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Self-Care in the Workplace

What is Self-Care?

Let’s start by addressing the question of what self-care is. Self-care can be defined as taking actions to improve or preserve one’s own health. However, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding what self-care is and what it can look like. When one thinks of self-care, certain things might come to mind- going to the spa, practicing yoga, or trying a face mask. However, self-care is much broader than that, and can look incredibly different depending on the individual. To put it simply, self-care is taking actions to support one’s physical, emotional, and/or mental wellbeing. Self-care can vary a lot from person to person depending on individual preferences and other factors. For instance, some may find reading very relaxing, while others would rather use their break to watch a TV show or scroll through Instagram. Some might find going on a jog or run to be alleviating while others might find it to be exhausting. For these reasons, it is important that people find self-care activities that truly relax them and support their overall wellbeing rather than just participating in them because those around them are.

According to Anna Borges, author of The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care,

“A lot of times, self-care is about just finding small ways to feel more human.”

It’s important to keep in mind that workers are humans first with emotions and needs, and that it is vital to the overall wellbeing of the team and workers that their needs are taken into account. Moreover, making self-care a priority can enhance overall performance and productivity among employees.

With increasingly stressful situations bombarding us at all times such as global warming, the COVID-19 pandemic, the political climate, etc., it is even more important that people are taking time to protect their mental and physical wellbeing in the midst of all this. According to an article from, rates of depression are three times as high due to the pandemic. Furthermore, according to the article, having a good self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety and depression. In a national survey from Vagaro, Americans reported benefits of self-care as: enhanced self-confidence (64%), increased productivity (67%), happiness (71%).

“There’s an inevitable correlation between stress and self-care,” said Fred Helou, CEO of Vagaro. “Many people get so caught up in day-to-day responsibilities that they don’t prioritize time to take care of themselves, however, placing importance on activities that encourage relaxation can make you better equipped physically, mentally and emotionally to face life’s daily stressors.”

How to Find Out what Self-Care Looks Like for You

Finding effective self-care might involve some trial and error. It’s a matter of finding your self-care style and what works for you. Moreover, factors such as what one has access to and time for could vary from person to person. The good news is that self-care does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. There are different areas of self-care to be addressed, and it’s up to each individual to choose which ones they would like to prioritize or how much time they would like to contribute to each. Below is a brief overview of each one and examples of what they might look like.

Physical Self-Care

Physical self-care can include concepts such as diet, exercise, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. We’ve all heard these terms before, and while they sound great in theory, putting them into practice in real life can be challenging. With struggles such as time management, it may seem impossible to implement these practices. However, it can be done. Exercise could look like taking a brief walk during your lunch break and staying hydrated could be as simple as getting a new refillable water bottle and keeping it near you at work. Getting good sleep could be as easy as setting a certain cutoff time for screens such as your cellphone or computer. Eating healthier might involve taking time in the evening to meal prep a healthy meal for the next day’s lunch rather than picking up fast food during your lunch break.

Mental Self-Care

Taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing is equally important to physical self-care. This might look like taking brief breaks when you need them or start to feel stress building up. Sometimes, you may just need to step away from your laptop screen for a few minutes and take some deep breaths to recollect. Check in with yourself about how you’re doing and don’t try to suppress your emotions, as they will usually come out eventually one way or another. If an issue arises, it may be helpful to share what you’re feeling with a coworker or friend you trust and talk through it. If your employer offers mental health days as a benefit, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them when you need them. When you have breaks, use them to do something that is relaxing to you and gets your mind off things. As aforementioned, this varies for everyone. Some popular practices include reading, listening to a podcast, or watching a TV show.

It's important not to discount the importance of self-care and prioritize it. In order to present the best version of yourself and perform well, taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing is a necessity. Especially if you’re in a position of leadership, your behavior can influence and set the tone for the rest of the workplace. If possible, it’s worthwhile to promote healthy self-care techniques to your coworkers and encourage them to make time for this in their schedules. Not only is this something that will help people at the individual level, but it can also enhance the overall work environment as well as the overall productivity of the team.

As aforementioned, while it’s easy to understand the benefits of self-care, putting it into practice is another story. If you’re unsure of where to start, just get a few ideas of what you’d like to try and set aside a half hour or so each day to practice them. Again, it may take some trial and error to find exactly what works for you, and with schedules and life being hectic, it’s okay to get off track of your routine. Most importantly, the goal is to find effective self-care that relaxes you whether it’s physically or mentally and works best for your schedule, workplace, and lifestyle.

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