Ten Ways to Practice Self-Care at Work

by Nov 2, 2023

Do you often find yourself stuck in a never-ending loop of deadlines, meetings, and tasks? The pressure to do well at your job can be really intense. But it’s crucial to remember that taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health should come before anything else. After all, you can’t be effective at work if you’re feeling sick, completely drained, or anxious.

If your workplace has plenty of stressors and you’re always too busy to relax, it can leave you feeling exhausted and make it even harder to stay focused on your work. In fact, a survey found that 67% of Americans tended to prioritize others over themselves. Interestingly, 68% of these respondents wished they had dedicated more time to taking care of themselves.

In essence,  the survey underscores the importance of self-care and suggests that many people recognize the need for it.


What is self-care?

When you hear the term “self-care,” you might picture things like spa days and meditation, and those can be part of it. While those are a couple common examples of self-care, practicing self-care is so much more than that. 

The fun thing about self-care is that it’s unique for each person. What helps one person might not be the same for another. Meditation works for some, while others want to work up a sweat.

For example, my teammate Cleo’s form of self-care is to spend a quiet evening with a good book, enjoying some alone time to recharge. As for me, I discover my self-care by hitting the road, seeking out adventures, breathing in the fresh air, and absorbing the beauty of my surroundings.


Why is self-care important for productivity in the workplace?

“People that look after themselves [and practice self-care] do have better cognitive ability. They do have better focus and they do have better concentration,” “They tend to actually produce more.” Dr. Russell Thackeray, a licensed clinical psychologist who consults on productivity.

Self-care keeps you in good physical and mental shape, and this helps you do your job well. It’s like giving your brain a break so you can think about things, come up with solutions, and understand yourself better. This way, you can be more productive at work.


How do I use self-care at work?

Despite the benefits of self-care, it’s not a priority for most people. Many believe they just don’t have the time. Thankfully, there are some ways to incorporate self-care into your schedule, no matter how busy you are. It’s about integrating self-care practices into your daily work routine. Here are some strategies to start with:


1) Take short breaks

Take short breaks throughout your busy workday, even if it’s just a few minutes. Use this time to stretch your limbs, walk around, or engage in some calming deep breathing exercises. These brief interludes provide an opportunity for you to recharge, both physically and mentally. 

You’d be surprised how these tiny pauses can work wonders, not only in boosting your productivity but also in how you feel during your workday.


2) Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated isn’t just beneficial for your body; it can also work wonders for your focus and alertness. Research indeed indicates that even mild dehydration, defined as a body water loss of just 1-2%, can have a notable negative impact on cognitive performance. This means that staying properly hydrated is not only essential for your physical health but also for maintaining optimal cognitive function.

Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day to give your mind the boost it needs to stay sharp and attentive. It’s a simple yet powerful way to keep both your body and mind in top form.


3) Do desk exercises

Incorporate simple exercises that can be done at your desk, like leg lifts, neck stretches, or shoulder rolls. This can help prevent muscle tension. Plus, they’re a fantastic way to break up the monotony of the workday and keep your body feeling relaxed and supple. Give it a try; your body will thank you!


4) Organize your space

Maintaining an organized and clutter-free workspace has numerous benefits. Not only does it make it easier to focus on your tasks without distractions, but statistics also show that a clean workspace can increase employee motivation by a significant 84%. This not only reduces stress but also contributes to a more pleasant and productive work environment. 


5) Keep healthy snacks

Choosing the right snacks can have a significant impact on your health and energy levels. If you’re considering potato chips, donuts, or a slice of cake, well, they might not be the best choice. On the other hand, reaching for healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, and chia pudding can work wonders for teamwork efficiency. After all, a nutritious snack can provide that much-needed boost to help you refocus and power through your remaining tasks in those later hours of the day.


6) Set boundaries

Learning to say no when it’s necessary is a crucial skill for maintaining your well-being as it is a game-changer when it comes to preventing overextension and the feeling of being overwhelmed. 

By respectfully declining tasks or commitments that would stretch you too thin, you’re not only safeguarding your mental and emotional health but also ensuring that you can focus your energy on the things that matter most to you. 

As a leader, it’s essential to create a psychologically safe environment within your organization. It’s one of the most crucial things you can do to foster a workplace where your employees feel comfortable setting boundaries.


7) Detox from digital devices

Take short breaks from your electronic devices. A few minutes without screens can help reduce eye strain and mental fatigue.

I’ve personally found this to be really effective because it helps me recharge and reduces my stress levels. Stepping away from the screen, even for a brief moment, makes a world of difference in my ability to focus.


8) Listen to music or nature sounds

Music is a universal language that can speak to people on different levels. Consider using headphones to listen to soothing music or nature sounds. It’s a simple yet effective way to relax and reduce stress during your workday. 


9) Talk positively to yourself

Remember to be mindful of your self-talk, the way you speak to yourself, and the thoughts that run through your mind. The way you treat yourself mentally is just as important as how you care for your physical well-being. 


10) Spend quality time with people

Our social connections have a remarkable ability to uplift us. It’s worth noting that even if you’re not naturally extroverted, spending quality time with your support system can be a powerful way to recharge and boost your well-being. The people who care about you can provide the emotional support and connection that are essential for your mental and emotional health.


To sum it up,

Self-care doesn’t have to take up a lot of time or money. In fact, it works best when you focus on quick, simple self-care activities rather than doing big and infrequent things. Self-care should actually reduce stress, not add to it.

Additionally, as a leader, it becomes increasingly important that your employees feel comfortable making these healthy changes. Make sure you foster an environment where these activities are welcomed and encouraged. One way to do this is to conduct a climate assessment so you can ensure your culture fosters open communication and encourages healthy habits.

The journey to better self-care and a more supportive workplace starts with you. Make these small changes today and create a healthier, happier work environment.

Whether you’re an organizational leader or an employee working from home, self care at work doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming! Also, check out our training programs and we’ll develop custom learning that fits your organization’s needs.



P.S. We’re excited to let you know that we’re hosting a free event featuring a panel of experts discussing  “When Intersectionality and Toxic Behavior Intersect: Managing Toxic Behavior as it Relates to Race, Sex, and Gender” on November 29th at 10am PST. This is a fantastic opportunity to dive into this crucial topic and gain valuable insights. Be sure to visit our registration page and share it with anyone who could benefit from this event! 

Civility is the platform for organizational success—it is absolutely necessary for an organization to reach its goals. Download our Ebook on Seeking Civility to learn more on how to create a workplace free of bullying and abusive conduct.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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