Self-care is a hot topic of conversation right now in the world of workplace mental health. But often, we misunderstand what self-care really is. This misunderstanding can prevent us from practicing self-care as easily as we could. Work-life balance is a modern term discussed at many organization today.
Try to reframe the way you think about self-care. Self-care doesn’t have to be about extravagant luxuries like taking the whole day off or pampering yourself at a spa. You can absolutely do those things if they make you feel good, but try to think of self-care as something that’s more basic.
Self-care is simply about giving yourself the things you need to be well – physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. What looks like self-care for one person will be very different from what it looks like for another. That’s because self-care is about you – as a unique individual. Every individual has their own work-life balance calibrations so be sure to spend time thinking about what your personal settings may be.
Although we do have some research to guide us about what helps human beings, in general, be happy and well, it’s also important to take into account your unique personality and needs.
Here are 7 easy, evidence-based ways to weave self-care into your workday – but this list doesn’t have to be a strict guide. Make it your own!
Many of us work in environments where it’s go, go, go. One important way to take care of yourself at work is to remember to take breaks just to be. Big breaks like vacations are important, but you don’t need to wait for a vacation to take a break.
Take moments throughout your day to simply sit with yourself. Even the busiest executives can sneak a few seconds out of their day, and doing so could make the difference between wellness and burnout.
You can set an alarm to remind yourself to disconnect. When the bell goes off, connect with yourself. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take one to three mindful breaths. While you’re taking these breaths, try to focus only on your breathing. In these moments, there is nothing else to worry about – simply notice your breath going in and out.
This is a simple mindfulness practice that can be very powerful in helping you to reclaim some of your time and energy at work. This will most likely lead to an improved work-life balance in your day-to-day.
Take a lap
You’ve probably heard this already, but physical movement is one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health. Sometimes, a lap around the block might be what you need to refresh your mind and feel ready to tackle the day.
Although aerobic exercise is what’s most commonly linked to better health in the research, even a short walk can boost your mood. This leads to improved work-life balance.
Whenever you get the chance, get away from your workspace – whether that’s a shared office or your bedroom – to take a walk outside. Bonus points if you can get yourself into nature; spending time in green spaces has also been found to improve mental health.
Remember your victories
Self-care is about taking care of and nurturing yourself the way you would a loved one. Imagine a loved one who had a small accomplishment at work – how would you react? If you’re like most people, you’d probably congratulate them. You’d express how proud you are of them, and how much they deserve their success.
In the same way, remember your own victories – both at work and beyond. What have you accomplished this week? What have you done well? Even if you feel like you’ve had the worst week of your life, try to give yourself some credit and grace. Talk to yourself as you would a dear friend. Give yourself gentle encouragement. A little encouragement will go a long way for a healthy work-life balance.
For example, tell yourself: “I was really exhausted this week because my son was sick and I had to work late to meet deadlines. But I didn’t fall apart, and I didn’t snap at anyone. I did a great job balancing everything even when it felt impossible.”
Beautify your space
A cluttered desk can be a sign of genius and creativity, according to some research – but it can also be distracting and cause unnecessary stress. If you’ve found yourself with a messy workspace, and you don’t find that it helps you work more effectively, then prioritize organizing your space. This can be a wonderful gift to yourself and a great way to practice self-care.
Even if you don’t mind clutter, you can create a workspace that makes you feel calm and happy. For example, maybe you can pick some wildflowers to put in a vase by the windowsill. Maybe certain music puts you in a calm mood. Turning your workspace into a place you enjoy being is a powerful way to reduce stress and take care of your physical and mental health. A clean workplace leads to a healthier work-life balance.
One important aspect of self-care is being aware of what you need when you need it. But so often, we become so busy that we forget to check in with ourselves.
Make sure you’re doing self-assessments on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be anything formal – just reflect on how you’re feeling. How tired are you, on a scale of 1 to 10? How happy or fulfilled are you?
Ask yourself these questions. Notice the signs that you’re in need of some extra care, and slow down when your body is telling you you need to.
Take the pressure off
If we’re not careful, “self-care” can become just another task on our list – a chore. Workplace self-care is a hot topic of conversation, and managers everywhere may feel pressured to ensure that their employees are taking care of themselves. Workers might feel a constant pressure to practice self-care, on top of everything else they need to do.
Don’t “should” yourself when it comes to self-care. In other words, self-care is something that can be easily woven into your day. It can become a positive routine. You may need to prioritize and carve out time for it at first, but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to set aside as much time for self-care as you’d like.
Try to think of self-care as something that you want to do rather than “should” do. Self-care isn’t a chore. It’s a necessity to have healthy work-life balance.
Use your free mental health services
Do you know what mental health services your employer offers? Many of us have access to free services that we don’t even know about.
For example, if your employer is a MINES & Associates client, you can access free and confidential counseling with licensed professionals 24/7 from the comfort of your own home. You might have other services like insurance that covers a therapist in your region, or access to a wellness app.
Dig into what you have available to you, and take full advantage of all mental health resources. Mental health treatment and counseling aren’t just for when you’re facing a crisis – it is a powerful tool to prevent mental health problems from coming up in the first place while provided an improved work-life balance.
If you’re a MINES & Associates client, then you can learn more about your Employee Assistance Program here.
Happy International Self-Care Day!
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team