Navigating Self-Care at Work

April 7, 2020

When it became clear that everyone could take action to help the global pandemic by practicing quarantine and social distancing, many people (Backpack students included) were forced to upend their work, school, and home lives to stay at home as much as possible for the sake of national and global health. Since work and home lives are becoming more and more intertwined the longer people stay at home, self-care is increasingly important. Self-care is already a popular subject, as bath bombs, yoga practices, and skin routines are shared across social media during these unprecedented circumstances. As much as we’re focusing on self-care right now, it’s also important that we try to keep routines in our regular, day-to-day life, especially at work. 

What is Self-Care?

Often self-care is associated with self-indulgence and the idea of treating yourself to luxury—leisurely items like bath bombs or a nice dinner. However, it’s important to define self-care as an individual taking action to support their well-being and happiness in whatever way they see fit. This can show up as taking care of one’s mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and more. For some, self-care is taking prescribed medication or showing up at a scheduled therapy session, and for others it’s meditation, drinking enough water every day, or connecting with friends and family. 

Self care in a work environment

Unfortunately, stress, anxiety, negativity, and other mental health issues don’t know when the 9-to-5 grind ends and free time begins, so navigating mental health while at work is a skill that many college students or young professionals find themselves needing to learn. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 61 percent of people surveyed reported that their mental health affects their productivity at work, and for many, their mental health may be exacerbated by stressful external factors like family issues, financial troubles, or even a nationwide quarantine. 

Although I’m not an expert in the area, I do have self-care practices that I’m trying to apply to my new work routine and hope to bring with me into future work routines.

  • Communication and Self-Advocacy
    • Making sure you’re communicating and advocating for how you’re feeling and your stress levels with supervisors or team members if they’re receptive. Keeping your coworkers (or your family members) in the loop can help prevent miscommunication, misunderstandings, and further stress and anxiety.
  • Move Your Body
    • If you’re stuck working at home, try to schedule time during the day to get up and move around (even if now it’s just from the living room to the end of the driveway). If you have a work call, maybe take it outside or while walking. If you have time to go on a lunch break, take it outside when the weather is nice. 
  • Schedule a time to check your emails
    • For students and professionals alike, it can feel like the emails will never stop. To avoid checking your email every few seconds, turn off the notifications and try checking every 15–30 minutes to improve your productivity and to avoid feeling bombarded by information.
  • Unplug yourself
    • The line between using technology for fun and work is becoming increasingly blurred. Embracing hobbies that don’t involve technology can ease the effect of technology and its content on one’s physical and mental health. Pick up that book that’s collecting dust on your night stand, order a paint-by-number online, or sit down to journal your thoughts and feelings!
  • Bonus: 
    • In the self-care blog Morning Coffee with Dee, social worker and writer, Dee, recommends the use of a “Happy Document” to her followers. A “Happy Document,” according to Dee is “a running list of positive things that occur at work.” The positive occurrences include praise, recognition, and compliments you receive, or even descriptions of positive things that happen during the day

If you feel your day-to-day work and home lives getting stressful, try one of these practices and use whatever works for you! Self-care can be difficult to add to a daily routine, so remember that nobody’s perfect. Above all, take care of yourself, no matter what that looks like to you.