Imagine, you’ve just boarded an airplane for the trip of a lifetime, you’re head is 1,000 miles ahead, dreaming of what your adventure will look like as soon as you land when you are suddenly ripped back to reality by a flight attendant. She is standing in the aisle demanding attention and providing an overview of emergency procedures; exits at the back, middle, and front of the place, floatation device under your seat, always strap on your oxygen mask before you attempt to assist others. As far-flung as this seems from our day-to-day, this experience is not unlike a career and the choices we make every day regarding how we prioritize our time. When you are neck-deep in your job, it’s so easy to sacrifice your health because you are so focused on providing the highest quality work for your peers and supervisors, but most people forget this fundamental fact: if you do not take care of yourself (aka the metaphorical oxygen mask) and ensure that you are prioritizing your health and wellness, you will be unable to sustain your best efforts across all other aspects of your life, including your job.
I understand it’s hard, because self-care has become a buzzword, almost as overused as terms like; strategic, creative, natural, the list goes on and on,. but in reality, if you focus less on the idea of the thin, ethereal, and arguably unattainable lifestyles of most wellness gurus, there are absolutely things you can incorporate into your day that will allow you to find some balance and provide yourself with the tools to carry the load you are forced to bear at work and at home.
1. Build a Community
Call it what you want, your crew/squad/tribe, whatever, but, frankly, human beings are social creatures and we rely on each other for more support than we would probably like to admit. In the age of social media, where we are technically more connected than ever, people are, in reality, more isolated than ever. You absolutely cannot get the same benefits from chatting or stalking people’s lives online than you do sitting down over dinner, taking a walk, getting hammered, IN PERSON, TOGETHER. Having a group of people to give you love, support, listen to you vent, but also to make you remember to care and love them back, will provide you with a level of emotional and physical balance that you just can’t get through a screen. It also helps if you feel strongly about similar issues, and can utilize each other as motivation to establish personal or social goals outside of the office – helping you to claim your identity and individuality away from your desk. Plus there is nothing better than randomly bursting into laughter during a stressful day because your group chat is overflowing with GIF’s and pure comedy only you and your friends will understand.
2. Take a Break
Most of us are guilty of cramming our lunch down our throat as we respond to emails, sit in a meeting, or help out a coworker, but not stepping away from our own business throughout the day definitely does more damage than good. Productivity diminishes, as does our energy, happiness, and focus. You need to find at least 20-60 minutes throughout your day to try out some of the following relaxation techniques:
Stretch – it’s a story as old as time, but sitting at a desk will kill you. Our bodies are not built for sitting, and everything from your posture to your risk for cancer is affected by how much time a day we spend sitting. Find time to stretch your shoulders, back, hands, feet, and relax your eyes. Just taking the smallest break to care for your body will make all the difference. There are also tools to keep at your desk to make stretching and physical mindfulness all the more convenient.
- Eat – Create something that excites you (no #SadDeskLunch), and make time to sit down and enjoy, think about what you’re eating, chew your food, reflect on how it makes you feel.
- Drink – grab a coffee or a tea and take a walk around the block, make time to drink in the sunshine and breathe.
- Exercise – Seriously I think there is enough research for all of us to understand the benefits of exercise and how critical it is for our overall health and stress management. I’m not going to preach to you here, but get your ass up and move!!! (your ass will thank you). Even if it is squatting in front of the TV with a glass (or bottle) of wine in hand, anything is better than nothing. There are also ways to remain active while at your desk, and growing numbers of employees and employers are exploring new ways to motivate and accommodate a more active lifestyle both in the office and at home.
- Meditate – Apps like Headspace have been created to fit into your busy schedule. Taking time to reflect, breathe, and introspect will help eliminate white noise and allow you to connect with yourself and rise about the stressors and minutiae of office life.
3. Treat Yo Self
Donna and Tom had the right idea, albeit maybe elbow bedazzling isn’t for everyone, but we should all reserve some moments to just indulge and splurge on ourselves. Maybe you stock up on vitamins, get a massage, or buy that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing for months, whatever it is, when we take the time to treat ourselves and reward ourselves for all the hard work we do, it’s nearly impossible not to feel good. One caveat – there is a huge difference between an occasional “treat yo self” day (Donna and Tom do it once a year) and spending boatloads of cash you don’t have in the name of self-love and care. The worst thing you can do its dig yourself into a financial hole – because I promise you that will not do you any good.
4. Make Your Space Your Own
In the age of Google, Apple, and an endless supply of start-ups promising round the clock meals, gyms, foosball tables, in-house bars, there has clearly been a shift in the younger generations requirements for the workplace, as well as methods that organizations use to remain appealing even though their employees are generally clocking in 10-12 hour workdays. How do organizations continue to remain desirable despite relatively extreme workloads and expectations? Make the office more like your home, an upscale resort, bar, or museum installation, and employees may feel less rushed to leave. All that being said, this mentality has not reached every organization or industry – so what are some things you can do if you’re still living the office space cubicle nightmare? Make it your own, so sure, you can stay late and finish those TPS reports, but at least you’ll be staring at photos of friends & family or your favorite plant while you do so.