Self-Care and Workplace Success

Self-Care and Workplace Success

This month we explore the importance of self-care for optimal health and well-being.

Join the Conversation

Self-Care Science Webinar

Brought to you by The Workshop Lab, Acacia Connection’s specialist workplace training provider. Join the conversation about the science of Self-Care and explore the different mindsets that get in the way of self-care and how you can overcome them.

Date: Monday, 20th May at 11am - 12 noon (1 hr)

(Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne time)

It's Free for all to join!

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is any activity we deliberately do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.

We can’t always control what life throws at us. Stressors, like losing someone close to you or being made redundant, can be sudden, unexpected and uncontrollable. However, we are in control of how we respond to these stressors and the impact they have on us.

When stress levels become high, if we are not looking after ourselves we are more likely to be reactive to this stress and act in ways we don’t want to. Sometimes we might turn to alcohol, eat irregular meals lacking in nutrition, stop exercising or withdraw from family and friends. Although these might work in the immediate short-term, they often make our stress worse in the long-term and we enter a negative cycle. Left unmanaged, this cycle can often lead to physical or mental health difficulties and leaves us feeling unfulfilled in our lives.

However, if you invest in yourself, when stressors enter your life you are able to be less reactive and more resilient. Instead of surviving, a regular self-care practice can help you feel you are thriving, allowing you to feel more in control of how you respond to this stress and who you are in the face of this adversity.

The Benefits of Self Care

Research has found multiple, wide-reaching benefits of a regular self-care practice. Self-care has been linked to:
  • Increased resilience
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Increased productivity levels
  • Improved mood
  • Improved work performance
  • Improved self-esteem and self-worth
  • Improved relationships with others
  • Boosted energy levels
  • Increased patience
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced sugar cravings
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced symptoms of mental health disorders

These can be flipped in good situations, which optimists generally see as permanent, pervasive and personal and pessimists see as temporary, specific and externally caused. 

Is Self-Care Selfish?

A common block to people carrying out self-care is the worry that looking after yourself means you are selfish or narcissistic. Those who look after others as carers, whether professionally or personally, are particularly at risk of burnout. This is because carers often don’t carry out self-care, feeling guilty if they do and worried it makes them bad carers.

Self-care can be the least selfish thing you can do!

By looking after yourself, you are more able to have more energy for looking after others, less likely to need to draw on others in a crisis, and more able to be the best version of you for the people around you. Research has found that self-care actually improves people’s relationships with others as you are more likely to have positive interactions with others if you invest in yourself.

However, this can be a challenging concept for people to adjust to. Here are some great analogies to explain the benefits of self-care either to yourself when doubt creeps up, or to others if they are resistant to your self-care.

Great Self-Care Analogies

The Phone Charging Analogy

Every night you put your phone on charge so that it can work the next day. If you don’t plug it in, it will either not function properly in low battery mode, or it will run out of energy completely. Self-care is the charger here and the phone is you. Just like you plug in your phone, you need to carry out self-care every day to energise yourself, and make sure you are able to perform the way you want to the next day.

The Oxygen Mask Analogy

On airplanes, you are always told to put your own oxygen masks on in an emergency before others, even your children. This is because if you don’t look after yourself, you might run out of oxygen and not be able to help those important to you. Self-care is the same, if you don’t look after yourself you won’t be able to look after others.

How to Carry out Effective Self Care: A Holistic Approach

In order to carry out effective self-care, it is important to invest in the physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental spheres of your life to ensure that you are looking after all parts of you.

Ideas for Looking After Your Self-Care

  • Sleep: Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep impacts your physical and emotional wellbeing, reducing your ability to function properly.
  • Have a regular sleep routine where you get up and go to bed at the same time each day
  • If you struggle to get to sleep, try the Headspace or Calm apps that have great sleep meditations
  • Don’t look at screens at least 1 hour before you want to be asleep
  • Exercise: Do some form of physical activity 20-30 minutes each day to reduce your body’s reaction to stress, release endorphins, increase confidence, improve fitness, and physical health.
  • Try to find a form of exercise you enjoy, you will be more likely to stick to it
  • Create a regular exercise routine to make it a habit
  • Try to make smaller healthy steps like taking the stairs or walking to work
  • Food: A healthy, nutritious diet is important in nourishing your mind and body. Poor diet makes you particularly vulnerable to stress and illness.
  • See a nutritionist through your EAP to gain guidance on what your personal healthy diet looks like and how you can achieve it
  • Stay hydrated – try to drink 2-3 litres of water per day
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: While you might feel the urge to use drugs and alcohol to manage stress or difficult feelings as it numbs or distracts you from them in the short term, they can make you feel a lot worse in the long run.
  • If you feel an urge to use alcohol or drugs when stress arises, try to distract yourself for 3 minutes until the urge naturally passes.
  • Have healthy alternatives to meet that need of relaxation or release e.g. exercise, walking the dog
  • Seek help – if you feel your relationship to drugs or alcohol is damaging, counselling can help. Seek support through your EAP.
  • Personal care: aking care of your appearance is a really important way to boost your mood and protect against mental health disorders developing.
  • Make time each day to brush your teeth, shower, get dressed and generally take pride in your appearance.
  • Relaxation: Make sure to make time to relax in order to replenish your energy, this can be one of the hardest things to do!
  • Try doing a relaxing activity every day e.g. drinking tea, deep breathing exercises, having a bath, going for a stroll

Emotional Self-Care

  • Help Others: Helping others makes you feel good about yourself, increases hopefulness, self-esteem and optimism
  • Express your Emotions: Keeping your emotions bottled up can lead to emotional explosions later on as well as lead to struggles with mental health. Instead of avoiding them listen to your feelings, process them, and try to understand them.
  • Try journaling or writing down how you’re feeling to create a safe space to express your emotions without fear of judgement
  • Talk to your support network about how you are feeling
  • Talk to a professional - counselling can be fantastic self-care for many people, acting as a safe space to check in with and explore yourself, gaining insight along the way
  • Smile: Research shows that if you’re smiling, you can change your mood even if you don’t feel like smiling as our brain can’t tell the difference between a real and fake smile.
  • Remember to smile throughout the day to use your facial muscles to communicate positive feelings to your brain.

