Picture this. You’re at work, you get on with, say… 70% of the workplace. The other 30 hate your guts. The biggest pile up of your least favourite task has manifested itself on your desk (courtesy of the number 1 of the 30%), you didn’t sleep last night because your flatmates were up partying and you’ve got dinner with clients in two hours. What do you do?
Obviously you handle it like the goddess that you are! Why? Because you practise self care at work…
Self care at work
Self care at work is all about working smarter. It’s no longer seen as selfish to look after yourself but instead seen as selfish not to, as Nadia Narain, yoga teacher and co-author of Self Care in the Real World (along with her sister Katia) explains…
“When you take care of yourself you have more energy and resources. When you eat well, for instance, you feel better for the rest of the day. If you don’t eat and miss lunch you just end up ‘hangry’ and that translates to you reacting rather than responding to people or situations.”
The first step to maximise self care at work is pretty simple and involves, quite literally, enlightenment!
Let there be light
Make sure you have enough natural light in your workspace. Aim for a desk next to the window or try a SAD lamp if you find yourself working in a cupboard (um, if this actually happens, maybe it’s time to look for another job.) You can also try a standing desk like the Swedes, or at least check your seated posture and make sure your spine is straight and your shoulders nice and relaxed.
No matter how much self care you practise, chances are at some point you will be put under pressure. As soon as you begin to feel overwhelmed use it as your cue to take a break, or even better, prevent the feeling of overwhelm by setting an alarm to remind yourself when it’s time for a breather.
Sarah Bladen, author of Practical Zen for Health, Wealth and Mindfulness suggests bringing your meditation practice to work. “Being mindful and present throughout the day gets us out of overthinking and focused on the task at hand. Practising a short meditation is an excellent way of slowing down your blood pressure and balancing your emotions.”
There are also more novel ways to increase your levels of self care at work… “Liven up your surroundings. Place a fun pot plant on your desk, they’re proven to have a healing effect. And it may sound simple but smile as often as possible. Not only does it brighten up other people’s day, your brain starts to secrete happy hormones,” says Sarah.
Nadia Narain suggests taking meetings out for a walk as an excuse to get some exercise, and also encourages other group activities as a way of looking after your team.”One of mine and Katia’s favourite ways to increase self care at work is to get everyone to bring in a plate of food and do a ‘pot-luck lunch’. This is a nice way to build community and ensure you eat healthy food together.”
Of course, a group lunch is no fun when you don’t get on with your colleagues, and let’s face it, there are always some people you’re not going to see eye to eye with, or worse, someone who makes your life difficult…
One of the number one rules in self care is removing toxic influences from your life. If someone is envious or just overly negative, the effects of their energy can be seriously damaging to your self-esteem, and sanity. Unfortunately, in the workplace there’s not a lot you can do to remove these people, so you may have to come up with other coping mechanisms.
Become a witness
Sarah Bladen suggests, “the best way to deal with toxic people is to become a witness when in their presence. Respond in a calm, non-reactive way rather than getting upset or angry. But then, be sure to process these emotions of frustration through movement… so maybe go to a yoga or gym class. Save your energy for your actual work rather than expending it on time-consuming emotional drama.”
“It’s important to set your own ethical boundaries too. If necessary speak to your HR department or someone you trust, so they are aware of what is going on. If the situation doesn’t improve and there is no hope in sight, it is worth looking at ways to move on.”
Too much on your plate? It is ok to say no! In fact, it can be imperative for someone who suffers from anxiety or depression. Speak to your manager if things are becoming too much. Always put things into perspective. If you are continuously being put in a place that is not good for your mental health it may be time to look for something better suited to your needs, especially if you are an empath or highly sensitive soul.
Remember your rights!
Being an employee legally puts you in a safer position than your employer so don’t feel small just because someone is paying your wages. I’m not saying you should get on your high horse – be respectful and grateful of your part to play in an organisation, but always know your self worth. If someone is on your back or you are feeling the pressure, remember that your mental health always comes first.
Raise your vibration
It’s all about the positivity so one of the best ways to practise self care at work is to play around with one of the many ways to raise your vibration. You can get creative with mood boards, motivational podcasts or inspirational quotes. Try to stay away from things that subconsciously make you feel bad. If that happens to be comparing your life to celebrities on Instagram, just unfollow them. Simple!
Nadia Narain suggests creating a Pinterest board and saving it as a screensaver on your computer. “You would want to think about how to see your day and what it should look like – calm, inspired, creative… and find images that reflect that. If you have a wall at your desk you could also put a physical moodboard up, or you can fill a little notebook that you keep at your desk that you keep coming back to,” she says.
An attitude of gratitude
Journaling is a great way to put your thoughts into perspective. Spend five to ten minutes writing down what you are feeling and let the words flow. If you’re going to have a moan about your coworkers remember to burn it or delete it after. Negativity only breeds more negativity and to practise self care at work you want to get out of that mindset as soon as possible. It’s much better to focus on the positives than spiral into misery, so try to end your journaling session by listing a few key things you are grateful for.
Nadia Narain explains, “gratitude is one of our main practices in any area and we find the more grateful we are, the more or view changes in every area of our lives. If you can start to be kinder to yourself, this then translates to your work, relationships and all other areas of your life. Try starting your work day by visualising how you see your day and three things that would make the day great.”
Another way to increase your self care at work is by listening to podcasts. Sarah Bladen suggests listening to the Zenways dharma talk podcast channel, “otherwise, I love listening to chilled beach lounge music when I work. Something like Café Del Mar,” she says.
We all suffer a bit from imposter syndrome. A little bit of self-doubt keeps people in check but unfortunately has the after-effect of lowering self esteem. One of the ways this manifests in the workplace is the dreaded imposter syndrome, but this doesn’t have to be entirely negative.
“It’s never a bad thing to be humble and at the same time pay attention to feeling inadequate. Sometimes a little imposter syndrome, keeps you on your toes!” says Nadia.
Sarah Bladen adds, “doubting your abilities and feeling like you aren’t good enough can happen to the best of us. Many successful artists suffer from crippling self doubt. Sometimes this helps to fuel their creative work! However, it’s worth working on upping your self esteem and building up self love. It also helps to look at the bigger picture. If you are caught up in a swirl of downward spiral thoughts, simply bring awareness to your breath and slow it down. This immediately calms your nervous system.”
The main thing to remember with self-care at work is that you might not realise you need it until it’s too late, so the best way to prevent a total meltdown is to schedule in little bursts of self care throughout your working day. And if things do hit the fan, however bad they may get, remember that you are always in control.