When you work in a high-intensity, fast-paced job that requires long hours, it can be difficult to put your health first. When there are clients to serve, reports to oversee and projects with deadlines, eating right and heading to the gym or getting a few extra winks of sleep just seems out of the question.
However, using self-care habits to manage stress and stay healthy can have a bigger impact on your job than you think.
Read on to learn what you need to know to start taking better care of yourself and why self-care habits are the key to alleviating chronic stress.
What You Need to Know: Why You Need Self-Care Habits to Manage Stress
Stress in the workplace can lead to a variety of issues when left unchecked. As UMass Lowell reports, unchecked work stress initially causes seemingly minor problems, such as headaches, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or sleep disturbances. However, long-term stress can contribute to more serious issues, such as cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.
According to a report detailed by the American Institute of Stress, 62% of workers report high levels of workplace stress that result in extreme fatigue or a feeling of a loss of control. Sources of workplace stress include an unmanageable workload, people issues, and a lack of job security. However, this stress doesn’t just impact physical health. The same study also found that stress negatively affected productivity as well. More than a third of respondents said they lost at least one hour of productivity per day due to stress, and nearly the same amount of respondents missed up to six days of work per year due to stress alone.
Luckily, some of this workplace stress can be mitigated with proper self-care habits — and, no, you don’t need to lose working time or productivity to protect your mental and physical health and ensure peak performance. In fact, you might just find that developing the right self-care habits will increase your productivity and help you achieve more, allowing you to continue to perform well in your high-stress, fast-paced work environment.
So, as you head into the busy late-fall and winter season and wrap up all those projects before the holidays hit, what should you do? Here are our top-recommended self-care habits you need to develop now.
1. Practice Deep Breathing
When was the last time you took a deep nourishing breath? You don’t need to take chunks of time out of your day for a lengthy meditation session to benefit from deep breathing. Learn and practice simple deep breathing techniques that you can do anywhere and anytime, whether you’re at your desk or on your daily commute. Taking slow, deep breaths can help calm your nervous system and reduce stress. Set a timer on your phone to remind you when it’s time to take a few deep breaths throughout the day.
2. Take Short Breaks
Do you ever feel like you’ve hit a brick wall during the workday? You have so many things to get done and you know exactly what you need to do next, but you just can’t seem to do anything?
In high-stress environments, it’s crucial to take short breaks throughout the day. These breaks will give your mind a brief reset, so you can come back to your desk and approach the next thing on your to-do list with ease. Even just a few minutes counts. Get up, stretch, or take a quick walk to reduce tension.
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3. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Did you know that meditation is effective in short bursts? While experts say the sweet, ideal spot is 20 minutes of meditation per day to increase focus and productivity, even five minutes of meditation can help you to stay present, reduce anxiety, and improve your emotional resilience.
Meditation is even easier now, thanks to apps and mindfulness programs that you can access right from your phone or other device.
4. Try Dopamine Dressing
When you look good, you feel good. Try dopamine dressing by choosing clothes and a look that make you feel better about yourself. You can remain professional, but play around with colors, textures, and styles until you find a work look that helps you feel ready to take on the day. It’s a simple act of self-care that will pay off long-term.
5. Set Boundaries with Colleagues
While you can’t always change your workload, you can change your boundaries with colleagues. Learn to prioritize what needs to be done and what needs or deserves your attention, and then set boundaries around those things.
Say “no” if you truly can’t take on a colleague’s project to help them out, and don’t fall into the trap of being a people pleaser if you’re already stressed (that’s just a recipe for more stress and poor performance). Likewise, set boundaries around when and how you’re available for communication. Sometimes, it’s just best to let yourself dive into a project and keep the notifications on mute.
6. Stay Hydrated
Keep a water bottle on your desk and sip from it throughout the day. Staying hydrated is key to productivity, as dehydration comes with an array of negative health impacts, including poor mental clarity and focus, as well as decreased immunity.
7. Keep Healthy Food Handy
It’s not always easy to get away from your desk for a truly healthful lunch, so stock your desk with ready-to-eat snacks and brain food that will help you feel your best and curb cravings. Specifically choose foods that are known for their mental health benefits and immunity-boosting properties so you can avoid midday energy crashes.
If you do have a little extra time and want something more than just a snack or two throughout your workday, try meal prepping over the weekend, for healthy meals that are always ready, no matter how busy your day gets.
The Bottom Line
Developing these self-care habits will help you cope with stressful work environments and feel and perform at your best.
Struggling to stay afloat in a high-stress work environment or constantly neglecting your health? Schedule a free introductory coaching call to see how our health coaches can support you.