Work-Life Balance

Ten ways to practice self-care at work

Written by Kate Lopaze

When you hear the phrase “self-care,” you might think of personal things like meditation, indulging in something decadent, yoga, a spa day, or taking time for a good book. But when you think about how much of your time you spend at work, it makes sense to broaden that definition of self-care to include your professional, hardworking self as well.

Here are 10 ways you can help expand your self care regimen into your workday.

1. Set boundaries

This can be one of the hardest things to do (gotta answer that 10 p.m. email!), but when work bleeds over into other aspects of your life, it can be a major source of stress. Start by setting no-work zones in your life, whether that’s not checking email on a Saturday, or turning off your phone by a certain time every evening.

2. Make your desk a zen space.

A clean, organized desk can reduce stress as well, and help put you in a good working headspace. Whether that means completely Kondo-ing your desk or simply deciding whether you need a ton of paper files instead of a digital archive, getting stuff out of your line of vision can help you feel more organized and on top of things.

3. Take walk breaks

Being deskbound can lead to all sorts of health issues, like back pain, weight gain, and plain old stress. If you can, schedule little breaks where you get up and walk around. If you can’t go outside, a loop around your office will do. Plus, you’ll have the extra incentive to be more social if you’re circulating.

4. Rethink your lunch hour

Your lunch hour doesn’t have to be just about lunch. Think of it as a “free period,” like back in school. Eating is key (hey, it’s in the name), but think about how to maximize your time. If your gym is nearby, consider a quick workout. Go out and grab a coffee. Find a quiet spot and meditate. Whatever helps you recharge for the afternoon, consider it part of your lunch routine.

5. Be a social butterfly

How many people do you work with that you’d consider a friend, not just an acquaintance who happens to be in the same place for 40 hours a week? Being more proactive about saying “hi” as you pass someone in the hall or waiting for coffee can help you make inroads with coworkers. It may seem like awkward chitchat at first, but making time to talk with people can help make your work relationships more fulfilling.

6. Be proactive about what you need

Feeling overwhelmed? Bored because you need more challenging work? Have a simmering conflict with a boss or coworker? If you want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, it’s important to be proactive and attack issues as they come up. This is not to say you should be hyper-aggressive about everything that doesn’t feel like it’s going your way, but if you take an active approach to evaluating and fixing issues, it can boost your confidence, productivity, and general satisfaction levels at work.

7. Stay hydrated

This is a self-care strategy that works in every walk of life. And at work, it can be especially hard to remember to stay hydrated, since you may not be especially active while you’re working during the day. Investing in a water bottle and keeping it topped off throughout the day, can help you build good hydration practices instead of turning to coffee, soda, or other drinks that should be kept in moderation.

8. Go analog at least once a day

How much of your day is spent staring at a screen? Every day, set aside some time to do tasks that require you to look away from your computer and phone. Maybe it’s writing down a task list for the day. Maybe it’s jotting down notes ahead of a meeting to gather your thoughts. Our digital tools are very handy, but they also cause eye strain. It does your eyes and your brain good to get a break from screentime every once in a while. Your email will be waiting when you come back a few minutes later, don’t worry.

9. Dress the part

You know the old saying, “dress for the job you want”? I’d expand that to be dress for the work life you want. Wear things that make you feel confident and ready to go. Taking a little extra care with your outfit in the morning can help boost your mood throughout the day.

10. Set challenges for yourself

One of the most lethal threats to productivity is boredom. Regularly set realistic challenges for yourself. Try building a new professional skill that can help you later on with a promotion. Learn how a particular process at your company works that you’ve always been curious about. Set a goal of reading a certain number of industry-related articles per week. Whatever will keep you focused and engaged, add it to the list!

We spend so much of our time working. With the stresses and monotony of the work day, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that will make us happier. You have the power to make your work day smoother and more fulfilling, so it is definitely worth the effort.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.