Self-Care At Work
Self-care at work is really important to me because I have found that some of the points in my life where I have experienced my highest levels of anxiety, have been induced and exasperated at work. Although many of us have been working from home since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many of us will be gradually returning to work, which can mean a return to stressful environments and the everyday pressures of work life.
If you think about it we spend most of our time at work (at least 8 hours for most of us, some longer!), so it makes sense to create a self-care routine for work and have things in place at work that can help us with the stresses of work life. Bearing this in mind I have compiled a list of 13 useful things you can do to help you enjoy self-care at work.
- Photos Of Loved Ones
Where possible, if you are able to display a photograph of your loved one, this can be a beautiful reminder throughout the day that your life is more than your work. Looking at pictures of your loved ones can invoke fond memories, help to relieve stress and also put things into perspective. The photographs can also serve as a form of motivation when you may be feeling down and a reminder that you are loved and you do have people that you love in your life.
Again where possible try to have items (flowers, plants, quotes, ornaments etc.) that bring some of your personality into your workspace. Display or have close by things that can help you to smile, feel happy and also aid in helping you feel relaxed while you are at work. In one of my old jobs I had a mini mood flip calendar which had different faces accompanied by words that would state what mood I was in. I would update this calendar each day or a couple of times a day depending on how I felt. It was a really useful way of practicing mindfulness and regulating how I was feeling. Begin able to identify and own how you are feeling at any given time makes you more self-aware and puts you in a better position to address how you are feeling and take steps to do something about it.
- Healthy Snacks
Having healthy snacks at work is so important. Healthy snacks will provide you with nutrients and energy throughout the day which will help keep your energy up and your sugar level stable. If you have to be at work early have a small selection of healthy breakfast options like porridge pots, granola, yoghurt or smoothies. You can snack on dried and fresh fruit, nuts, crackers, rice cakes, dark chocolate and a whole host of healthy and satisfying healthy snacks.
- Ask For The Right Equipment To Complete Your Work
This may sound obvious but there are many of us sitting in pain on uncomfortable chairs, squinting at screens that are too bright and straining our wrists because we don’t have the right equipment to work with. It is your employer’s obligation to provide you with the correct tools and environment to be able to complete your work. Many companies have a budget set aside to be able to purchase specialised equipment for employees that need it. Speak to your manager who can then raise this with HR or the occupational health department. Feeling comfortable and having the right equipment can really help your time at work to be more seamless and more enjoyable.
- Take Your Lunch Break
Again this may sound obvious but how many of us have worked through our lunch break on more than 2 occasions? Or taken ‘lunch’ at our desks and wolfed our food down so quickly we couldn’t event tell what it tastes like. When I say take a lunch break I mean take an actual allocated lunch break where you get up from your desk or work station, sit somewhere else or go outside of the building and actually take time to enjoy your food. Take a break from working and spend some time chatting with your colleagues while you have lunch (keeping within social distancing guidelines of course!). Even if you don’t want to eat you still need time away from your desk to break up the day. Have a soothing cup of herbal tea or a hot chocolate or opt for something cool like a juice or smoothie and take your allocated lunch break.
If you are allowed to have a diffuser or some form of smelling stick in your work space, they can add such a wonderful relaxing scent to the atmosphere. For those of you who work in particularly stressful jobs and environments a soothing scent like lavender can really help to mellow the mood and aid in a little relaxation. Alternatively if you are not allowed to have scents in your workplace you can purchase a small hand held smelling pillow and create your own with pressed dry flowers that you can keep in your desk or bag and pull out whenever you need a soothing smell.
I know this is not always possible but if you are able to play music in your office or work space I would definitely recommend some bursts of soothing music throughout the day. Music has such a wonderful way of lifting our emotions, taking us to a fond memory, making us move or simply relaxing us. If you are unable to play music in your office or workspace an alternative could be to bring in some headphones and listen to a few tunes intermittently. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work and concentration music is sure to brighten up your work day and feed into your work self-care.
- Go for a walk
Ensure that you are following social distancing guidelines when going for a walk. Going for a walk is a great way to practice self-care at work. Taking 10 minutes away from your desk and from the building can help to give you a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air, get your blood pumping, clear your mind and help put a stressful day into perspective. A brisk walk can also help those endorphins to kick in, lifting your mood naturally.
- Prayer or Meditation
Taking a few moments away from your desk or work station for a prayer or guided mediation is a great way to practice self-care at work. If you normally drive to work you could spend a few minutes in your car focusing and relaxing. Saying a prayer can help you to reduce stress and focus your mind as can some simple guided meditation. This is a great and effective way to practice self-care while at work.
- Say No
This may sound like a strange one, but how many times have you been stressed out at work because you’ve taken on more work than you should have. You’ve covered for someone which had led to your work load been increased. You’ve said yes to too many deadlines and then find yourself up at night trying to finish off work that you really should have been given more time to complete. Or you find yourself exhausted because you’ve taken on extra shifts that you really shouldn’t have taken on, but you felt bad for your manager and wanted to help out. Learning to set healthy boundaries at work is a must for your self-care and sanity. While you have been hired to do a job, you also have to practice balance and be given the right amount of time and space to be able to complete tasks in a reasonable time.
Saying no at work (especially to your manager!) may seem a little scary but there are polite ways that you can say no at work, for example:
-‘Thank you so much for thinking of me for this, but I was planning to spend this week working in [name of other projects]’
-‘I appreciate you asking me to take part in [name of project/initiative] as it sounds like an exciting initiative. Unfortunately it doesn’t really align with my current skill set so I’m not best place to help with this particular project as I wouldn’t be much help’.
A few key points to remember when saying no at work are to assess the request so that you can offer viable alternatives or perhaps swap the task out for something that your manager or team doesn’t need straight away. Be straightforward in your response, while you may have a genuine desire to help, it may just be the fact that you already have too much on your plate so you actually are not in a position to take on more work. If you know you cannot or do not want to do something let people know instead of saying ‘I’ll get back to you’.
- Keep Your Work Area Tidy
Clutter can cause chaos, well for me it certainly can! If you have a cluttered workspace it can definitely make it hard for you to work more efficiently and effectively and it can also leave you feeling quite stressed. It is also hard to find things in a cluttered workspace and it is definitely going to be very difficult for you to relax in a cluttered environment. Take some time to tidy your work area and create a system for storing/ filing/ putting things away so that clutter does not have an opportunity to build up. This will create an organised workspace and aid in relaxing environment which can help to compliment your self-care work routine.
- Use Your Commute For Self-Care
Your commute to work is a great time to practice self-care and can help you prepare for your work day. During your commute you can read an inspiring book or blog post (like this one!), listen to a podcast, listen to some uplifting music, journal your thoughts and even doodle or do some colouring in (yes adults can do colouring in too!). Being intentional about your self-care routine during your commute is a fantastic way to set you up for a good day, or prepare you to be calm and collected if you are stepping into a stressful environment or role.
- Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, finding it hard to concentrate, feeling agitated, dizzy and feeling confused. Keeping yourself hydrated during work is a great way to practice self-care. Keeping well hydrated during work can help you to feel refreshed and alert, while also helping you to maintain good concentration. If you are someone that can find water a little boring in terms of taste, don’t’ be afraid to ‘pimp’ your water by infusing it with different fruits and vegetables. You could infuse your water with lemon or lime, strawberries, mint, cucumber and much more.
So there you have it, 13 simple ways to practice self-care at work and make your work environment a more tranquil place to be. Try them out to see the positive effect they will have on your work days. Let me know if your have any other tips for self-care at work that we can share!
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