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5 Easy Self-Care Activities (You Can Even Do At Work)

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This article was originally featured at ENGAGE.

As a high-achiever, it’s important to take care of yourself through regular self-care activities. Because you don’t just work hard, but often feel pressured to:

  • Deliver near-perfect solutions (quickly) and
  • Always make yourself available.

And (if you’re anything like my clients) the pandemic has made it harder to effectively manage your team while blurring the lines between work and your personal life. Stress has become the norm.

I’m here to tell you not to just put up with the stress and anxiety, but instead to take control before it gets the best of you.

How? By adopting a few simple self-care activities that you can do anytime, anywhere… including at work.

And if you’re ready to simplify self-care so that it can become a daily priority (guilt-free), be sure to join the Get Reenergized Self-Care Challenge >>>here.

The Impact of Stress On Your Physical & Mental Health

Short-term bursts of stress can be good. Stress helps you to be more alert for danger and provides an adrenaline rush when needed. But your body isn’t meant to be in a state of chronic stress.

Chronic stress causes:

  • High blood pressure.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Inhibition of cognitive and problem-solving functions.
  • Poor sleep and insomnia.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Depression.

Contrary to what you might believe, it’s not just about you. Because your mood will suffer (which means that you’ll end up taking it out on others including team members, peers and loved ones.

And your work product will suffer as well (it’s not like you can deliver your best work product when your problem-solving and creative thinking skills are impaired).

Go long enough, and you’ll burn out. You might even try escaping through unhealthy coping behaviors such as binge drinking, emotional eating, binge drinking and illegal drug use (as evidenced by attorneys, who suffer from higher than average rates of stress, anxiety, and depression).

[Worried that you might be burning out and not sure what to do about it? Listen to Episode 19 of the Life & Law Podcast for Burnout Symptoms, Sources & Solutions.]

Woman who is managing her stress and calm

 

The Secret To Effective Stress Management

In my experience, most chronically stressed professionals acknowledge their need to better manage stress. The problem is that they don’t believe they have control over what’s causing them to feel stressed. And so they do nothing.

What’s Really Causing Your Stress?

Contrary to popular belief, external events aren’t the primary source of most stress. What’s causing most stress are your thoughts (and how you process them).

Imagine that you’re working against a tight deadline on a big project for a new client. And then the deadline gets moved even closer. Is that stressful? Absolutely. But you have control over how you respond, which will determine how much stress you feel (and how you perceive that stress).

You could choose to focus on how unfair it is, complain incessantly and take your emotions out on your team (while aggravating an ulcer you thought you had control of). Or you could reframe the situation as a challenging learning experience that will sharpen your leadership skills.

Obviously, scenario two is preferred over scenario one. Although the initial (stressful) event hasn’t changed, your reaction can either mitigate its impact or create added stress and anxiety.

Why Your Thoughts Matter

Research shows that how you feel about stress matters. If you’re stressed but don’t see it as harmful, then you’re less likely to be negatively impacted than if you perceive the stress as a bad thing.

Your mentality is the secret ingredient to taking control of your stress. That’s why so many stress reducing techniques (such as deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation) are designed to:

  • Calm and refocus your mind.
  • Increase awareness (around your thoughts, stress triggers and habitual reactions).
  • Objectively observe and process thoughts.

[Discover a stress-reducing strategy to employ at work that isn’t about mindfulness or meditation in Episode #22 of the Life & Law Podcast: Your Secret Ingredient To Stress Less.]

 

Picture of Simple Self-Care Items

 

A Note About Self-Care

Self-care often gets a bad wrap – especially from high-achievers. Most of us fall into the trap of believing we don’t have the time for it, that it’s a luxury and so on.

But the truth is self-care isn’t optional. It’s an essential ingredient to having both success and balance (and for having fun in life). Moreover, you deserve to prioritize your own wellness.

The problem lies in how you choose to define self-care…

What Self-Care Isn’t

Too many believe that self-care is about doing something luxurious (like taking a Spa Day), escaping normal life (perhaps through a long vacation) or just doing something to feel good in the moment.

When viewed merely through that lens, it’s no wonder so many high-achievers feel self-care guilt (and don’t prioritize it).

Self-care isn’t about just feeling good, escaping from your life or doing something luxurious (common ways of defining self-care). Here are some facts:

  • There are plenty of things that make you feel good that aren’t self-care.
  • Sometimes self-care involves getting uncomfortable.
  • You can take good care of yourself without doing anything luxurious.
  • Wanting to escape from your life is a sure sign that you NEED more self-care.

Do you sometimes experience self-care guilt? Read my article about How To Stop Feeling Guilty Taking Care Of Yourself >>> here.

 

Title Image for Article About Feeling Guilty About Taking Care of Yourself

 

What Self-Care Actually Is

The purpose of self-care is BE your best (in all aspects). It’s for your mental health, your emotional health, your psychological health, your spiritual health and (yes) your physical health.

And that means that self-care is any activity that promotes wellness.

You can get away with putting yourself last for a while. But it will catch up with you eventually. And then you’ll be no good to anyone.

If you’d like to transform self-care from something you feel you *should* do into a guilt-free priority you actually enjoy, then I invite you to join the Get Reenergized 7-Day Self-Care Challenge. In this simple 7-day challenge (delivered daily straight to your inbox), you’ll learn to simplify, enjoy and prioritize self-care in less than 15 minutes per day.

Join the Get Reenergized Self-Care Challenge >>>here.

