Self-Care in the Work Place

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

By Cal Robinson, PsyD, MSCP

This is article three in a series about self-care. In the series, we are covering the various areas in life that require self-care. I will also provide suggestions on how to create your own self-care plan. In this article, I will explain what self-care looks like in the work place and how to make sure you are practicing it. 

 One high-profile CEO was recently quoted as saying “Self-care is no longer a luxury – it is part of the job.” It is becoming increasingly imperative in our technologycentric world that we employ self-care techniques into our work lives. We are now able to access work files and email while away from our offices, which is both a blessing and a curse. We need to be cognizant of how technology has the ability to invade our non-work life and recognize that this all access pass can have an effect on our health and well-being.

According to a national poll by the American Psychological Association (APA), two-thirds of men and women said that they experience significant stress while at work, and one in four has missed work because of stress. What can you do today to address this stress? Focusing on self-care while at work can have very positive effects. Let’s explore.

The law recently changed in Virginia regarding the use, availability and risks associated with chronic opioid therapy. What patients have been conditioned to expect after twenty years of promotion, has now shifted to something far less risky and beneficial. Chronic pain is difficult to address and more complicated than simply finding a medication that “works.” Because chronic pain can impact one’s psychological, social and even spiritual world, it is important to suggest a larger set of tools to address the complexity of pain. Chronic pain requires day-to-day management and being aware of the mind-body interactions that influence chronic pain which is best served by the patient.

First let’s define self-care. Self-care is more than getting adequate exercise and proper nutrition. At the heart of it is your relationship and connection to self. Let’s widen the definition to include care of the mind, emotions, relationships, environment, time, and resources, and recognize that all of those things are important to your emotional well-being. We spend 1/3 of life working or on the job, so self-care during those hours is just as important as during non-working hours. Obviously, the self-care actions at work will look different than at home, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Speak to yourself like you’d speak to a friend. We are our own worst critic. When your internal voice speaks to you in a positive way, you can create the optimal psychological conditions to negate self-doubt more quickly.
  2. Self-care means honoring the value, impact, and contribution you bring. You can view this through the lens of a particular day by setting time to list your top three priorities for the day. Throughout any workday, people ask for your time and resources, so make sure you consider how these requests may impact your own priorities. This way of self-care can also be viewed in a “big picture” way as well. If you feel your contributions are not valued to the extent you’d like, you might need to have uncomfortable conversations with your employer or begin to seek alternate employment.
  3. Celebrate wins. Hit the pause button with yourself or your team and take a look back. Write down or talk about things that went well or what felt particularly satisfying. This can help you stay connected to activities, tasks, and contributions that actually add value.
  4. Surround yourself with positive people. Healthy and supportive relationships are a critical part of self-care. Both psychiatrists and scientists have studied the brain and energy emitted by living beings to try to understand the physical nature of “vibes” that we feel from each other. Many believe that we emit and receive energy and that can have a bearing on how we connect with other people. Take notice of who feeds your energy and who drains it, and set more boundaries with the drainers. Surround yourself with people who inspire and support you, at home and at work.
  5. Your workspace is a reflection of your best self. Display pictures, artwork, and images that inspire you or remind you of the people and things that matter.
  6. Give yourself the gift of recharging and rebooting – Pay attention to your energy levels. Sleep is a restorative time for our bodies. This is when our bodies, down to the cellular level, rest and repair. It is crucial to overall wellness to get enough sleep at night. It is equally important to work restorative times into your day. Schedule a walking meeting, or make a point to have lunch away from your desk.
  7. Notice when you’ve slipped out of self-care mode. We all do it. In times of stress, this can get off balance. Recognize when self-care is not happening, and take the proper steps to address the imbalance.

As our work lives only get busier, self-care will become an ever more important part of being genuine and having a positive impact without sacrificing our health or relationships. By incorporating self-care in our day-to-day work lives — and coming back to it in times of stress — we can all become our most constructive, effective, and authentic selves.