May 23, 2020

Self-Care Best Practices in Demanding Work Environments

By Iddah Kariuki

We are living in an era of great economic developments as well as competition for resources which seem to be up for grabs for only those who are daring to compete. Many a times, this competition has been ruthless, with those destined to win having to acquire a greater competitive edge over and above the others. Unfortunately, our work places have not been spared from this phenomenon either. Bringing balance to the various aspects of life is proving to be challenging for most individuals who have to juggle between personal, family and work-related commitments. This is especially so for individuals who are working in environments that are too demanding and involving, who in this case, would need to adopt healthy self-care practices if they will continue being productive at their work places. According to the World Health Organization, a comprehensive self-care program must entail considerations not only of one’s physical but mental health as well. WHO defines ‘Health’ as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. A healthy person is one who is “mentally fit and stable, able to function peacefully and effectively in society while executing their daily tasks, and who is socially and economically productive”.  

These are the goals we envision when referring to better self-care practices within our places of work. With growing emphasis on productivity and ability to compete globally, companies and employers aim at maximizing on both employee’s time and energy, but where does this leave the individual? Statistics provided by the American Bureau of Statistics on labor turnover in 2019 indicated that 3.5 million people quit their jobs in December 2019 alone, reason being amongst others, a search for less stressful work environments. Again, an online national poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) in March 2011 reported that two-thirds of men and women in the workforce have said that they experience considerable stress at work, and one in four has missed reporting to work because of stress. Denis Waitley & Reni Witt in their book ‘The Joy of Working: The 30-Day System to Success, Wealth, & Happiness on the Job’, add onto this phenomenon saying that work related pressures often lead to cumulative stress for employees and almost always compromises the quality of their performance not only at work, but other areas of their lives as well. 

With statistics being so grim, the vital questions are; is there anything I can do, something within my power, to help me retain my job, perform efficiently and still keep a gauge from going further than I intended to? 

First it is worth noting that knowing yourself, being in touch with yourself both physically and on a mental level, is the place where self-care begins. Self-awareness helps one to keep abreast of their feelings, thoughts, and reactions towards their surrounding environment. In others words, we must know where we get to put the stopper and give ourselves that much needed break but and of course, within the limits of the job. 

Here’s good place to start for that daily self-care routine we want to adopt. 

Plan your day and have a priorities list 

Now this may sound very cliché but planning my day, organizing and prioritizing my daily tasks, never made much sense until I actually started doing it. Think about it, how many times have you walked into a food store, bought stuff that you knew you needed to buy for the day, walked out and got home just to go like ‘oh heck, I can’t believe I actually forgot this and that!’ Same thing happens with office tasks when we work without some type of a plan. Small things get overlooked, time frames get crossed, and pressure begins to mount. Before we go big on anything, let’s learn to start small. And on this one, not to forget a good plan for your money and other resources as well! 

Drop that ‘can do it all’ attitude  

Or at least, some of the time. A ‘can do it all’ person will always be in good books with any employer but remember at the end of the day, this should not at the expense of your physical and mental sanity. As much as companies and employers want top performers and great results, keep in mind that your company will still be here tomorrow, next day and day after that. When you have done all you needed to do for the day plus some, sit back, relax and cut yourself some slack for that which you were not able to accomplish, says life-coach and mentor Benjamin Bonetti. Delegate if you can, balance and ask for help from colleagues when needed. Be assertive about tasks that don’t belong to your docket or rather, use your communication skills to talk to your supervisor when you feel like the portion on your plate is too huge. It is always advisable to be able to track the things that are stressing you at work, says Bonetti. 

Take that break! 

There is a reason it’s called a break. Those tea and lunch breaks could turn out to be the most refreshing moments if we choose to take that 5-minute power nap, stretch or walk. Having a great social time with co-workers can re-energize us and especially if our colleagues also double up as friends. Waitley and Witt on the subject of creating joy in the workplace put it this way: “No matter how much ability one has, no matter how intelligent he is, no matter how hard they work, he will not go far in his career nor will he enjoy his job without the cooperation of others. The road to success is paved with cooperative relationships”. What better time to nurture and strengthen these relationships than during the said breaks? 

Social support networks 

In the same vein, remember to surround yourself with good people i.e., a healthy support system. These could be family, friends or colleagues that will be there to see you through demanding times. People who identify with you, listen to you, encourage you, and nurture you in a way that keeps you from being overwhelmed from the pressures of work. Kendra Cherry, an author and psychological consultant captures this accurately in her article “How Social Support Contributes to Psychological Health” which was featured on the ‘Very-well mind’ website. She explains how key our social environments are to our mental health and overall wellbeing. “One of the leading causes of depression, loneliness, alcohol use and altered brain function is in fact, poor social support” she adds. So however great the temptation may be, avoid dumping your friends altogether in favor of going up the economic ladder alone. 

Recharge 

Finally, keep a check at your energy levels. Again, this is more of cliché information but then how many people are actually keeping their end of the bargain? Eating the right stuff, taking lots of water, getting plenty of rest and maintaining good relationships with your significant others will have an impact on how you handle stress on the job, and your overall productivity. Take those leave days and go on vacation with your loved ones. Periodically, have special ‘me-times’ to relax, reflect and reboot. Exercise. This will help bust your stress and renew your motivation. Read that book you’ve been wanting to for a long time. Go to the movies. Remember you can have joy and success in your workplace despite the pressure but it will take significant effort and determination on your part. 

References 

  1. Bonetti, B. (2014). How to Stress Less: Simple Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your Future. New Jersey: Wiley Publishers 
  1. Waitley, D. & Witt, R. (1999). The Joy of Working: The 30Day System to Success, Wealth and Happiness on the Job. New York: Random Publishing Group 
  1. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/phwa-survey-summary.pdf 
  1. https://apps.searo.who.int/PDS_DOCS/B5084.pdf 
  1. https://www.verywellmind.com/social-support-for-psychological-health-4119970 

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