Imagine a moment of self-care.
Most likely, it didn’t happen at work.
Self-care is usually reserved for time spent outside of work – be it a morning jog or a quiet evening spent on a good book.
Rather than treating self-care as a separate activity from work, it is vital to integrate it into your daily routine. This type of integration can help enhance your mental and physical health and better handle stress and build resilience.
Unfortunately, many people view self-care as a luxury rather than a priority. Consequently, they are left feeling overwhelmed, tired, and ill-equipped to handle life’s inevitable challenges. However, when practiced diligently, self-care will promote a proactive approach to our well-being.
What is self-care?
Self-care includes habits and practices we choose to do regularly to maintain and enhance mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Self-care is a daily activity of “establishing and maintaining” your health, as defined by the World Health Organization.
It is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can’t eliminate. When you’ve taken steps to care for your mind and body, it will better equip you to live your best life!
The cost of workplace stress
Work stress causes employees and employers to become less healthy over time. Reduced productivity, over-scheduling, on-the-job exhaustion, increased sick days, poor judgment, moodiness that impairs teamwork, and burnout are all consequences of self-neglect.
The benefits of self-care at work are vastly undermined. There is an underlying assumption that we must always be working in a society that promotes busyness. As a result, we may feel as though we don’t have time for self-care. Setting aside time for ourselves, while it may seem counterintuitive, really makes us more productive. According to research, consistent and intentional self-care not only decreases stress and prevents burnout but also increases concentration and productivity at work, allowing us to refocus.
Where work stress causes heart and digestive problems, weight gain, burnout, a lack of attention, moodiness or depression, and poor performance, self-care improves brain and body health, which can transfer to the workplace.
Signs you haven’t made self-care your priority
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms of self-neglect?
- You’re on autopilot: You’re on autopilot, and your day is a haze. You’re going through the motions with no creativity, purpose, or delight in your actions.
- Other people’s needs come before yours: You are constantly putting others first before yourself and end up feeling like you have nothing left to give.
- Every day feels like playing catch-up: You feel like you’re always behind on your commitments and can’t seem to catch up. You’re agitated and overwhelmed as a result of this frantic pace.
- Your mind swings between haze and chaos: Some days, you feel as though your mind is engulfed in a dense fog. On other days, your mind seems to be running at a thousand miles per hour.
- You’re physically burned out: Chronic stress can lead to body aches, muscle strain, and low energy. Your mental and emotional exhaustion gets manifested as physical symptoms. Trapped in autopilot mode, we hardly recognize mental fatigue and muscle tension until it’s too late.
- You get sick more often: It shows in our overall health when we don’t take proper care of ourselves. An overworked immune system makes you vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.
How to Practice Self Care at Work
Here’s the thing: our daily lives are intricately linked to our jobs. Because we spend roughly a third of our lives at work, putting off self-care is no longer an option.
Self-care is a personal experience, and it has to be curated individually to fit your needs and resources. Self-care is a combination of simple activities that have the power to enhance physical and mental health. Here are some ideas to help you plan your self-care at work:
1. Physical self-care:
Drink water throughout the day. Dehydration can cause headaches, memory loss, and even lower job productivity. Hydration is important for boosting metabolism and reducing weariness during the day.
Bring nutritious snacks to work. Eating well can improve your mood and make you feel lighter and more energized.
Exercise at work. Not cardio or core strengthening, but moderate physical activities like walking, stretching, taking the stairs, and so on. Sone of the benefits of exercising at work include reduced stress, improved brainpower, better memory, increased energy, and improved creativity.
Update your workspace. The atmosphere we work in can have a big impact on our productivity. Cleaning up your workplace will give you better mental clarity. Place pictures, artwork, or images that inspire you or remind you of the people and things that matter in your life on your walls. Your work environment should be a reflection of your best self.
2. Emotional self-care
Keep your inner critic at bay. We are typically the harshest critics of ourselves. When the pressures of accountability or perfectionism begin to wear you down, instead of criticizing yourself, try asking yourself, “What would I say to a colleague or friend in the same situation?” You can create the ideal psychological conditions to get through moments of rumination or self-doubt more quickly if you keep your internal critic at bay.
Establish boundaries with your coworkers and boss – You are not obligated to participate in conversations or events that make you uncomfortable. Say no to tasks or projects that can overwhelm you – Taking on too much work can lead to burnout, both emotionally and physically.
3. Social self-care
Make sure healthy and supportive relationships surround you. Keep track of who energizes you and who drains you of it.
The same can be said for your personal relationships. Don’t let work drive you to disregard the ones who matter most to you. Call friends and loved ones during breaks or during your commute, and carve out plenty of time outside of work to nurture relationships.
Seek help when you need it. Your coworkers and supervisor are there for you when you need them, and they may be a valuable resource to overcome your setbacks.
A new direction for self-care in the workplace
Modeling self-care behavior at work helps create a culture of self-care in the workplace. HR professionals can talk about the significance of mental wellness, but if their colleagues see that they aren’t exercising self-care themselves, they won’t. One of the most significant forces in ensuring individuals take care of their own mental health is effective role modeling from leaders and HR professionals.
If your company is experiencing absenteeism, employee disengagement, or low productivity, self-care initiatives may be a part of the answer. Encourage your employees to invest their time and resources in taking care of themselves. Ultimately, self-care can enhance the overall health of the organization!
Ezhil Meena, Founder – The Good Talk, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Women’s Christian College, Chennai, Consultant Psychologist – Kelp HR, Research Scholar, Counselling Psychologist. A passionate psychologist aiming at providing accessible and affordable mental health services to everybody. Trained in various modes of psychotherapy, Ezhil uses scientific, evidence-based interventions in her services. She conducts regular mental wellness sessions (for public and for organisations), support groups, and curates quality mental health content in the form of blogs and posters. She loves travelling, reading, and exploring novel experiences.