December 3, 2018
Wellness Advice

Self-care tips for working professionals

Katie McDonald

Self care can be such a nuisance, a distraction even from an otherwise productive word day.

Understandably the tasks we all know we should be doing — drinking water, exercising, sleeping sufficiently — just cascade to the bottom of the daunting list of never-ending to dos. They lack the urgency of the looming deadlines of the big proposal and the immediacy of a client's phone call. No one pats us on the back or gives us a hefty raise in direct response to our workout or healthy meal.

So, day after day we neglect the habits that are in fact the deep resource from which to draw — the creativity, stamina, mental clarity and the resiliency we value at work (and get paid for), yet find so elusive.

Let's experiment by flipping the model from the "self care if we can squeeze it in" approach to one with scheduled and non-negotiable self care. What we know to be true is self-neglect is not sustainable and leaves us susceptible to disease or, at best, dis-ease. It also makes us vulnerable to a stalled career because we lack the oomph to rise. Rather than await the urgency of a diagnosis to catapult you into change or a sidetracked promotion, consider these simple habits weekdays only for two consecutive weeks.

Hydrate: Commit to drinking three large water bottles each day. Hydrating heightens mental clarity and serves as a trusted remedy for headaches. Drink the first before getting to work to prime the pump for productivity, the second before lunch and the last before leaving work. Finish each bottle before each meal, which will likely reduce your overall caloric consumption.

Move: Redefine workouts from one hour at the gym (which few of us can ever consistently achieve) to a standard of movement for 30 minutes.

Here consistency can outweigh intensity.

Just moving our bodies can soften the rough edges inherent in stressful work environments. We often attempt to tame the frenetic energy generated at our jobs with excess wine as we get home — the reward for being a good girl or boy. Or maybe we rely on the crunch of salty and edgy snacks to chomp through the stress. Instead, channel that energy into an intentional and productive walk with a coworker and leverage the resulting confidence and vitality. A walking meeting with a colleague can be a legit pursuit of resuming physical activity instead of holding ourselves accountable to a perfectionistic standard we are unlikely to consistently reach.

Clear off desk: Cluttered desks often lead to cluttered minds. Set your alarm for 30 minutes prior to your intended departure. Devote that time to clearing off the desk and crafting an intentional start to the next day. Identify your three priorities for the following day and in doing so, begin tomorrow with clarity and a productive focus. Instead of reacting to everyone else's agenda, you have created your own. Then commit to addressing those priorities before responding to anyone else's urgency if possible. Setting boundaries liberates us to gain traction in the things that matter most. Self-esteem rises and with it, our impact in the work we do.

After the experiment, evaluate the difference between the weeks with these new habits in place and the ones without. Which version of you gets the job done with more precision and passion?

Introducing simple strategies such as these can drastically reduce the drama, distractions and attention deficits that arise from depletion and mental fatigue. We want to be exceptional in our careers. It is who we are and how we define ourselves. We need to align our habits with professional ambitions. Instead of cleaning up the messes arising from self-neglect, we invest in new strategies that have a proven ROI.

Instead of collapsing onto our pillows at the end of the day with depleted reserves and empty but well-intentioned promises that tomorrow will be different, we can instead show up for ourselves with the same loyalty that we exhibit for others and our jobs. Only then are we bringing our best selves to our work, families and communities.

Katie McDonald, CEO and founder of bnourished, is a self-care strategist.

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