15 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself at Work
November 16, 2018 | Filed in: Your Brain
When it comes to de-stressing, you already know that it’s a good idea to go to bed at a reasonable hour, exercise regularly, and—if you can afford it—get a massage now and then. But what about when you’re at work, where you likely spend at least 40 hours a week? Are there quick and easy ways to nourish your body, mind, and soul while in the office? The answer: Yes! Below, we’ve gathered 15 secrets to making time and space for self care in the workplace.
1. Solicit feedback from your manager.
Sometimes stress at work is caused by not knowing where you stand. Are you doing a good job? Will you get that promotion? Or is your boss so disappointed with your performance that your job is on the line? Taking on too many tasks and not knowing which to tackle first can also make you feel overwhelmed. “It’s common that managers, often well-intentioned, are so busy themselves that they don’t make time to give regular feedback and they lose sight of how many projects they have delegated,” says Faun Zarge, an employee resilience and burnout prevention specialist in Newton, Massachusetts. So ask: Schedule a meeting to see whether you’re on track, make sure you’re clear on your priorities, and carefully voice any concerns. In fact, why not ask your boss if he or she would be open to making it a regular check-in (say, weekly, monthly, or quarterly)?
2. Say no sometimes.
For the people-pleasers out there, this is a tough one. You don’t have to say yes to every meeting, lunch, or happy hour. Your time is valuable, so make sure you’re in control of your calendar. “Saying no does not make you a difficult person to work with. Rather, it will allow you to become more dependable because when you commit to a task, you’ll be fully committed,” says Carley Schweet, a self-care coach in Seattle, Washington.
3. Do a mini meditation.
Sit up straight in your desk chair with your feet on the floor. Place your hands somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes. Listen to a guided meditation using an app—or simply pay attention to the sounds around you. “I love focusing on a mantra and repeating it, like ‘I am calm. I am strong. I will be ok,'” says Whitney Goodman, LMFT, a psychotherapist and the owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center in Miami, Florida. For a few minutes, breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose and then out through your mouth. “Notice how your heart rate begins to slow and your breathing becomes steady. The best part is you can do it anytime anxiety is creeping up,” says Goodman.
4. Set boundaries.
Smartphones can easily blur the lines between when you’re available and when you’re not—so un-blur them. Don’t answer calls, emails, or texts between certain hours. “I set boundaries with staff texting my personal phone, unless it is an emergency. It takes repetition, but even enforcing the boundary feels healthy,” says Georgeanna Connors, Director of Operations at The Farm – A Gathering Place, a wedding venue outside Asheville, North Carolina.
5. Think about your personality.
To the extent you can, set up your job so that it better suits your preferred way of working. “If you are an introvert, create a workspace where you will not be constantly interrupted. If necessary, use your lunch for recharging with alone time. Take advantage of email to minimize social time,” says Sue Allen Clayton of Manorville, NY, the founder of The Serene Solopreneur, an online community that helps female, home-based entrepreneurs take better care of themselves. If you’re an extrovert, schedule more in-person meetings and have lunch or coffee with colleagues—these opportunities to connect will keep you energized throughout the day.
Think about which specific job responsibilities stress you out the most and why. Can you delegate a menial task to a junior staffer? Or can you employ technology to make the task easier and less time-consuming? For instance, using a Web platform like Basecamp for a project may cut down on the number of emails that land in your inbox. Sharing a Google document, spreadsheet, or list with colleagues could do the same.
Take occasional breaks to unload on a friend at the office whom you trust. Then allow her to do the same in return. “A work wife is the best form of self-care. I’ve always had a confidante I could share my challenges with—usually, it’s been someone not within my department,” says Alisha Ramos of Washington, D.C., the founder and CEO of Girls’ Night In, a self-care brand that encourages women to take more time for themselves. If you’re not close with anyone at your office or you work by yourself at home, write down whatever is bothering you in a journal each day to get it off your mind.
8. Work in more movement.
Even if your job schedule makes it hard to cram in a full workout, and even if you can’t convince your company to buy you a standing desk, take a few minutes here and there to get in some extra physical activity. Try these tips from Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT, Director of the Anna Keefe Women’s Center at the Training Institute for Mental Health in New York City. Can you pace around a conference room during a phone call? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Go the long way around to the bathroom? Pick up your take-out lunch instead of having it delivered? Set a timer to stand up and stretch every so often?
9. Check your posture.
Don’t slouch in your chair. Ask if your company can provide an ergonomic evaluation to make sure your chair, keyboard, and monitor are positioned correctly so you’re comfortable. And instead of crossing your legs or pushing them tightly together, try the “Sit Like A Man” pose recommended by Barbara Bergin, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and a co-founder of Texas Orthopedics, Sports and Rehabilitation Associates in Austin: While sitting, imagine your knees as the hands of a clock, and position your left knee at 11:00 A.M. and your right knee at 1:00 P.M.
10. Create a realistic to-do list.
Setting impractical goals and then failing to meet them is only going to make you feel lousy at the end of each day. If you’re constantly putting 10 or 20 things on your to-do list and never completing it, keep it simple. “List only two or three key priorities each day. Start and finish at least one before noon,” says Leslie Forde, who runs a website that’s dedicated to self-care called Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs in Boston, Massachusetts.
11. Find your zen.
Whether it’s listening to your favorite music, spraying a relaxing scent in your office, or glancing at photos of your family, figure out what makes you happy and inject a small dose of it into your day. For instance, Kaitlin Menza, a freelance writer in New York City, enjoys treating herself to something hot. “I drink tea all day, but it’s whatever is lying around the office kitchen. When I make it at 3:00 P.M. or so, I make a cup of whatever specialty tea I brought from home (which I hoard in my desk). It’s my private ritual to reward myself for getting to the afternoon!” she says.
12. Be vague.
The next time you have to leave the office, be intentionally cryptic. Say simply, “I have an appointment” or “I’ll be back at 4:00 P.M.” “Your colleagues don’t have to know whether you are leaving the office for a wax appointment, a really important meeting, or because your kid is sick. If you are fortunate to have flexibility in your job, take it. Don’t announce everything you are doing—just do it,” says Rachel Marks Feinman, Executive Director of the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator in Tampa, Florida.
Is your desk a hot mess? What about your computer desktop? Schedule a little time each week to get organized—maybe on Friday afternoons when work tends to slow down—and you’ll likely feel more on top of things.
14. Eat wisely.
It’s easy to reach for junk food when you’re having a bad day, but the sugar crash that comes later may make it harder to finish your work. Choose healthy foods as much as possible, and consider creating a regular menu and scheduling your snacks and lunch so you don’t have to waste time worrying about what you’ll eat or when. For instance, you’ll immediately know that if it’s Monday, you’re bringing in a Greek yogurt for 10:00 A.M., you’re grabbing a salad at the cafeteria at 12:30 P.M., and you have nuts stashed in your desk drawer for the 3:30 P.M. energy dip.
15. Celebrate your achievements.
We’re often so focused on what we have to do next that we don’t always take time to appreciate what we’ve accomplished. Did you just finish a major project? Hire a great new employee? Save your company money? Maybe it’s time to pop open something bubbly and throw a brief, impromptu party at the office. It’s bound to boost your morale—and will make the rest of the staff happy, too.