Mental Self-Care:

  • Self-compassion: Listening to self-critical thoughts can be completely debilitating, demotivating and damaging. Instead, try to be kinder to yourself through using self-compassion.
  • Try to treat yourself as you would a close friend, tell yourself it’s okay to make mistakes, you’re human, and explore what you can learn from them rather than beating yourself up.
  • Mindfulness: By drawing your attention to your thoughts and feelings as they are, without judgement, you can increase your awareness and have more freedom to respond to these thoughts and feelings in a way you would like, rather than letting them control you.
  • Try to create mindful momentsthroughout your day where you remind yourself to quickly observe how you feel. You can even write this down.
  • When you have a thought such as ‘I am useless’, try to add a ‘I am thinking’ or ‘I am having the thought that’ in front of it to help you detach from the thought.
  • Practice Gratitude:Drawing attention to what you are grateful for can be a huge mood and wellbeing booster.
  • Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day
  • Tell someone you love what you appreciate about them
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: While you might feel the urge to use drugs and alcohol to manage stress or difficult feelings as it numbs or distracts you from them in the short term, they can make you feel a lot worse in the long run.
  • If you feel an urge to use alcohol or drugs when stress arises, try to distract yourself for 3 minutes until the urge naturally passes.
  • Have healthy alternatives to meet that need of relaxation or release e.g. exercise, walking the dog
  • Seek help – if you feel your relationship to drugs or alcohol is damaging, counselling can help. Seek support through your EAP.
  • Personal care: aking care of your appearance is a really important way to boost your mood and protect against mental health disorders developing.
  • Make time each day to brush your teeth, shower, get dressed and generally take pride in your appearance.
  • Relaxation: Make sure to make time to relax in order to replenish your energy, this can be one of the hardest things to do!
  • Try doing a relaxing activity every day e.g. drinking tea, deep breathing exercises, having a bath, going for a stroll

Spiritual Self-Care:

  • Create a Support Network: Social support alleviates feelings of isolation, boosts your mood and sense of connection, and reduces stress and improves your overall health.
  • Make sure you create a small group of people you can call on for emotional support, fun, and distraction.
  • Get involved: Being a part of an organisation can boost your sense of connectivity and overall wellbeing
  • Join a group e.g. fitness group, community group, volunteering group
  • Set boundaries: Putting in boundaries with others is a crucial skill in wellbeing. It is important to monitor your own energy levels so that you don’t burnout and overstretch yourself.
  • Try to say ‘no’ to things and make sure you have regular breaks from doing things

Social Self-Care:

  • Spirituality can be defined as feeling connected to something larger than yourself. This can include religion, however also can include connecting to nature, like-minded people e.g. at festivals or clubs, or yourself through meditation etc. Whether its religion or a set of values you have yourself, connecting to your own sense of spirituality can significantly help improve your physical health, decrease stress, and improve overall wellbeing.
  • Try to get in touch with your values – what is important to you in your life?
  • Make time for spiritual practice e.g. prayer, meditation, reading, self-development

Social Self-Care:

  • Create a nice physical environment for yourself: Having a tidy, comfortable space at home or at work helps us feel less stressed, reduces anxiety, helps us feel more in control and helps us feel happier
  • Take time to clean up your home each day, removing dirty items and investing in home décor to make it a relaxing environment for you.
  • Don’t forget to keep your work space neat, clean and tidy.
  • Get into nature: Spending time outside in a green environment such as a park, the countryside or your garden can hugely improve your happiness levels and reduce stress.

Where do I start?

This can seem a little overwhelming at first as lots of people don’t do anything for themselves in the day.

Here are a few ways to help you get started:

  • Do one activity per sphere so as not to take on too much at first
  • Plan your self-care into your schedule to make time for it
  • Tell your loved ones about your plan so they can encourage you and help you make time for you
  • Remember that your self-care routine will change depending on your stress levels, sometimes getting out of bed can feel like a marathon so remember to be flexible and celebrate each act of care for yourself no matter how small

Remember, there is no set self-care formula that suits everyone. It is important to experiment and discover what works for you. 

By looking at self-care holistically, addressing the physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental spheres of our lives, we are able to more effectively look after ourselves, boost our resilience levels, improve out physical and mental health, and thrive in our lives. Remind yourself how looking after you benefits not only you, but all the people around you.  

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia Connection for an appointment.

P: 1300 364 273 | Text or Live Chat: 0401 337 711 | W: acaciaconnection.com

"The safety and wellbeing of our clients and staff is always our top priority. Acacia EAP is currently operating under normal conditions. Due to the pandemic status of COVID-19, some locations may move from face-to-face counselling to secure video or phone. All counselling services are able to be provided 24/7, as always. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and act quickly on the advice of health authorities."