We've all been there. In the quest to be productive and do great things at work, you pack your schedule with meetings and deadlines and draw up endless to-do lists. But by the end of the day, you are tired and burnt out. And while there's a movement to prioritize self-care, you feel like you can't spare an extra minute for yourself during the work day.
However, self-care isn't something you only should do during your off-hours on evenings and weekends. You can incorporate self-care activities at work, too. After all, looming deadlines, an overflowing inbox and cranky coworkers can all affect your mental health and productivity. It's key to allocate time to care for your own well-being during the work day.
Create Your Daily Self-Care Checklist
First things first, self-care isn't just spa days, bubble baths and leisure reading. According to the Harvard Business Review, "At the heart of self-care is your relationship and connection to self. As part of your job, it means that you're attuned to and understand what you need to be your most constructive, effective, and authentic self." That means your self-care activities at work may look different from your self-care activities outside of work.
To create a daily self-care checklist for yourself, start with these four steps.
- Check-In With Your Priorities: The last thing you want to do it is make self-care just another item on your checklist. Take five to 10 minutes in the morning to write down three things you want to accomplish during the day. Spending a few minutes to clarify your priorities will help you better allocate your time and resources, which may make it easier to set boundaries and say no to the projects (and people!) that eat up your time.
- Be Realistic: When you're first starting out, it's tempting to come up with a long list of wellness practices to incorporate into your workday routine, but you may be setting yourself up for failure. You may not have an hour or even half an hour to meditate in the middle of the day. Instead, look at your calendar and start with the pockets of idle time that pop up throughout the day — or maybe the time you spend on social media — for self-care. If you're a planner, you could schedule dedicated time in your calendar.
- Stick With Things That You Love: Sure, there are many lists touting the best self-care practices, but the most effective activities are the ones that you actually enjoy doing. So if you don't like meditating, skip it. Self-care activities don't have to be complicated.
- Check-In With Yourself: After a few weeks, check-in with yourself. Keep what's working and ditch the things that aren't working. Keep tweaking until you find a balance of self-care activities at work that functions for you.
7 Wellness Activities to Incorporate Into Your Work Day
To help you get started, here are seven ideas to take time for yourself during the work day.
Don't Skip Your Lunch Hour
While you may opt to work through your lunch hour or eat on the fly, don't. Step away from your desk and sit down to mindfully eat a nourishing meal that will give you the energy to make it through the rest of the day. Or, use your lunch hour for a quick mid-day workout. After all, everyone needs a mental break from work, so take this time to restore your body and mind.
Refresh Your Workspace
Since you spend most of your day at your desk, make it a space that's inspiring and energizing. Hang up photos of friends and loved ones. Declutter and tidy up your space. Add some plants or artwork to stoke your creativity.
Move Your Body
You know that sitting all day isn't great for your health, so take regular movement breaks. Think of it as physical activity snacks sprinkled throughout your day. Take a lap around the office and talk to a coworker instead of sending an email. Suggest a walking meeting. Do some stretches at your desk. Not only will your creaky joints thank you but your mind will, too.
Take Regular Breathing Breaks
One of the quickest ways to decompress? Take a deep breath. According to The American Institute of Stress, deep breathing activates the body's natural relaxation response, slowing your heart rate and releasing muscle tension. The best part? You can practice it anywhere and no one will notice!
Take It Outside
Spending time outside doesn't just fill your lungs with fresh air, it reboots your energy and mood, too. A 2017 study found that listening to sounds found in nature soothes the brain and reduces the body's fight-or-flight instinct. Even a few minutes helps, so take a quick stroll outside.
Sipping on water throughout the day is one of the easiest self-care practices. Staying hydrated keeps your mind and body sharp. After all, water makes up roughly 60% of your body, according to Merck. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration made it harder to concentrate and led to more fatigue and headaches.
Laugh It Out
Who doesn't feel more relaxed and energized after a good laugh? According to Health, laughing releases endorphins, the body's feel-good hormones. So yes, take a break and watch those silly cat videos and memes.
There's no right or wrong way to practice self-care. It's highly individual, and self-care activities at work will be different from person to person. No matter what you do, take the time to care for your emotional, mental and physical well-being at work.