The term self care is a bit of a buzzword these days. Everywhere you look, you’ll find routines and practices for how to understand and pay better attention to your body’s physical and emotional needs. But for many of us, the ability to take time to ourselves is limited by work. We need to be available to our coworkers nearly all the time – even if we work from home.
This raises the question, how can we practice self-care at work? Do we have different self-care needs in a professional setting than we do in our personal lives? And how do we make the time for self-care when so many people depend on us?
Professional self care is any kind of self-care practice that helps you destress, improves your relationship with your coworkers, or increases productivity. Things like setting professional boundaries, taking care of your personal well-being, and practicing self-advocacy at work are the keys to a good professional self-care routine.
Setting professional self care boundaries
The ability to set professional boundaries for yourself is a very important aspect of professional self-care. The key to setting good boundaries is being able to understand and communicate your needs to those around you in a firm but respectful way.
Some examples of professional boundaries are:
- Silencing work notifications after work hours.
- Saying “I won’t be able to do that by today, but I can get it in by the end of the week”.
- Being clear about how much work you are able to get done, and refusing extra tasks that would require you to go over that limit.
- Taking your lunch break outside of the office to avoid getting sucked back into work.
Making your boundaries known at work can be intimidating. This is especially true when they involve saying “no” to someone who may hold a more senior position than you. But learning to say “no” when you need to is one of the best things you can do for your productivity, stress, and overall mental well-being.
Another method of setting boundaries at work is by advocating for yourself within the workplace. A workplace that supports self-advocacy and encourages people to speak up for themselves is indicative of a healthy work environment. Self-advocacy can take many forms, but it all comes down to you knowing both your individual worth and the worth of your team, and ensuring that your voices are heard. Self-advocacy is therefore an important part of not only setting, but maintaining professional boundaries for yourself.
You are responsible for your own well-being
As an office-based employee, keeping your body physically active and well-nourished is key to staying alert, focused, and in a positive mood each day. These days, it is very common to find workplaces that actively promote good physical health. Some offer yoga classes, weekly meditation sessions, lunch programs that promote healthy eating, or even opportunities to partake in organized sports. If these options are available to you, start taking advantage of them. Even if it’s just once or twice a week, depending on your schedule, these can be a great way of keeping on top of your health while at work.
Avoid burnout by keeping tabs on your own health
Another key aspect of taking care of your wellbeing at work is understanding the signs of burnout. You should be on the lookout for them in your day-to-day work. It is easy to ignore signs of burnout when we are stressed; we find ourselves thinking things like, “just one more week” or “I just have to keep going until the end of the quarter, and then I can rest”. This is a dangerous mindset to find yourself in. It can lead to more long-term mental and physical problems such as depression, anxiety, feeling sick, and having trouble sleeping. Therefore, it is important not to be too hard on ourselves when things get stressful.
Pay attention to your mindset
Adjusting your mindset is one of the easiest ways to exercise self-care in a professional setting. When work gets stressful, it’s easy to get caught up in the piling demands and lose sight of our goals. We lose our focus and our productivity declines. This only adds to our stress.
When this happens, take a step back from your work and re-evaluate your mindset. Take some time to eat a snack. Try meditating to prepare yourself for a perspective reset. Then, to achieve clarity, try writing down your tasks, your goals, and your blockers. Organizing your thoughts can help bring some perspective back and allow you to focus on the most important tasks without worrying about what you might be forgetting.
Sometimes, our schedules don’t allow us to take longer lunch breaks or participate in office activities. It is handy to have a small list of quick things you can do each day to help you stay alert, focused, and on track, even on the busiest days. For example, you could try simple desk exercises like neck or wrist stretches. Take small breaks to engage with coworkers about things other than work. If possible, try taking your lunch breaks outside of the office. Just getting up and moving in some way is great for improving focus.
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Practice mindfulness daily
Finally, remember that part of your mindset at work comes from your emotional wellbeing and mindfulness. You can intentionally practice mindfulness throughout the day at any point. Simply take a few minutes’ break to focus on your emotions, your stress levels, and your physical presence. Remember, we all get stressed at work. But proactively monitoring your health, both physically and emotionally, can help you avoid overdoing it and burning out.