‘Self-care’ has become a buzzword, and some people see it as an indulgence or a reward for a job well done. But self-care – which simply means taking care of our mental and physical health – is critical for living a happy and healthy life. Practising daily self-care can help you stay focused, rejuvenated, stress-free and sane.
Older generations, particularly those aged over 40, were raised with the work ethic that you should push on regardless of challenges. You were expected to show up for work every day, put on a happy face and keep your problems to yourself.
Thank goodness times have changed and we now know how important self-care can be in preventing burnout, improving job performance and being happier and healthier.
Extreme stress leads to health issues
It is now widely recognised in the professional world that stress can lead to a range of mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety and high blood pressure.
According to a State of Workplace Mental Health report published by Beyond Blue in 2014, one in five Australians (21%) took time off work in the previous 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. This statistic was more than twice as high (46%) among those who considered their workplace ‘mentally unhealthy’.
It’s clear that self-care is important not only to our health, but also to our long-term career success. Read on for some simple tips on incorporating self-care into your daily life.
Take breaks: Remember to give yourself a rest. Try to prioritise this on weekends, even if it’s just to take an hour to read a book or watch a movie. If you have holidays or personal leave days available, use them to step away from the workplace and recharge. During the work day, heading outside can be extremely beneficial, even if it’s just for a five-minute break.
Set goals: The key to preventing burnout is to reduce stress levels. One way to do this is by setting and achieving short-term goals. Break down your bigger goals and responsibilities into small, attainable goals, or set yourself a realistic goal of learning a new skill.
Learn to say ‘no’: We’re living in a culture where we feel we must fill every minute of every day. We overschedule ourselves and then wonder why we’re overwhelmed and unable to finish our tasks. If that’s a problem you face, here’s a simple lesson: you don’t need to do everything. Resist the urge to take on new commitments. Decline activities that will add extra stress to your life. Just learn to say ‘no’.
This is perhaps the most important thing to remember if you’re a ‘people pleaser’ trying to juggle a hectic schedule. It may seem impossible or uncomfortable to push back, but when you do it will be liberating. You’ll give yourself time to engage in other things, and with time you’ll be declining unwanted plans or counterproductive meetings with ease.
Create a support system: Reduce stress in your life by asking those around you for help. It’s okay to rely on other people. Tell family and friends about your work so you don’t feel isolated. Chat to people who do similar work to you, and also spend time with them talking about things other than work. This allows you to connect with people facing similar challenges, while gaining support on different levels.
Connect with your emotions: If you’re feeling anxious or stressed in certain situations, your brain and body are trying to tell you something. Listen to what your emotions are saying about what you want and need, and this will help your overall mental health and keep you on track for career success.
Practise mindfulness: Research has shown that mindfulness can help ease stress, anxiety and depression – and there are many ways to practise it. Take up yoga or unplug from technology and social media to just ‘be’. Try out a few breathing exercises or simply pay attention to your breath, which helps to take you out of your mind and into your body. There are also lots of great apps that can help you practise mindfulness.
Find ways to unwind every day: In the hard-charging, ever-competitive world of business, we often try to squeeze more into each day. But one of the best ways to improve productivity is to allow time for unwinding each day. By knowing when to unplug from work, you give yourself time to decompress, reconnect with loved ones and check in with your own thoughts and feelings. You’ll feel rejuvenated and better able to handle the pressures of your job.
Stress and burnout can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t need to sacrifice your wellbeing for your career, so as you start the new year, remember to prioritise self-care. After all, the healthier you are, the better you can perform your job and help those around you.
If you often feel stressed or anxious at work, it may be time for a career change. Our Career Counsellors and Interview Coaches can help set you on the right path so you’ll have less stress at work and more time for self-care in your day.