Self-care has moved from somewhat taboo and self-indulgent to necessary for success in our fast-paced, hard-driving world because it’s become central to our creativity, our passion and our sanity at work.
A 2018 Gallup poll of 7,500 respondents suggests that young people are “more likely than workers in older generations to say that they always or very often feel burned out at work.” According to the poll, 3 in 10 said they are either often or always burnt out at work, and roughly 7 in 10 said they have experienced some burnout.
Those who are always or often professionally drained are 63 percent more likely to take a sick day, and they’re nearly three times as likely to leave their current employer. Factors that contribute to burnout include horrendous bosses, a lack of a work-life balance and unmanageable workloads.
So, how can you prevent becoming weary and exhausted at work? Here are five subtle things you can do at the office to calm, center and refocus your energy — and ensure long-term career success.
1. Practice Equal Breathing
We know you’ve heard this one before, but there is something to being told the same thing over and over again that might eventually make it stick. Breathing matters, and it’s the fastest way to find your zen in moments when you need one.
A technique in yoga called Sama Vritti Pranayama, or equal breathing, is believed to quickly calm your autonomic nervous system.
The system regulates important natural processes — including digestion, heartbeat, breathing and fight-flight or freeze responses — without conscious effort. Because it prepares our body for action and responds to stressors in our environment, it can get overstimulated when we feel stress.
To practice equal breathing, sit comfortably in a chair, and begin by noticing your breath. You can do this with eyes open and a soft gaze. Or, if you have a private space, or a conference room you can book, you can close your eyes. Notice five breaths this way and feel the texture of your breath and notice whether it’s shallow or deep, rapid or slow.
On your next inhale, breathe in slowly while counting to four. At the top of your inhale hold your breath for the count of one, and exhale to a slow count of four. At the bottom of your exhale hold your breath for a count of one and begin your next inhale. Continue this for five to 10 breaths and then return to your normal breathing, noticing any changes that have taken place.
2. Mobile Mindfulness
Meditation apps, such as Headspace and Calm, and apps that help gamify your life, such as SuperBetter and Aloe Bud, all offer remedies to stress.
In addition to apps, you can use your wearable as a way to practice subtle self-care at work. For example, an Apple Watch will prompt you to move after long periods of sitting and offer reminders to just breathe.
Other wearables like Fitbit and Garmin offer similar functionality, making it easy to incorporate moments of self-care into your day without anyone noticing.
3. Pump Up The Jams, Quietly
Have a terrible task to tackle? What if you did it to a goofy ’80s or ’90s mix full of some of the cheesiest music around? How about a whole playlist of covers? What about jazz to help things move a little more?
Music has a way of making time — and your work — move quickly. It has also been proven to help you enter a state of what researcher and professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.”
As it turns out, listening to mid-volume ambient music or noise helps focus the brain, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
You can also use music to boost your mood or change your focus. If you’re feeling frustrated, sometimes it can help to play music with a fast rhythm and big beats to disperse the energy before going into a big meeting. If you need to calm down, it can help to go for a playlist that soothes you.
4. Schedule Lunch And Breaks
This one tends to be really hard. Maybe you don’t get a full hour and maybe you bring your lunch, but do your best to never, ever eat lunch at your desk. Why?
Part of self-care is setting boundaries. When you are at your desk, you are there to work. Co-workers see you at your desk and think nothing of coming up and asking you questions. The phone rings and you feel compelled to answer.
Getting up and away from your desk and your electronic devices is a subtle and easy way to reconnect with the human world around you. Talk with friends. Go to lunch with co-workers. Don’t look at your phone. The email, the phone call, the text can all wait.
5. Start A Happiness File (Or Bookmark)
We all have things that crack us up, make us smile and make us feel good. Maybe it’s silly internet memes or a particular Reddit thread. Maybe it’s a collection of photos on your phone or a collection of words of praise for past jobs well done. Whatever form your happiness file takes, take time to revisit that rabbit hole whenever you need a boost.
As self-care transitions from the private to the public space, it has become even more necessary to integrate it seamlessly and subtly into your day-to-day. Your co-workers and your future self will thank you for it.
By Abigail Bassett as published in Forbes on 10th January 2019