Self-care can be tricky at the best of times, slotting those little moments into your day where you can get back to that place of calm and clear-thinking, that place where you get back to feeling a little more ‘you’. When you work in an office, this can feel nearly impossible. Here’s hustle, there’s bustle, and a lot of the time you can find yourself feeling like you can’t really escape the air-conditioning, white walls, or fluorescent lights.
But never fear! Some suggestions are here to make this situation seem a little less impossible. Self-care in the office is achievable, it just takes a little planning and, in some cases, a little bit of bravery.
The joys of having your own desk
If you’ve got your own desk, you’re already in a great position! Count yourself lucky to not have to hot-desk and spend half the day moving around trying to find somewhere to work. You’ve got your own little space you can completely transform into your own haven, if you so wish.
We all know plants are supposed to (and do!) make us feel calmer, more clear-headed, and grounded. Your office might not have a lot of windows or natural light, so little reminders of the outside world can do you a lot of good. Find something low-maintenance if you don’t want more work to do, like a succulent, cactus, or even an air plant. Air plants basically don’t even need watering! If you like the thought of taking some time out of your email inbox to look after a little greenery, find something that will need regular watering or trimming (we don’t want your desk going full-jungle on you). There’s therapy in being green-fingered. You could even set up one of those little desktop zen gardens where you can rake sand to your heart’s content, or change your background to some soaring, solitary mountains.
Also, you can take your shoes off and no-one will see – score! Just make sure you wash your panda socks.
Quiet spaces are available
This may take a little research, but there will always be somewhere in your office or wider building to get some peace and quiet when it all gets a bit much. A stationary cupboard (yes, I am endorsing hiding in cupboards), an unused conference room, hell, even the bathroom. People will leave you alone in the bathroom. When you need a quiet moment, you’re not always going to feel fussy about how swish the place is. Give yourself the time in your schedule, if possible, to re-centre, and you’ll feel a little boost each time that’ll make your work a lot easier for the rest of the day. Go every couple of hours if you can find the time, even if it’s only five minutes at a time. Get your breath back (try the Deep Breaths app and follow along), maybe practice a short meditation technique (some awesome apps for this include Buddhify, Headspace, and Insight Timer), whatever it takes to get you back to a place where you feel cool, calm, and collected.
Always take your breaks
Leading on from taking five minute breaks in the day to re-centre, always always take your tea and lunch breaks. Give yourself the chance to get a little fresh air, grab some food, re-hydrate, and chat with your colleagues or a friend on the phone about something other than work and any silly office drama that’s going on. Talk about your pets, your weekend plans, a good film you saw last night, or the book you’re reading. Take the book with you and enjoy a little bit of escapism before heading back to your desk. Skipping out on your breaks to get more work done isn’t big and it certainly isn’t clever. We’re given breaks for a reason, and it’s not just because we need to eat (but that is also important, so make sure you have plenty of snacks). It boosts our productivity and helps our minds reset a little by letting it wander off to other places.
Oh, and please don’t eat your lunch at your desk. Get up and stretch, otherwise it’s like working in bed. Create that distinction between work and rest.
Don’t overstay your shift
Leading on from this, don’t stay at work after your shift ends. Today we’re focused far too much on being the person that works hard and gets everything done, staying for hours after work to get projects finished and emails sent. We praise busy-ness when really we should be looking to the people who leave their work where it should be – at work! We aren’t on this planet to live for our careers, but we let them take over. If your contract says you work 9-5, you work 9-5, and you exercise your right to switch off your computer monitor and grab your coat when the clock hits 5pm. Your job is what you do to make sure you can live the rest of your life the way you want.
Set yourself some email limits
I know personally that emails take up far too much of my consciousness, so they may do for you as well. Fortunately, we have two ways of dealing with this: turn off your email alerts, or allocate yourself times during the day to check them.
If you turn off your email alerts, you’ll have to manually check to see if you have any messages. This will both aid your productivity so you don’t get distracted by popups in the bottom righthand corner of your screen, and you won’t then be distracted by your inbox as a whole when you click onto it and see a tonne of extra ‘tasks’ you need to sort through. Turn off those alerts and only check when you’re not in the middle of something else.
The other option is completely closing your email during the day, and allocating yourself times to open up your inbox and see what’s popped in when you’ve been away. People don’t expect you to respond straight away. Strangely, when you’re at work, your priority isn’t to check your emails, so let them lie for an hour before tackling them head on. Check when you get in, after your morning break, after lunch, in the afternoon with a cuppa…whatever your heart desires. If someone really needs a fast response, they’ll come and find you, or give you a ring. Anyone who doesn’t have your number or can’t find it themselves probably doesn’t need to contact you that urgently, anyway.
Get yourself a confidante
This is the last piece of advice I’ll give you, and probably the one that requires the most thought and effort. Find yourself someone at work you trust, if you can, and allow them to be your confidante. We all know that phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Let someone at work know if you need a break, or a little breather, or if you’re struggling with something at the moment. You’ll feel a lot less like you’re hiding once you’ve told someone how you’re feeling, and they’ll be there and aware in the future if you feel like you’re wobbling again, easing your mind. If you’re feeling really brave, talk to your direct supervisor or line manager about your mental health. There are things they can do for you, even if it’s just acknowledging a hand signal across the room that means you need to step out for five minutes to recalibrate.
Contrary to popular belief, people do actually want to help.