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  • Rob Stalder

Five Ways to Practice Self-Care during the Workday

Make no mistake, we’re more stressed and burned out than ever before. So much so, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global mental health crisis and now defines burnout as both an occupational risk and work condition.


Clearly, there’s never been a more urgent need for self-care and yet two-thirds of Americans report caring for others over themselves. That’s because one of the biggest myths about self-care is that it’s selfish. Hint: It’s not. In fact, think of it as a time to reset and restore yourself so you can focus on supporting others—both at home and at work.


Following are five ways to practice self-care during your workday and improve your overall well-being.


Start your day on a positive note.

News and social media feeds are a huge source of unnecessary distress. From politics to the pandemic, the constant barrage of negative, upsetting information is causing unprecedented levels of stress. And yet, how do we begin our days? With coffee, Facebook and the TV blaring the morning news.


It’s time for a new morning routine, one that—at the very least—starts you off in a positive space. Trade in your breakfast perusal of Twitter for an uplifting, happy podcast or an inspiring story.


Add breathing exercises to your daily routine.

A massage is likely your first thought when you think of self-care, but how about starting with something quick, cheap and easy: deep breathing. Among other benefits, oxygen helps increase energy and lower blood pressure. As a daily practice, breathing exercises reduce anxiety, allowing you to stay focused and productive.


One common technique is “4-7-8 breathing.” This involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds and exhaling slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat 3 – 4 times. You can find others here.


Don’t be afraid to say no.

When we get busy, we tend to lose sight of how important it is to say no. And when we don’t say no, we make ourselves even more busy. It’s a vicious, stress-inducing cycle that wreaks havoc on our bodies and leads to burnout.


The thing is, it’s just not possible to be available to everyone all of the time. We need to re-learn the power of saying no and have the courage to actually say it (when appropriate, of course).


Take time to learn something new.

One way many of us deal with work and home stressors is to “buckle down and power through.” While this approach may result in checking off tasks, in the long run it leads to anxiety, chronic exhaustion and impaired performance.


Another way to reduce the effects of stress is to focus on learning. So, block some time in your day to learn a new skill or hobby. Doing so breaks stressful patterns of behavior and has a positive impact on our mental well-being.


Take a 10-minute break and declutter.

Whether in the open or hidden behind closet doors, research shows that clutter increases cortisol and anxiety levels, negatively impacting your focus and productivity. And if you work from home, you’re likely experiencing these biological and neurological effects more than someone who doesn’t.


The fix? Set a timer for 10 minutes each day and get busy decluttering/organizing—your desk, a sock drawer, a pantry shelf. Doing so is a win-win: a break from work and a move toward improving your overall well-being.


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