When it comes to professional self-care, there’s nothing that rings truer than the old saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” And with good reason, too. Living through almost two years of “two weeks to flatten the curve” has taken its toll on all of us.
We are dealing with incredible pressure and stress, feeling mentally drained and emotionally overloaded, and living with unusual levels of anxiety, fear, and worry. As working professionals, we are also dealing with work demands while juggling homeschooling, managing personal and family life, and other commitments. Throw in the uncertainty of navigating life through a pandemic and constant social isolation, and it’s no wonder many of us are teetering on the edge of burnout and exhaustion.
All these factors combined make it all the more crucial to practice self-care. In this article, we’re sharing some helpful self-care tips for professionals like you that can make all the difference in your well-being.
What is Self-Care?
Defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the ability to promote and maintain health, prevent disease, and cope with illness and disability, self-care can look different for different people. We may think of massages and bubble baths, but personal self-care examples can also include eating nutritious food, cultivating a regular movement practice, and getting enough sleep. Anything that helps improve your happiness, health, and overall well-being can be considered self-care.
An integral but often overlooked part of our health and wellbeing is mental health. Feeling well emotionally, having the capacity to form meaningful relationships with others, and being able to cope with the ordinary demands and stresses of life are some signs of being in good mental health. Nurturing the mind is just as important as maintaining a healthy body, which is why self-care tips should always include ways to improve mental health as well.
Why Professional Self-Care is Important
Oftentimes, we don’t think about self-care until it’s too late. As busy professionals, we think of self-care as an indulgence we don’t have the time for. We trust that we have the mental fortitude and ability to power through or tell ourselves that we can rest after “one last project” or commitment. Yet, our increasingly hectic lives are packed to the brim with one thing coming up after another, and we may in fact be waiting for a break that never happens.
Left unchecked, stress and burnout can lead to physical and mental health problems. In 2019, nearly 50 million American adults experienced a mental illness, and the number of people who have suicidal thoughts has continued to increase every year for the past decade. Prolonged stretches of high stress can also lead to physical health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, sexual dysfunction, and gastrointestinal problems.
We need to recognize that self-care is critical to help keep our minds and bodies healthy, and that we need to practice self-care preemptively. Only when we are feeling our best mentally and physically, can we show up as our best selves to help others around us.
But what are some ways we can practice self-care at work and at home? Here are three easy professional self-care ideas to help you get started on your self-care journey.
Tip #1: Value Yourself
Self-care starts with valuing yourself. When you value yourself, you believe that you are worthy of kindness, compassion, respect, and all things good – including self-care. In the many roles that we play in our life – parent, child, sibling, friend, partner, employee, manager, and more – we may feel called to fulfill a variety of responsibilities and demands from others. It is easy to fall into the trap of putting others’ needs before your own, but when you value yourself, you will recognize that you are just as deserving of having your needs met as others.
Start by treating yourself with kindness and respect. Avoid self-criticism, and be patient with yourself as you navigate the challenges that come your way. Show yourself the same grace you would show anyone else in your position.
Valuing yourself can even look like saying “no” to certain tasks or requests. We recommend regularly taking stock of your mental and emotional bandwidth and being realistic about what you can reasonably take on. At work, this may look like asking for extra help on a big project, setting firm boundaries about your work hours, or clarifying the duties and responsibilities within your job scope.
Tip #2: Learn to Deal with Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of life, and short periods of moderate stress have been found to improve performance. However, elevated stress levels over extended periods can be counterproductive. For many of us working through the pandemic, this has become our reality. Learning to manage stress levels is key to improving your general health and wellness, and stress-busting techniques can easily form a part of your personal self-care kit. Whether at home or in the workplace, these strategies can easily become a part of your daily routine to alleviate stress.
One-Minute Stress Strategies, exercise, taking a nature walk, playing with a pet, and writing in a journal are some examples of activities that reduce stress. Meditation is another simple and effective way to deal with stress and practice self-care at work. Some research has even shown that meditation can improve physical and mental health issues like high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. Having a variety of strategies on hand to manage stress is definitely one way to care for ourselves.
Tip #3: Get Help When You Need It
Many of us have been socialized to believe that we should be able to do everything on our own, and are hesitant to turn to others for help. However, no man is an island, and seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. In fact, it demonstrates self-awareness and emotional maturity to recognize your limitations and ask for support and is a way of taking care of yourself.
Asking for help in a professional setting may be as simple as inviting collaborators to participate in your project or seeking out additional resources to support you in your work. If you are feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or excessively stressed, we also recommend seeking help from professional mental health services. Some companies may offer corporate counseling services or you may feel more comfortable seeking out a therapist on your own. A variety of effective treatment options are available, and asking for help is the first step to taking control of your physical and mental health.
To be a productive member of society and sustainably show up in our lives in the ways that matter most, we all need to consistently and preemptively practice self-care. These are just a few tips to help you get started on your professional self-care journey, but many other alternatives are available too.
Interested in learning more about the importance of self-care and getting tools to show up as your best self? Take our free Self-Care and Mental Health course and learn more about different self-care strategies, when to seek professional help, and more! Enroll for free today!