In today’s fast-paced working environments, professionals often find themselves struggling to balance their work and personal lives. Long working hours, deadlines, and high-stress environments can negatively affect both one’s mental and physical health. It is therefore crucial to prioritize one’s self-care to maintain health and well-being. Self-care requires deliberate action to improve physical, emotional, and mental health, and must be a conscious effort to prioritize one’s own needs over all else. In this article, we will discuss self-care strategies that busy professionals can implement to prioritize their well-being.
Adequate sleep is well-known to be essential for one’s health. During sleep, the body repairs itself, allowing to wake up refreshed, rejuvenated and energized. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, many professionals compromise on sleep in order to meet the demands of work. Inadequate sleep can lead to fatigue, mood swings, and impaired cognitive performance.
To prioritize sleep, professionals can:
- Set a bedtime routine and keep oneself accountable to that routine.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and smartphone and laptop use close to bedtime.
- Create an environment that is conducive to restful sleep by keeping one’s room dark, cool, and quiet.
Schedule in exercise
Physical exercise is a key factor in one’s physical and mental health. Regular exercise reduces stress, improves mood, and boosts energy. Many professionals find it challenging to exercise due to a too-busy schedule, and rather engage in work activities during the time they normally would exercise.
To prioritize exercise, professionals can:
§ Make a point of blocking out time in their daily schedule to exercise.
§ Try out different types of sporting activities to find one they enjoy, to make exercising an activity to look forward to.
§ Be inspired by others by joining a fitness class or sports team, to be kept accountable for showing up and to feel the benefits of participating in activities as part of a group.
§ Walk or cycle to work instead of driving or taking public transport.
Take regular breaks
Many professionals work long hours without taking any breaks. Not allowing sufficient rest time during one’s day can lead to burnout, a low level of job satisfaction, and decreased productivity. Taking regular breaks can improve one’s mental health in the workplace by improving focus, attention, and creativity.
To prioritize breaks, professionals can:
- Make an effort to take short breaks every hour to get up and walk around, do some stretching, participate in a non-work related activity or spend a few minutes breathing deeply.
- Schedule a lunch break into the day, and have this break away from their desk.
- Use vacation days to take a break from work to mentally reset.
- Reduce stress via the use of mindfulness exercises such as meditation.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a balanced diet improves energy levels and mood, and can help to reduce stress. It is a challenge for many professionals to maintain a healthy diet owing to their busy schedules.
To prioritize a healthy diet, professionals can:
- Practice meal planning and preparation, to avoid unhealthy food choices having to be made last-minute.
- Prioritize healthy, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
- Have healthy snacks on hand at work, such as fruit and nuts.
- Avoid skipping meals, particularly breakfast.
Build a support system
A strong support system can also reduce stress and improve one’s mood. What constitutes a support system may vary from person to person, but can include family, friends, work colleagues, or mental health professionals.
To prioritize building a support system, professionals can:
- Make plans with colleagues outside of work to foster meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
- Meet new people by joining a club or social group.
- Make time for catching up with friends and family.
- Obtain the help of a mental health professional if necessary.
Boundaries are important in maintaining good mental health in the workplace, and can aid professionals in the establishment of clear guidelines regarding their work availability. They can also help reduce stress levels, thus preventing burnout.
To set better boundaries, professionals can:
- Communicate their availability to colleagues and clients clearly and firmly.
- Avoid receiving or responding to work communications outside of working hours
- Set realistic expectations for themselves in the workplace.
- Learn to say no when they have enough on their plate.
Practicing gratitude refers to focusing on the positive aspects of life, even during challenging times. Acknowledging the things in life for which one can be grateful can foster happiness and improve mental well-being.
To practice gratitude, professionals can:
- Keep a journal in which things they are grateful can be recorded on a regular basis.
- Utilise mindfulness exercises such as meditation or yoga.
- Actively focus on the positive aspects of both their work and personal life, instead of dwelling on negatives.
- Outwardly express gratitude towards colleagues, family, and friends, and experience the positive feelings that follow.
Learn to Manage Stress
Stress is a ubiquitous workplace entity that can result in physical and mental health issues. A recent study by the American Psychological Association reported that 27% of Americans report that they are too stressed to function. Learning to manage stress is essential to maintain well-being.
To manage stress, professionals can:
- Begin by identifying sources of their stress and work on ways to address them.
- Add relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises to their routine.
- Take a mental health day to recharge when feeling low.
Seek Support from Employers
Employers play a key role in promoting mental health in the workplace, as they have the ability to implement policies that provide mental health support and promote good work-life balance.
To seek support from employers, professionals can:
- Discuss their mental health needs with their manager or human resources department.
- Be an advocate for better mental health policies in the workplace.
- Participate and encourage others to participate in mental health initiatives offered by employers.
- Engage with existing employee assistance programs to make sure they are effectively utilizing their services.
In conclusion, self-care is essential for busy professionals in order to prioritize well-being. This requires deliberate action to improve physical, emotional, and mental health. Professionals should prioritize sleep, exercise, take breaks, maintain a healthy diet, and develop a support system, as well as set boundaries, practice gratitude, learn to manage stress, and seek support from their employers. Employers should prioritize mental health in the workplace by implementing policies that promote a good work-life balance, reduce stress, and provide mental health support.