Updated: Nov 28, 2018
Here are 10 ways that you can practice self-care in the work place, in order to reduce stress and burnout.
1. Unplug for 5 Minutes.
If you work in a high-paced work environment, where it feels like your workload is forever piling up, it may feel overwhelming to imagine taking a small break. Some people perform better under stress and find that they are more productive under pressure. For those that notice that they only seem to become more stressed, this step is for you. Take 5 minutes to stop what you are doing and unplug. This means no answering calls or emails (if you can help it) and taking a moment to regroup. You can, if you choose, take this time to get organized and prioritize what you need to do, or you can simply just check-out for a moment and do something that elicits positive emotions (i.e. looking at pictures of your loved ones, watching a funny video, talking with a co-worker). Whatever you choose to do, put your focus on that task and try not to think about all of the work you have to complete. You may notice that taking a break from a stressful situation can reduce the level of distress that you experience and you may be more productive and less stressed than before.
2. Go Outside.
Get out of your environment for a few moments and go outside. You can take a short walk or just enjoy the scenery. Use mindfulness and pay attention to what you notice. Is the air fresh? How does the sun feel on your skin? Can you hear sounds of nature or cars passing by? Try to focus on one of your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, etc.) and put your full attention on that sense. Notice any changes that you feel in your body, thoughts, and emotions.
3. Do Some Light Stretches or Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
Many people notice that they carry a lot of stress in their bodies, and doing something like light stretches or progressive muscle relaxation can help to reduce the intensity of stress. If you have never heard of or tried progressive muscle relaxation, you can type it into any search engine and get details on how to practice.
4. Use Mindfulness.
Using mindfulness is a great way of reducing stress because most of the time, things that we find ourselves stressing about are not actually occurring in the present moment. If you take a moment to think about how often you find yourself stressed about things at work, much of the time, it is related to an event that is coming up in the future. Mindfulness allows us to be in the present moment, focusing on what is happening in the NOW. If you focus on what is happening from moment to moment, you may notice your stress start to decrease. If you begin to notice your thoughts wandering and more intense anxiety, try asking yourself, "Is what I'm thinking about relevant to this moment, right now?" If it is not, you can just notice the thought, without judgment, and let it go. You may notice that you have to keep practicing this, as your thoughts will naturally wander.
5. Use Your Senses.
Try using any of the six senses (sound, sight, taste, touch, movement, or smell) for relaxation. Some examples could be listening to your favorite song, podcast, sounds in nature; counting how many things that you notice of the same color, looking at photos of your loved ones, noticing different textures in your immediate environment; having a small snack, mindful eating, drinking a hot or cold beverage; touching something soft in texture, or something of a different temperature (like an ice cold beverage or washing your hands in warm water); taking a walk; or smelling fresh coffee, essential oils or your favorite perfume/cologne.
6. Leave Outside Stressors at the Door.
It can be difficult at times to leave other, unresolved, issues at the door, if they are weighing heavy on your emotions. If you notice that you are experiencing some relational distress, child rearing issues, financial issues, etc., ask yourself, "Can I resolve this problem right now?" If the answer is no, make a plan for when you will pick the problem back up (ideally after you have finished working) and how you will manage the issue(s). Having outside stress, can make it difficult to be focused on your job duties, which can potentially lead to poor work performance and/or added stresses at work. Being able to set aside certain problems, may help to reduce your overall stress at work, even if it is just temporary.
7. Communicate Your Needs and Create Boundaries.
If you struggle with setting healthy boundaries, this could be something that could increase the amount of distress you experience. It is important to know your limits and communicate to other's clearly and directly, asking for what you need. This may mean, paying attention to how much you say 'yes' to, when in reality you may really want to say 'no.' Are you taking on more than you can handle? if you find yourself taking on tasks outside of your work duties or even extra work, it is important to be mindful of what motivates you to do so. It's great to be a team player and you may even notice fulfillment in being able to be a help, but you may want to ask yourself, "If by saying yes to what I am being asked, am I saying no to myself in some other way?" For example, if your boss asks you to stay late and you notice that you always say yes (maybe in fear that you will let them down by saying no), you may want to start asserting yourself, by letting them know your limits. For example, "I've noticed that you have been needing extra help lately and have been asking me to stay late more often. As much as I love to be able to assist and be a team player, staying late will impact the time that I'd like to be doing.....and I'm going to have to decline."
8. Try Using Radical Acceptance.
Radical acceptance is commonly used to accept the things that we cannot change. Why might this be important in coping with stress at work? The reality is, there just may be some things about your job that you cannot change. If you are not in a position to do anything about the issues (i.e. get a new job, create effective changes) then accepting the reality will help in reducing the impact that it has on your emotions. Accepting it, however, does not mean that you have to agree with the issues that are causing you stress, but more so a way of saying, "It just is what it is." For some, it may seem unreasonable to have acceptance for a situation that may be causing a lot of distress, but if you are not in a position to solve the issue or change the way you feel about it, accepting it may be a way to reduce the emotional toll it is having on you.