When you’re working full time, it’s so easy to work yourself into a burnout.
Stress can get on top of you, and before you know it you’re worrying about work even when you’re not there. Levels of stress reaching this extreme can be very damaging to your emotional health, and if you’re not careful, can lead to more complex emotions in the future. It is therefore important to use self-care methods in your free time, so you are able to wind down from stress and pressure, and remember to focus on yourself.
However, sometimes it is necessary to incorporate self-care into your working day, too. Self-care isn’t always spa days and weekend retreats, it can be simple everyday tasks, that can be carried out with little to no effort. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed at work, especially when you work in a stressful and busy environment, and we may not realise it, but by not tuning into self-care in the workplace, we are allowing our work to be negatively affected, as it isn’t possible to produce your best work when you are feeling emotionally defeated. When you choose to give your wellbeing a backseat in your working week by not keeping on top of calming your emotions, then it can quickly materialise into your mental health taking a downward spiral. From here, it isn’t just your work that is affected, but also your personal life too.
For this reason, I have compiled a list of ways that you can incorporate self-care into your working day, without losing your focus or affecting your standard of work!
Organise your work space.
We’ve all heard the phrase “a messy room is a messy life”, and the saying goes for your work space. Whether this is your desk or your office or whatever setting you are placed in at work, ensure to keep it tidy and organised. Have a specific home for everything and keep on top of keeping it tidy. You can even make it look pretty, with photos of friends and family, and gorgeous rose gold stationery like this and this! (If you hadn’t already noticed, I love all things rose gold!) When you’re working in a mess, it is easier to let stress overwhelm you as it makes it look and feel as if you have much more to do than you actually do. If it helps, you can buy all sorts of desk organisers to make your work life easier (as well as the pretty stationery) because after all, your work is probably the second most place you spend your time other than your own home.
Make a lunch you’ll look forward to.
There’s more to life than horrible food and crappy coffee, trust me. I know it’s difficult if you’re trying to be healthy, but making a lunch that you’re looking forward to eating can help to improve your mood massively. Especially if you’re a huge foodie like myself!! I try to take a healthy lunch with me to work, or if I haven’t taken one then I buy myself something delicious, but when I do pack lunch, I look to Pinterest for some inspiration on healthy snacks and meals that are different but equally tasty. Not only does a delicious healthy lunch give you another spurt of energy after the lunchtime flag, it also gives you time to step away from your work and eat something you really really enjoy.
Get outside on your lunch break.
As well as eating your delicious, tasty lunch, use this time as a way of being mindful. It isn’t purely a time to just eat, it’s your break away from work. It’s therefore important to use that time as a break. Completely step away from your desk or wherever you are based, and don’t return until your lunch break is over. It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do to your concentration levels, and also your mood. If you work in the city, get yourself outside, no matter what the weather, and have a wander around. If you work in the middle of nowhere and aren’t able to take a walk, just take a step outside and get a breath of fresh air; notice the sounds, smells, sights of everything around you. There is always an opportunity to be mindful and present and in the moment when you take a walk or step away from distractions – whether that’s by taking note of the smells and sounds around you, or being completely aware of life doing its thing.
Read: Mindful Mondays: Walking
Don’t stay sat for too long.
If your job requires you to be on your feet for most of your day then this may not be relevant to you, as this mostly relates if you work in an office job, where you’re usually sat for long periods of time. Being sat at a desk for 8 hours a day can also lead to health risks such as slow metabolism, which can in turn effect blood pressure and heart rate. It can also heighten the risk of becoming overweight, even if you exercise regularly.
This would also have an effect on your emotional and mental health. When you are sat in the same position for a lengthy period of time, your brain function begins to slow. Less blood and oxygen is circulating to your brain, meaning that there is less of a trigger for mood-enhancing chemicals to be released. Not only does this make stress develop even more, it also lowers your mood and levels of concentration.
Advice has been issued by the NHS that we shouldn’t be sat for more than 30 minutes at a time without moving. They advise to set reminders to get up and move, walk to the kitchen to make teas and coffees instead of letting people make one for you, and walk to speak to other colleagues instead of emailing or calling them. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but small movements throughout the day can make a huge impact on not just your physical, but also your emotional health.
Drink plenty of water.
