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Over the past few years since the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health awareness came to the fore as many of us struggled with burnout. According to a survey on mental health in six Asian countries during the pandemic commissioned by Channel NewsAsia, 57% of respondents indicated that burnout was the top contributor affecting mental health in Singapore.
Burnout is a syndrome, says the World Health Organization, that comes from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been well managed. It is an occupation phenomenon caused by exhaustion, growing mental distance from the job, or having negative or cynical feelings towards it, leading also to lower efficacy. Practising self-care at work is key to preventing burnout and having a healthy work-life balance.
Of course, self-care at the workplace isn’t just about reducing the risk of burnout. It’s also a vital contributor to your overall physical and mental health, which affects your productivity and performance at work. These then contribute to better relationships at the workplace and overall job satisfaction, which is essential for career success.
So how can you incorporate better self-care at work? Here are 10 quick tips to try.
1. Take proper breaks
Take regular short breaks throughout the day to recharge and reset your mood. A five-minute tea break can make a difference in reducing stress and maintaining productivity in your day, reducing the need for a long recovery when the day ends. Furthermore, taking breaks during lunchtime and detaching from work helps increase energy levels and decrease exhaustion.
2. Take care of your physical health
Eating well and drinking sufficient water are essential to maintaining energy and concentration. And while many of us need a cuppa or two to better concentrate on our daily tasks, avoid having too much caffeine as it could have a detrimental effect on performance. Also, incorporating some physical activity into your workday, such as stretching, taking short walks or doing desk exercises, could help alleviate tension and improve your overall mood.
3. Set clear boundaries
Putting clear boundaries between your work and personal life is important so that you can recharge fully from work. As such, it is important to avoid checking emails or taking work exigencies outside of working hours or when you’re on leave as much as possible.
4. Practise mindfulness to reduce stress
Doing mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or meditating, can help reduce stress, so take short 5 to 10-minute breaks after meetings to recalibrate. You can also manage your work stresses by learning and practising stress-reduction techniques, such as journaling and listening to calming music.
5. Get organised
Keep your workspace organised and free from clutter, as this helps improve focus and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. Studies show that a clutter-free workspace impacts work performance by promoting clarity and enhancing concentration, whereas clutter distracts and increases stress levels. Additionally, prioritising your tasks and managing your schedule effectively also helps reduce stress.
6. Get support at work
It’s important to feel supported at work by your supervisors and colleagues. Building positive relationships at work can provide the emotional and mental support necessary, as well as reduce feelings of isolation. Furthermore, if you’re facing challenges at work, having a good working relationship with your manager can make communication of these challenges easier so that they can offer solutions to assist.
7. Set realistic, achievable goals
Feeling overwhelmed with all you need to do? It helps to reevaluate your workload and break them down into smaller, more achievable goals. This is so you can maintain a sense of accomplishment and avoid feeling bogged down by the gravity of all you need to do. Take time to also invest in your professional development by signing up for courses and seminars to increase your confidence and competency at work.
8. Have a positive mindset
Self-care isn’t just about looking after your physical health and wellbeing; it’s also about your mindset. Having a positive mindset improves your self-esteem and resilience in the workplace. One reason why some people feel anxious or overwhelmed is because they feel underappreciated or that they’re not doing enough. Save notes, messages and performance reviews where you’ve been praised for your work or that makes you feel good about yourself, so that on days you feel down, you can re-read these notes to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved so far.
9. Take your vacation days
You’re given vacation leave each year so make you utilise them to rest and recharge. It’s hard at times, we know, but it’s important that you detach yourself from work during this time and not be tempted to work (that includes checking your emails or work chats) during your time off. Even if you have nowhere to go, unplug from social media and take the time to get out of the house to embrace nature. Studies have shown that exposure to nature lowers stress, improves your attention span and boosts mental health. Taking time out to truly relax and feel the wind on your face will help clear your mind.
10. Do the things you like
Whether it’s wearing your favourite outfit, listening to your favourite tunes, or scheduling time to get a pedicure, doing something for yourself helps you avoid burnout at work. Curating a music playlist can improve your mood and make work more fun, while the right outfit or accessory can make the workday much more enjoyable. Even hygiene practices like getting a foot scrub or taking a soothing bath can help you feel fresh and rejuvenated.
When it comes to self-care, it is crucial to be proactive. Practising self-care helps you to be better at your career because when you take care of yourself, you feel better about yourself and the work you’re doing, which translates to better productivity and performance. Your career is a marathon, so if you want to reach the finish line well, you’ll need to fuel your body and mind along the way.