that you can do this:
- When you have a break, take a walk. Taking 15 minutes a day to stretch your legs with a good walk can re-energize your body. If you have the choice between the stairs and the elevator, consider the stairs
- We all need that snack to help get us through the day. Plan ahead and pack a healthy snack from home. Sure it’s ok to indulge from time to time, but find some healthier options for your day-to-day.
- Take stretch breaks regularly. It can be easy to just sit at a desk all day, wrapped up in work. In the world of phones and smartwatches with alarms, it can be just as easy to set a reminder that standing and stretching is ok, too.
- Some mental health professionals use the acronym HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Monitoring your eating and drinking habits is a good way to prevent these symptoms. When you begin feeling burnt out, “halt” your day to make sure you have addressed these four major needs.
Change the Way You Look at Your Work
Take time to consider whether you are a perfectionist in your craft. You may want everything you produce at work to stand out and be error free. The reality is that sometimes what you see as imperfect or as an error is really not that bad. You can often be your own worst critic.
- Think about the details you may be stuck on. Instead of overthinking it, take a step back and focus on another part of your work. Maybe the detail is unnecessary and wouldn’t change the outcome. Taking the focus off the details can create some clarity the next time you revisit.
- If you are in a situation where you can determine whether the results are good enough to accept from someone else, then maybe it’s ok to tell yourself that it is also good enough for you.
- Understand that criticism and feedback are a part of any job, and both are rarely personal. These moments are opportunities for growth, not opportunities to belittle or put yourself down because your work wasn’t good enough.
Think about the weekends when you can’t wait to spend time outside. The energy of the sun and the lush peace of nature can be rejuvenating, both literally and figuratively.
- Breathing fresh air has the ability to clear the mind. The breeze that brings in that freshness seems to take stress away with it. Try to spend lunch outside or simply schedule a few minutes a week to take a break from your desk.
- Instead of listening to the hum of lights, copy machines, or keys on a keyboard, listening to the sounds of nature can have a calming effect. Even if nature is in the middle of the city, sounds that break the monotony of the work environment can help to relax the mind in order for it to refocus.
You Deserve to be Celebrated
Sometimes, you may feel you deserve recognition for your work beyond your paycheck, but you simply don’t receive it. All the extra hours you may have put in on a project or accomplishing a task that was difficult for you should be recognized. Even if you haven’t recently completed a significant project, there are always opportunities to celebrate yourself.
- Take care not to compare yourself to others. Acknowledge what you do and the abilities you have. It’s easy to get caught up in “imposter syndrome,” where you begin to doubt those abilities and feel like you don’t deserve the things you’ve achieved. You matter, you are valued, and you do a great job; keep reminding yourself every day.
- Collect email messages or notes that you have received from your colleagues acknowledging positivity in your job. When you face a challenging moment and you need a pick-me-up, look through the collection and remind yourself of all your accomplishments.
Update Your Workspace
Maintaining an organized, clean workspace can be an effective way of combating stress and anxiety. When you have a clear workspace, you can create a clear mind to focus on the tasks that are truly important.
- Put up images, artwork or pictures that inspire you. Maybe they are of your family or just quotes that bring you comfort. Consider changing them every so often so they don’t just blend into the background, but become an active part of your day.
- Work with your employer to acquire necessities that keep your workspace looking and feeling the way you want it. If there are supplies that can help you organize and feel as though you have a better flow at your desk, then ask for them. Both you and your employer will benefit from your organized space.
You Deserve to Be Your Own Priority
These ideas are just a few of the many ways that you can promote self-care for yourself at work. There are opportunities everywhere, especially if you’re creative. For example, you could start a yoga group with coworkers or introduce mindfulness breaks in which you meditate for just a few minutes—the possibilities are endless. As employers begin to recognize the importance of positive mental health, as well, many are implementing programs that can help employees.
Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional
Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.