When you’re hard at work and distracted, it’s crazy how quickly time can pass. Within a few hours, especially in a warm environment, you can quickly become dehydrated. You may think that you’re drinking fluids because you’re drinking tea, coffee and other drinks, but this isn’t the same as being hydrated from drinking water. I’m not in any way saying that coffee is bad [because that would make me a ridiculously bad hypocrite], but if you drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks in excess, then water is essential to keeping hydrated whilst you’re at work.
As well as aiding hydration, water is also essential for brain function. It can have a negative effect on your brain function, as a lack of water to the brain leads to an imbalance, leading you to feel lethargic much quicker than a healthy and hydrated brain. Dehydration also impairs our memory retention, and so can make us easily forgetful in both the short and long term. This will obviously have a direct impact on your work ethic and ultimately your efficiency at work, as it is more difficult to concentrate and remain focused.
Set yourself your own small challenges.
Especially if you work in a large corporation, you’re likely to have a huge number of tasks and targets that you need to complete by the end of the day. Or maybe there are so many people in the workforce that when you do achieve a target, it isn’t really noticed or recognised. This can soon become overwhelming and lead you to feeling anxious and overworked, with little or no reward. Instead, set your own small targets, and celebrate your own achievements. If you don’t, you’ll feel very deflated if you aren’t able to complete a task before the end of the day, and without realising it, it could lower your self-worth and make you feel incapable of the job. Realistically, this just is not the case. Celebrate your achievements in small doses, and build on your self-worth every time you finish a task. This will encourage you to feel empowered and capable and worthy whilst you’re in work, which will then stay with you for the rest of the day, week, and year.
Give yourself credit!
Furthering this, celebrate your achievements and give yourself credit while you’re at it! It’s rare for bosses to praise you for every small achievement, so give yourself credit when you know that you’ve done a good job. If you spend your life waiting for praise that may never come, then you’re going to spend your life slightly disappointed, and never truly satisfied. Who cares if it’s such a tiny achievement that most people wouldn’t even notice. Who cares if other people think it’s silly to be proud of yourself! I’m a huge fan of the saying “you do you”, because in life you’ve got to do what makes you happy, not what makes others happy.
Forgive yourself for being stressed.
It’s okay to get stressed, if anything it’s a little bit strange if you never get stressed! It’s a normal emotion that every person feels, and it stays normal as long as it is in balance with all the other emotions that you feel day-to-day. So, if you feel a little imbalanced, remind yourself to take a few deep breaths. If you need to take a step outside for a few moments just to calm yourself down, then make sure you do it. If a good cup of tea and a biscuit will help you to relax for just 5 minutes, then make sure you do it. No amount of work is worth that amount of stress, and don’t let yourself forget that when you feel overwhelmed. Increased and prolonged stress can lead to mental health conditions further down the line, including depression and anxiety, so it is crucial to listen to your mind and body when you are beginning to feel overwhelmed.
Ask for help, if you need it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there is nothing weak about asking for help. Despite what you may overthink yourself to believe, asking for help does not show that you’re incapable of doing your job or that you’re stupid; what it does show is that you need a little reminder and then you’ll be okay. In hindsight, most people would prefer for you to ask for help than to do something completely wrong, so don’t feel as though you will look incapable for asking. It may show that you are not perfect, but that’s okay, because nobody is perfect. Other people probably don’t know some of the things that you do, and it is impossible to know absolutely everything. If anything, it just shows that you are capable of being your truly authentic self, which is a strength in itself.
Don’t settle for crappy work relationships.
It’s impossible to get on well with absolutely anyone and everyone that you work with. There’s always going to be someone that your personality clashes with, and that’s okay. You weren’t made to be liked by everybody, and if you spend your life trying to make everybody happy, then believe me when I say that to do that, you’re sacrificing your own happiness. If you don’t get on with someone, don’t go out of your way to be liked by them, just accept that you don’t see eye-to-eye and focus on the colleagues that you do have a good relationship with. If you’re stressed, struggling to meet a deadline, or just generally have a lot of work to do, then the last thing you need to be worrying about is people who don’t fit in with your vibe. Being truly yourself is one way to incorporate self-care into your life, without even trying.
Do you have other ways that you incorporate self-care into your ordinary working week? I’d love to hear about them!