How to Create Self-Care Routines At Work

May 17, 2018

The month of May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, an observance that aims to increase awareness of and discussions surrounding mental health conditions. It’s also about combating stigma. At Elysian, we believe that everyone should be able to go to work as a whole person--not as part of a bottom line, or the means to an end in a creative project. Being a whole person with strengths, weaknesses, and talents also means being a person who may sometimes experience hardship that makes life and work more difficult. This month, we’re devoting our blog to talking about mental health and how it relates to work and the workplace.

Oftentimes, we think of self-care as a weekend thing, or a strictly not-at-work thing. It’s taking yourself out to a really nice dinner, buying yourself something you’ve been wanting, or giving yourself some alone time to process when you really need it, right? But self-care is about your wellbeing--and that doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be put on hold during the week. Work and all of the stress that may come with it can wear away at your mental health and sanity all together without taking proper care of yourself. But there are some important ways you can create healthy routines for yourself, stay mindful during the work day, and weave self-care into your work schedule. It’s important to remember that taking care of yourself by taking breaks, and creating a positive work environment is not only possible but necessary. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that giving yourself a break should be reserved for after-work hours, but that’s not true.

Giving yourself a break and creating self-care and mindfulness routines and check-ins at work can improve your workday. You can integrate it into your lunch break, your commute, or create an afternoon ritual. We have some ideas on ways to create healthy habits, below.

Make your desk, chair, and workspace as comfortable and welcoming as possible
Your workspace has a huge impact on your productivity, and having a comfortable one can make all the difference. That’s why organizing your workspace in a way that helps you feel motivated and productive can be so helpful. Whether it’s something small like adding a pillow to the chair you sit in, or doing a little redecorating with photos that make you smile, creating a peaceful workspace can go a long way.

Choose a daily ritual to look forward to
Whether you take a 15-minute walk along a new street or area near your workspace, or grab coffee with someone every morning, having something to look forward to will keep you motivated.

Create a special work playlist to listen to during the day
Music can be calming, motivating, and empowering. Creating a personalized playlist on your phone or on an app can help you stay focused or pump you up to work on a project you might feel intimidated by or hesitant to start. You can also create multiple playlists for different parts of the day--a morning mood, an afternoon mood, and a late afternoon “finish strong” playlist.

Change your understanding of “lunch”
Most of us think of lunch as something sacred. Even if you don’t leave your desk, it’s probably already something you think of as “me time.” But what if you stopped thinking about lunch as just lunch? It’s great to remember that it doesn’t always have to be about food. It can simply be a personal hour where you check in with yourself, write in a journal, go for a walk, and pause your workday. If you have the time and access, you can go for a quick gym session. Maybe there’s a park somewhere near your workspace or office. Whatever it is, setting up a routine of fully immersing yourself in your lunch hour and truly using it for yourself can be life-changing.

It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day. But using your lunch time to focus on something that excites you, revitalizes you, or inspires you is a great way to renew your spirit for the second part of the day.

Create an area for plants in your workspace
Having plants in your workspace, whether they’re right at your desk or nearby, can really liven up your day. They can be a reminder to breathe in deeply and exhale. They can also give you another ritual, if you buy plants that you have to water daily or weekly.

Bring snacks and create a snack drawer
By keeping snacks on hand, you’ll promote regular eating. You’ll also have a little reward for yourself any time you complete a task or project you were working to finish. Eating regularly and making sure to snack during the day is a big part of staying balanced, and keeping your head clear and focused. If you’re eating, you’re also less likely to be as fatigued at the end of the day.

Keep a big bottle of water at your desk
We probably don’t have to tell you that staying hydrated is a big contributor to being able to remain focused and healthy. Keeping a big bottle of water at your desk is one way to stay mindful and remind you to check in with your body. Drinking it will also give you a reason to get up and go to the bathroom every so often, which will create natural breaks that ensure you’re not sitting all day.

Take walks around the office
The average person in America spends nearly 8 hours a day sitting, which can cause many health consequences--physical and mental. But taking walks around the office a few times a day can combat that, and reenergize both our bodies and minds. Physical activity gets your brain moving, even if it’s only taking a few steps. To remind yourself, you can set a timer on your phone for every other hour and take a quick walk. Go talk to a coworker you want to catch up with. Don’t work in an office you’re familiar with? Go find somewhere new to explore briefly.

Last but not least... Don’t think of self-care as another time-eater or “should”
Self-care and taking time out of your already busy schedule can feel unachievable. But the intention is not to add another line to your to-do list. If you think of it as adding value and energy to your life, as opposed to something you “should” do, your perspective will shift and it won’t feel like an extra thing to accomplish. Instead, it will be something that you get to do for yourself.  

All the best