On any given workday, there are plenty of people to worry about. You want your supervisor to be happy with your performance. Your co-workers might come to you when they need help with a project or a sounding board for their concerns or complaints. If you have children, you need to make sure their schedules, meals and other needs are attended to in your absence.|
But might you be forgetting one very important person?
It’s all too easy to let a busy, demanding job put everyone else’s needs first, as yours get shoved farther and farther onto the back burner. But when you make yourself a priority for at least some of the workday, you will ultimately be less stressed and more productive.
But wait — isn’t self-care a non-work thing, involving bubble baths and Sunday afternoon naps? Between endless emails, mind-numbing meetings and the inevitable interruptions, how are you supposed to find time for yourself while you’re on the clock?
It’s easier (and more important) than you might think.
Use your lunch break wisely.
Sure, lunch typically involves food—but beyond filling your belly, it’s also an opportunity to restore your mental and emotional reserves. Spend your break doing something that energizes, inspires or relaxes you, whether that’s going for a walk, joining co-workers for a meal, meditating or reading a book, depending on what will best serve your mind and body on that particular day.
Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend.
If your co-worker made a mistake or dropped the ball, you would likely deliver an encouraging pep talk. And if someone you care about had her heart set on a promotion, you would express confidence in her chances and encourage them to go for it. Apply that same strategy when talking to yourself in those types of situations—over time, the positive self-talk will drown out your inner self-critic.
Take steps to create a healthy workspace.
Although you might not be able to choose your designated area, look for ways to optimize your space for comfort and wellness. For instance, if you struggle with migraines, a soft lamp might be a better lighting source than harsh fluorescent bulbs. If you work best while standing or moving, consider asking your boss for a standing desk or treadmill desk. Add some plants, artwork or photos for a soothing, inspiring effect. You might be surprised by the positive impact that even small changes can make on your happiness and satisfaction.
Distance yourself from toxic people.
If there are some colleagues in your workplace who seem to foster negativity and thrive on conflict and drama, be sure to set clear boundaries and, if possible, limit your interactions with them. Conversely, take steps to surround yourself with people who are supportive, friendly, energizing and inspiring.
Breathe.Breathing is probably the easiest way to promote relaxation and mindfulness during the workday—and you can do it anywhere. Karly Powell, a naturopathic doctor at the Strata Integrated Wellness Spa at Garden of the Gods, recommends an easy five-minute practice called four-square breathing: Inhale through your nose for four seconds, depressing the diaphragm so the belly expands with air. Hold for four seconds. Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, letting go of tension and stress you may be holding in your shoulder, chest or other areas of the body. Hold again for four seconds, and then repeat the cycle. "This can help shift your nervous system out of a ‘fight or flight’ response and into a calmer state, improving your focus and making you more efficient and productive throughout the day," Powell says.
Do a little housekeeping.
Research has shown that employees with clean, organized environments are more focused and productive at work. Take a few minutes each day to straighten your desk, discard or recycle any unneeded materials and use a disinfecting wipe on surfaces. These mini cleaning sessions will leave you feeling mentally refreshed and ready to tackle tasks free of distractions.
Step away from the screen.
For at least a few minutes each hour, take a break from all screens to recharge and break up any mental cobwebs. Without computers and mobile devices demanding your attention, you will likely spend time on healthier activities, such as taking a short walk, engaging in a face-to-face conversation with a colleague or fueling up with a healthy snack.
No matter what your day-to-day job entails, there are always opportunities to work self-care into your schedule. By taking short periods of time to rest, reflect and recharge, you’ll be better able to tackle your task list so you can be more present when you’re off the clock.