5 Self-Care Activities You Can Do Anywhere (Even At Work)

The whole point of self-care is to effectively manage stress. And that means not just reducing stress but preventing it too. And the most effective stress reducing techniques aim to:

  • Interrupt the stress response to refocus your mind.
  • Increase awareness (around your stress triggers, thoughts and habitual reactions).
  • Rewire your mind to be more present and objectively observe thoughts and feelings.
  • Reframe your thinking.

Below are 5 powerful stress-reducing self care activities that incorporate one or more of the above strategies. None of these self-care activities take much time (they’re so simple they can be done daily). And each of them can be done anywhere (even at work).

 

Picture of woman writing

 

Self-Care Activity #1: Stress Journal

When dealing with strong emotions, we often want to act immediately. But that’s one of the worst things you can do. Although emotional responses can feel good in the moment, they almost always end in regret. And worse: they create more stress.

Instead of reacting with emotion, use the following (client-favorite) self-care activity to retake control of your emotions, become more self-aware and objectively process your feelings:

  • Take a couple of deep, slow breaths through your nose to calm your mind.
  • Get out a journal or piece of paper and answer the following questions (in order): (1) What triggered your stress? (2) What specific emotions are you feeling? (3) What thoughts or beliefs are behind those emotions?
  • Sit with your thoughts and feelings for 24-48 hours. NOTE: sometimes you can’t, but try to go as long as you can (and at least 1-4 hours).
  • Come back and ask what you could do about the situation. List all of your options. Decide what (if anything) you want to do about what happened.

My clients often find that they don’t need to do anything once they come back to the problem (that it’s already worked itself out or that they no longer feel emotionally charged after going through this process).

 

Breath to reduce stress quickly

 

Self-Care Activity #2: 4-8-7 Breathing Technique

The 4-8-7 breathing technique is perfect for anyone who likes the idea of meditation but has trouble staying focused. It will help you break the stress response (through your breathing), be more present and refocus so that you can get back on track.

Here’s how this technique works:

  • Breathe in (slowly) through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Repeat (3-5 times).

This stress reducing self-care activity is so simple that it can be done anywhere, whether at work, stuck in traffic, or while waiting in a long line (like the DMV).

 

Woman looking down the road

 

Self-Care Activity #3: Mindful Walking

Exercise is a well-known stress-buster. It refocuses your mind (and hence interrupts the stress response). And specific types of activities (such as yoga and tai chi) force you to breathe deeply, which immediately calms your mind.

Don’t have time for a full workout? Go for a 10-minute mindful walk, which combines the positive effects of moving, deep breathing and mindfulness.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Start by paying attention to your breath. Create a rhythm with your breathing and steps.
  2. Once a comfortable rhythm is set, identify 5 things that you see. Linger on each item to really focus on the colors, textures and whatever else that you see.
  3. Next, move on to identify 4 sounds. Closely observe each sound that you identify.
  4. You’ll next identify 3 things that you smell. Once again, focus on each specific smell before moving on.
  5. Finally, touch 2 things (separately) and pay attention to how each one feels.

This exercise gives you the full benefits of light exercise (especially if you set a faster walking pace), being outdoors (which has stress reducing benefits) and mindfulness all in one.

 

Picture of musical notes

 

Self-Care Activity #4: Move To Music

This self-care exercise is on the list because it’s a great way to incorporate some lighthearted fun into your day while providing a pattern interrupt from stress so that you can regroup.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Take out your phone (or turn on the radio).
  2. Pick a song or station at random.
  3. Move or dance to the music.

Make sure to pick your song at random (don’t cheat!).

 

Picture of a gratitude journal

 

Self-Care Activity #5: Reframe In Gratitude

A regular gratitude practice retrains your mind to see the world (and process your thoughts) differently. It’s a proven way to feel more positive and hence reduce (and better manage) stress.

In addition, you can combine both gratitude and a technique called reframing to reduce stress when something has happened that’s out of your control (and stressful). Here’s how it works:

  • There’s always something that can be learned or an opportunity for growth. Identify your growth opportunities (what’s gained, learned or developed).
  • Reframe your situation focusing on the positive. NOTE: this isn’t about ignoring the negative parts, but instead reframing it to emphasize the positive aspect.
  • Identify what you’re grateful for in this opportunity. And then explain why. [I’m grateful for X because Y].

To learn more about how to incorporate gratitude into your daily routine (and why), read my article about the Power Of Gratitude.

 

The Power of Gratitude Featured Image

In Summary

Self-care isn’t something you do just to feel better in the moment. It’s a necessity – especially if you want to be your best. And self-care need not be time consuming. Get started with these simple self-care activities:

  • Stress journal
  • 4-8-7 Technique
  • Mindful Walking
  • Move To Music
  • Reframe In Gratitude

And don’t forget to join the Get Reenergized Self-Care Challenge to simplify and prioritize self-care (guilt-free). In just 7 days (and about 15 minutes of time per day), this challenge will help you transform self-care from a *should* (you rarely ever get to) into a regular activity you actually enjoy.

Join the Get Reenergized Self-Care Challenge >>>here.

Related Posts:

How to Avoid Stress (5 Unusual Stress Management Strategies)

10 Life Tips For How to Excel In Life (2020 Edition)

How To Relax Your Mind (Even When Busy)

 


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Hey there, I’m Heather.

Recovering lawyer. Leadership Coach. Business Strategist. Cancer Survivor.

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