Self-Care Tips for the Professional

By Kimber Lew

Adam’s note: I really appreciate Kimber Lew for writing this article for me. 

In your quest to be the very best in your workplace, have you been feeling exhausted, bored, burned out, or other various negative qualities? You may have forgotten about a very important, oft-overlooked thing called self-care. I promise you, self-care isn’t maliciously selfish. It’s actually a very important way to make sure you are showing up as your best professional self. Not sure where to start besides drawing yourself a candle-lit bath, dropping in a Lush bath bomb, and letting the fizzies carry you far away as the sounds of Enya erase all of your troubles? (Or think that sounds awful?) Say no more.

Make What’s Around You Yours

In order to feel comfortable and do your best work, personalizing your surroundings will help you feel cozier and happier. It doesn’t have to mean doing an entire revamp of your cubicle – something as simple as bringing in your own mug for your coffee or tea, or putting up some pictures of family and friends (or random cute dogs) can help you maintain your sense of self and brings a little happiness to your day.

Kimber’s Desk

Plants can do the same thing; I have a little collection of air plants, succulents, and decorative crystals placed on my desk and in the open-air cubbies that make up one side of my space, and I constantly have coworkers telling me that my cubicle looks and feels the most homey and welcoming. Plus, having plants to take care of gives you an excuse to take a break from your work. Which leads me to my next suggestion…

Get Out, Stand Up, Move!

Like Elle Woods mentions in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” I’m not suggesting that you do a full-blown P90X routine in your office, but find ways to sneak in physical activity, which will break up your day and refresh your mood.

For some of us in the industry, standing at the lab bench or walking around the production floor are things we are required to do. Try being aware of what muscle groups you’re activating while picking up that 20 lb box of IQF roasted tomatoes (tighten that core!), for example. For others in the industry, our job tends to keep us stuck in our office chairs in front of computer screens for 8 hours a day.

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Need to ask your coworker if the mango puree she asked your to source for her project needs to be organic or conventional? Instead of calling her on the phone, get up from your desk and walk across the office to her cubicle. Is the water cooler empty? Great, grab a new water jug and get some weight-bearing exercise in (those things are heavy)!

Changing your scenery is also a refresher – take time during your lunch to walk around the block a time or two by your building, or even just sit outside and enjoy the fresh air if the weather allows. If not, maybe consider taking a zone-out break in your car. Even if you don’t have time to nap, allowing your brain to unwind for a few minutes does wonders.

Think Happy + Spread Happy = Be Happy

Blame it on my yoga practice, but I’ve found that a lot of good can come from practicing gratitude. Sound too hippy-dippy for you? Try starting off your day (at home when you wake up or once you get to your desk) by writing down a list of 3 things that you are grateful for that day. None of them have to be huge things, and you can repeat some from the day(s) before. For example, you could write down “my pet, unexpected deadline extensions, and genmaicha tea.” By thinking about what you feel grateful for, your mind is pushed to focus on that happiness, and eventually, you’ll recognize little bits of happiness in every situation.

You can also practice gratitude by giving those around you some encouraging words. See that one of the project managers seems beyond stressed? Tell her that she’s doing a great job and that you’re there for her if she needs anything. Give credit where credit is due: mention to the research assistant that the point he made during the meeting was very astute, or make sure your boss knows who else contributed to your report. Creating happiness for others also makes you feel good yourself; that’s why volunteering is beneficial to volunteers as well.

Keep Your Work Life and Home Life Separate

While it’s sometimes important to put in the extra effort and time for important projects, thinking obsessively about or being accessible 24/7 for work isn’t a great thing, most of the time. While I’m all for being passionate about the work you’re doing, I also have a pretty staunch philosophy about not allowing work to bleed into my personal time.

During the weekend, I unsync my work email from my mail app on my phone, and make it a rule to not read any work emails at all, at least until Sunday night if I’m worried about last-minute Monday morning meetings. If you have your work email password auto-populate on your laptop, unsave it from your browser so that you have one step in between you and your inbox so you can catch yourself before you start mindlessly checking it. Don’t take business calls during the weekend unless you must.

Most things can wait until Monday morning. If your job necessitates that you must be available during the weekend, then at the very least set aside some time where you put your phone out of reach (or turn it to “Do Not Disturb) and you can focus on your personal life and leisure. Speaking of which…

Make Time for Yourself!

It’s true that you cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first, so make sure that you are making time to do things that you enjoy. Carve out a few minutes in the morning to stretch and drink some coffee (this would be a great time to do that gratitude journaling!); take lunch and read a book while chowing down; block out an hour in the evening for your favorite show (Chef’s Table, anyone?) and some sweets (Cheesecake Factory is on DoorDash, you guys…). Do little things that bring you happiness, amusement, contentment, what-have-you, and you will find that you’re able to do better-quality work and show up as a better version of yourself.

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