“Conventional wisdom says that self-care is a weekend and evening thing,” says The Muse.
But your well-being shouldn’t be excluded from the 40-plus hours you spend at work every week. And why can’t your workplace nurture your well-being both personally and professionally, instead of wearing you out?
When you look after yourself at work, the effects are cumulative. Even making one small change can positively influence other areas of your life. The great thing is, you can start making these positive changes anytime, no matter where you are in your career.
Here are 7 ways to make it happen:
1. Reduce Your Stress by Being Proactive
“Don’t mistake proactivity with obsessive type-A-ness,” says The Muse. “It’s actually a way to make your life easier and your career more worthwhile.”
When you’re proactive, you tend to be organized, prepared, problem-spotting and problem-solving. Being proactive means you develop habits and take the necessary steps to pursue what you want and respond effectively to unexpected events. All of these traits help you move through work in a “state of serene competence.”
If you want to reduce stress, improve your health, and contribute to your sense of control and direction over your life, start tackling things head-on.
2. Get Ergonomic
Sadly, in many workplaces, ergonomics aren’t given much thought. Thus, some employees develop back pain from sitting in poorly designed chairs, other employees develop carpal tunnel from wrongly positioned keyboards, and some employees suffer headaches, eyestrain, and even depression, from bad lighting.
“Don’t be shy about requesting the things you need to stay healthy and happy while you work,” says The Muse.
When you work in an ergonomic environment, it can increase your productivity, reduce the risk of suffering work-related injuries, and build confidence in your employer knowing that your best interests are being looked out for.
3. Be Smart About Snacking
While convenience store runs and vending machine binges are fast and easy, diet soda and Sourpatch Kids aren’t going to cut it when you’re racing against a deadline or feeling overwhelmed by a project.
“When people are filling themselves with caffeine and sugar, it’s going to give them a frenetic energy and create an ultimate crash,” explains self-care specialist, Krista-Lynn Landolfi.
You can avoid erratic energy highs and lows by opting for healthy snacks such as high protein nuts, air-popped popcorn, or apples dipped in peanut butter.
4. Schedule a Heart to Heart With Your Boss
“A lot of stress at work comes from not knowing exactly where you stand—what your boss thinks, how you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, whether you could be doing your job better, and so on,” states The Muse.
Instead of stressing yourself out from wondering what’s up, schedule some time on your boss’s calendar to check in and get the feedback you need to dispell the black cloud of worry hanging over your head. That way, you can get on with the business of growing and improving.
5. Use Your Lunch For More Than Food
Think of your lunch as a personal hour, suggests The Muse.
Definitely eat out with friends if that’s a restorative activity for you. But if you’d prefer to use your lunch as an opportunity to pause your mental treadmill, do that. Have access to a gym and shower? Hop on the bike for 30 minutes. Or, simply sip a coffee and people-watch, do some meditation, or read a book. Whatever works for you.
The point is not to take the word “lunch” too literally. Use the time to do things that renew your mind, spirit, and body. Then, eat at your desk when you’re done.
6. Cultivate Healthy Work Relationships
“We’re social creatures, and studies have found that strong interpersonal relationships are critical to health and longevity,” says The Muse.
Make an effort to get to know the people you work with on a personal level. Take a few minutes in the morning to say “hi” to your co-workers. Grab a coffee in the afternoon with anyone who’s interested. Or, if your company has happy hour, drop by once in a while for some casual banter.
Cultivating relationships in the workplace will make your days much more rewarding.
7. Take a Breather, or Two
Chaining yourself to a desk all day or wolfing down your lunch in your cubicle so you can keep on working is a bad idea—and a very unhealthy one, too.
Skipping out on adequate breaks from work reduces your productivity, mental well-being, and overall work performance. Overworking yourself can also lead to chronic stress and job burnout.
Breaks are essential for helping you re-charge for the rest of the workday. Taking a walk outside in the fresh air, for example, can be very rejuvenating. Keep in mind, though, that spending break time in pursuit of poor health habits won’t result in productivity and wellness benefits.
Doing something that helps you unwind and decompress a few times a day is like pressing the restart button so you’re ready to move on to your next task.
Occupational stress can lead to illness, absenteeism, and reduced productivity. This usually results from putting your self-care (or well-being) on hold Monday through Friday.
But as The Muse points out, “The things that you wouldn’t neglect in your personal life shouldn’t be neglected in your work life either.
“The idea that you can beat yourself up during the work week and recover in a flurry of wellness pampering over the weekend is an all-too-common myth. Rebalance with some career care and watch your work life improve dramatically.”
— The Muse
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Also published on Medium.