Work and self-care are often seen as competing forces. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can combine work and self-care to reduce stress, feel inspired, and make our days richer and more fulfilling. Which is important since we spend most of each day at the office.
Below, you’ll find five ways to feel energized, calm, and well taken care of while you work.
1. Be Self-Compassionate
We often berate ourselves at work when we don’t get enough done, let ourselves or others down, or feel like we don’t measure up. However, according to research, self-criticism is associated with anxiety and depression, while self-compassion has been linked to greater motivation, curiosity, and well-being. The next time critical thoughts arise, reframe them into compassionate, constructive statements. To start, consider what you’d say to a child—either your own or even your younger self.
2. Counteract Negativity
Because our minds biologically tend toward negative thinking, you might not realize that complaining and gloomy outlooks siphon energy, drive, and satisfaction. To counteractive habitual negativity, practice making small positive moves, such as thanking one colleague every day and jotting down three (big or tiny!) things that went well before leaving work.
3. Create an Inspiring Workspace
Create a workspace that feels like a reflection of your best self. To begin, stay organized: According to Julie Morgenstern, a time management coach and author of several books on organization, instead of keeping piles of paperwork on your desk, create a simple, accessible filing system: Organize by topic (versus urgency, since this can change), and put everything away at the end of the day—whether you’re finished or not. Morgenstern also suggests adding a plant, which research has found can improve air quality and boost concentration, productivity, and workplace satisfaction. In addition, she says, add images that inspire you or remind you of what matters.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness has stress-reducing benefits and an overall positive effect on mental health. Even a single session of mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety. You can incorporate it into your workday in small ways: Take a slow, deep breath after clicking send on every email. Spare several minutes paying attention to the little things around you: an object on your desk, such as a photo of your family or a small plant. Or pop in your headphones and listen to a guided meditation.
5. Honor Your Social Tendencies
How much people-time do you need? Do you feel energized and refreshed after interacting with others? Do you need more alone time to feel your best?
“If you need a lot of interactions to enjoy your workday, schedule lunch meetings, get involved with events or gatherings at the office, and see if you can create collaborative projects at work,” says Aurora Meneghello, founder of Repurpose Your Purpose, a program for individuals who want to change careers. However, if you need more alone time to recharge, put on your headphones while you work, she says. Or schedule weekly lunch dates with yourself.
Your self-care and your job don’t have to be separate, distinct categories in your life. With a little bit of intention, you can tend to your work—and tend to yourself.