For most people, busy days, daily commutes, and excessive meetings take time away from looking after their wellbeing at work. Lunch eaten at desks and long hours in the office have become the norm across corporate workplaces. Self-care is viewed as a luxury few can indulge in, rather than a necessity for a quality of life.
The true meaning of self-care has become lost in recent years, as the world of wellness has co-opted it to relate to long baths, face masks, and green juices. While all these things can contribute to a healthy mind and body, self-care runs much deeper than this.
So, what is self-care?
Self-care is tied to being the most authentic version of yourself. Practising self-care means that you understand what makes you thrive, and what has a negative effect on your wellbeing. Self-care looks different for each person, but is ultimately about remaining in tune with your body and mind to be the best version of yourself, for yourself.
Instead of viewing self-care as something that is done aside from your day-to-day, the easiest way to adopt a self-care mindset is to let it intertwine with your everyday life.
Here are four simple ways to practise self-care at work. Keep in mind that self-care looks different for everyone, so use this as a starting point to figure out what works best for you.
How to practise self-care at work
1. Take the pressure off
Don’t feel obligated to dive headfirst into practising self-care at work. This takes away from the intention of alleviating stress and any feelings of inadequacy you may already have. Self-care isn’t about setting a slew of goals and beating yourself up when you don’t achieve them. Remain realistic about what you want to achieve, and why.
The first step toward a holistic form of self-care is to be kind to yourself, and try not to gravitate to being critical of things you do (and don’t do). Self-care shouldn’t involve adding more tasks to your to-do list for you to tick off.
2. Set boundaries
The ultimate form of self-care is knowing when to say no. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist specialising in women’s health, has based much of her clinical practice on this concept of boundaries being inextricably linked to self-care. Pooja says:
‘Self-care is the internal hard work of making tough decisions for yourself and by yourself…it means that you have to learn how to say no, and recognise that it’s nobody else’s responsibility to say no for you.’
There’s no doubt that setting boundaries at work can be difficult as there are always expectations that need to be met. Being a ‘yes person’ and never turning away requests, meetings, or tasks that are sent your way will only lead you to burnout. It’s important to remain transparent about your workload and let your manager and colleagues know when your plate is too full.
Take the time to pause and review your workload when someone asks something of you, and set goals that you can realistically achieve. If taking on an extra task means you’ll have to skip your lunch break or work late to get it done, it means you don’t have the capacity to do it.
3. Celebrate your wins
Often we can get so caught up in the list of tasks we need to get done that we forget to take the time to pause and look back on our achievements. Recognising the goals you’ve hit and the wins you’ve had in the past can help motivate you and remind you of your accomplishments at work.
If you manage a team, consider logging your team member wins and going through them together at the end of the year. Try to communicate your team accomplishments throughout the company to help build a positive company culture of employee recognition.
4. Take breaks, move, and take part in meaningful activities
There is, of course, still a place in the world of self-care for trips to the day spa, Pilates classes, and tubs of ice cream on the couch after a long day. When thinking about the more physical or material aspects of self-care, it’s important that you remain true to yourself and engage in activities that are meaningful to you.
Looking after your body and soul while at work can look like a whole range of things, from enjoying some time sitting outside in the sunshine away from your desk to hosting a monthly potluck lunch with your colleagues. Try to be creative with the ways you move your body during the day—if you don’t enjoy an early morning spin class, don’t feel the need to do it. Instead, look after your physical health during the day in a way that you find fun.
Many companies have now recognised the importance of promoting wellbeing at work, implementing workplace wellbeing programs and occupying workspaces that have a positive effect on employee health, engagement, and happiness. Look out for workplace wellness events, opportunities for healthy socialisation with colleagues, and spaces filled with natural light, greenery, and quality air.