When you think of self care, what do you imagine? A lazy lie in bed with your favourites on Saturday morning? Or, maybe that looks like a meal prep or mini pamper session on Sunday… You want to get calm and organized before yet another crazy week starts.
YES I’m with you. #selfcaresundays for the win.
But, here’s what I have a problem with…
What about all those long hours we’re spending at work or in our business? Shouldn’t we be looking after ourselves then, too? Why is self care reserved for down time?
What if we flipped this notion on its head and made it PART of our work day?
Why Self Care At Work Shouldn’t Be Negotiable
Look, I get it. Self care waits for home or weekends because we feel guilty for even thinking about it between our 9-5. But you know, regardless of whether you’re freelancing, building a brand on the side or running a small business, one thing is clear:
Burnout and overwhelm helps NO one.
You can have all the self care Sundays you like, if you’re overdoing things at work and not taking care of yourself during work hours, you’re in for trouble.
I’ve always struggled with this. No matter what exercise I did after work or how many morning routines I tried, I’d still felt the burnout at work.
And it’s simply because I wasn’t looking after myself properly during work hours.
Now, to clarify quick – I’m not talking about taking a lunch break or leaving work on time. Both of which, by the way, should be part and parcel of every job. I’m talking about being more accountable for your mental and emotional well-being at work.
Self care at work is how we stay productive, creative, motivated and better balanced.
As a creative freelancer starting a new business, I know how important hard work is, especially in the beginning. But, I also know that health comes first. So, I’m sharing a few things that have helped me in the last few months, both in an office role and while working from home:
Here are six ways to boost your mental energy, productivity and creativity at work – beyond a quick tea break:
6 Practical Ways To Inject More Self Care Into Your Workday
1) CREATE A WORK AREA YOU LOVE
You might be wondering what tidying up a desk has to do with mental energy. I did, too. Then I researched and read how numerous studies have shown that clutter contributes to feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and stress. Not exactly a recipe for creativity and production, is it?!
I feel most inspired when my desk is organised, but not to the point of feeling clinical or impersonal. I keep it tidy with a bunch of colourful notebooks right in front of me, because they make me happy. My wall is full of inspiring quotes and I’ve got scented candles on my desk. These things light me up. Add a cappuccino to the mix and I feel like I’m ready to take on the world.
Find what lights you up and create a space you look forward to seeing every day. (You’re there for 8–9 hours, so I’d say it’s pretty important – even if you have a hot desk situation going on… try and make it yours for those hours).
2) SQUEEZE MINI MOOD BOOSTERS INTO YOUR DAY
Time is precious. There’s a ton of stuff to get done and only so many hours in the day. BUT, what’s the point when we feel totally drained by 5pm?
I’ve started drinking a green juice instead of coffee first thing, and it’s such a great, healthy way to start the day. I save that frothy cuppa for around 09.30, when I’m ready to zone in properly. By around 2pm when I’m feeling the infamous afternoon slump, I put on some music. And then, near the end of the day, I try and have something fun to look forward to – either a feel-good workout or listening to an inspiring podcast.
This is especially helpful on those jam-packed days, or “meh” days when it feels like nothing is going right. Mini mood boosters, they really work!
3) PRACTICE THE ART OF SAYING “NO”
It’s so easy to avoid conflict by saying yes to everything. To sitting in unproductive meetings, to compromising your free time because a client or colleague can’t manage their own time, to agreeing to things that go against your morals.
Self care isn’t just coffee breaks and pretty notebooks.
It’s the unpleasant things, too. It’s learning to stand up for yourself and saying NO. Enough. No more. I found this incredibly empowering recently. And believe it or not, when you learn to say no, you’re really freeing up a LOT of extra space and mental energy that could be put to better use. (Like new creative or promotional projects, for example!)
4) BE UNAPOLOGETICALLY PROTECTIVE OF YOUR TIME
Two years ago when I really got back to blogging, I received a few emails from people asking me for tips. I thought this was great! I love helping people and encouraging them to go for their goals. So I spent quite a bit of time and energy typing out tips, sharing tools, and linking to helpful articles.
A few people were really grateful and emailed me back with a ton of renewed motivation. Others didn’t even bother to reply back to say thank you. To say I was a little irritated is an understatement. That’s when I realised how precious my time was. The truth is, just because you’re a nice person, doesn’t mean you have to give away your skills, expertise, time and energy just because someone asks. There’s a reason people charge for their time and there’s a reason people say no to things.
Decide where your energy boundaries lie and set them. Sure, be helpful, be encouraging – but, not to the point where you’re spending a lot of time on something that just feels like you’re being taken advantage of.
5) GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO GO SLOW
Let’s be honest: the world is not going to end if you give yourself extra time to do something. We’re not firefighters or surgeons here. As a creative and INFJ personality, my best work comes to life when I’m not rushed or feeling pressured. I used to set these crazy deadlines for myself and thought I was being super productive. But, I wasn’t. Instead, I started hating the one thing I used to enjoy. It’s easy to work that way when you see so many other people doing the same thing.
I’m working very differently these days and my deadlines are a lot more flexible.
This website was meant to launch on 1 July. It’s 15 July as I edit this blog. Am I procrastinating? Not at all. Things just take longer than expected when you’re creating your own business and wearing all the hats. And that’s OKAY. I’d rather put out quality that’s going to add value, than chuck out something so-so just because everyone’s talking about starting anywhere.
There’s enough noise in the digital world. I’d rather make my “noise” count and enjoy the process, instead of burning myself out for no reason at all.
6) CELEBRATE THE SMALL WINS EVERY DAY
It’s easy to focus on everything that isn’t going right at work. Unpredictable setbacks, a completed project that’s suddenly put on ice, a really monstrous day. Real life.
I used to berate myself for not doing things perfectly or fast enough – all the time. I never gave myself permission to feel good about all the little things that I was actually doing.
Little things that are actually pretty big things when you look at the whole picture. Negative self talk is so counter-productive to our mood and sense of well-being. Again, not great for being creative or feeling inspired with new ideas.
What little things can you celebrate during the workday?
How about having a difficult conversation with a client, fixing something you never imagined you could do, or simply prioritising a mindful lunchbreak.
These are all things to celebrate!
Don’t just save the victory lap for the big launch or completed project. Celebrate every little milestone and cheer yourself on, because honestly, there’s enough people out there who won’t.
Now, I’ve started becoming my own personal cheerleader – sometimes it’s simply a silent thought of “well done!” and other times, it’s an outright (loud, jumping, dancing) “woohoo!” I mean, why not? Life’s stressful enough, why not create a little extra feel-good joy during the workday?
I hope you found some of these tips helpful… Let me know in the comments below what you do to boost your productivity, mental energy and creativity at work!