Self-Care in the Workplace

Updated on December 17, 2017
Leonard Tillerman profile image

Leonard is a former teacher and principal who has also been a writer for the past two decades. Writing and animals are his true loves.

Self-care in the workplace
Self-care in the workplace


We all live in an exceptionally busy world and conduct our lives at a frantic pace. The planet has become connected like never before and work is increasingly more demanding and unforgiving. Keep up or be left behind! In such a challenging work environment, it is quite easy to forget about ourselves. How can we possibly take time throughout the busy workday to practice self-care when the next deadline is looming right around the corner? The answer to the query, "How can I practice self-care at work?" may be less complicated than one might think.

Self-care is any deliberate act which an individual performs in order to attain the best physical and mental health. Self-care can involve sensorial, pleasurable, mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, or social acts. For example, running is a great self-care activity which has multiple areas such as mental and physical care covered, while mediation is a wonderful form of spiritual self-care. The aim for all of these is the same—optimal health. The ability to practice self-care is vitally important to one's overall health, and necessary in order to manage stress and thus build up the significant life skill of resiliency. When all of this is considered, it becomes quite obvious why self-care is so important. However, can self-care truly be practiced in the bustling work environment. Is this realistic?

Despite how they are frequently portrayed in movies and popular media, employers overwhelmingly want what is best for their employees. They seek staff who are healthy, balanced, and productive. However, many workers believe that if they are practicing self-care, and thus taking time for themselves, that they are somehow being selfish and taking advantage of others. Self-employed small business owners tend to feel the same way. How can they possibly justify taking time for themselves when there is so much else that needs to be accomplished in the typical day? The answer to this question is to pick and choose the self-care activities which will best match your life. Everyone will have a different "self-care toolbox," and should adapt it to fit their personal and professional life. The top strategies below will illustrate how.

Create and share your self-care plan with your employer.
Create and share your self-care plan with your employer.

1. Create and Share Your Self-Care at Work Plan

The creation of, and commitment to, a self-care plan is essential. It will help you to identify your overall well-being goals and the manner in which you achieve them. By actually composing a well thought out and written plan you will be much more inclined to adhere to it. Once it is completed it should be shared with important stakeholder groups. This would include your employer, colleagues, friends, and family. These are the individuals who can provide suggestions, encouragement, and support which will help you stick to your self-care regimen.

Others may respond negatively to your self-care plan. Ignore them!
Others may respond negatively to your self-care plan. Ignore them!

2. Ignore the Critics and Naysayers

As sure as the sun is going to rise in the morning, there will undoubtedly be people who will react negatively to your self-care plan. There is a stigma attached to self-care which portrays it as "selfish" or "lazy." Nothing could be further from the truth. It is actually quite courageous and you must distance yourself from the cynics and do not let them deter you from your overall plan for self-care and improved living. Push them aside and proceed as planned.

Work life balance is key to taking better care of yourself.
Work life balance is key to taking better care of yourself.

3. Work-Life Balance

An integral and mandatory part of your self-care plan has to be about maintaining a reasonable work-life balance. Work-life balance is identified as the number one method to obtain true happiness. Likewise, it is a vital component to add to your plan for self-care. Individuals need to feel as if they can escape from work. It cannot become "all-encompassing." You must deliberately create a balance between work and home. Great ways to do this are by unplugging and deliberately scheduling time with family and friends. Your life is defined by much more than just your work.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day at work.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day at work.

4. Be Realistic

The vast majority of people want to do the best possible job that they can do when they are at work. Due to this fact they may overextend themselves and end up "biting off more than they can chew!" In order to stick to a balanced self-care plan at work, it is important to be realistic and set boundaries. You simply cannot do everything that needs to be done in just one day!

Involve your employer and colleagues in your plan and set a realistic goal for work completion. If you simply do not have the time or resources to complete specific tasks in a given period of time, create a more realistic plan to finish them. Those people who put themselves under intense pressure to finish everything no matter what, are compromising their physical and mental health. Even if you finish everything in one day, there will always be something new to replace it. Don't become part of this vicious circle.

Scheduling your work day helps reduce stress.
Scheduling your work day helps reduce stress.

5. Schedule Your Work Day

Part of the self-care plan should be a meticulously scheduled day. Although work can often be unpredictable, one should try their best to stick to the prearranged schedule. This will limit the stress of the unknown. If individuals are consistently worried about what may come next, then there will be a total lack of control. This is not a healthy situation.

A carefully set schedule, which prioritizes work tasks and includes breaks, will make the workload feel much more manageable. It will also limit the tendency to procrastinate which will contribute to the feeling of loss of control.

Taking a break dedicated to self-care is a great way to take better care of yourself.
Taking a break dedicated to self-care is a great way to take better care of yourself.

6. Take Breaks Dedicated to Self-Care

Taking breaks at work which are devoted to one's own self-care are quite important to the individual and their workplace. A study from the University of Illinois found that breaks from work tasks exponentially increased an individual's ability to focus on the task at hand. In other words, it makes the workplace much more productive.

It is also important that the break is something which the individual enjoys and is part of the self-care plan. If not, it will become yet another task which is to be avoided. That, in turn, will defeat the whole purpose. Such activities as going for a walk, meditation, shopping, socializing with others and listening to music are all excellent examples of self-care activities. The use of regularly scheduled breaks will serve as a much-needed source of energy restoration during a busy day.

Taking care of your physical health is very important to your overall well-being.
Taking care of your physical health is very important to your overall well-being.

7. Take Care of Your Physical Health

Most people have heard the saying, "If you don't have your health then you don't have anything at all." While this rings true in so many ways, it is amazing how many people ignore this sage advice. A busy and hectic work life frequently leads to such poor habits as eating fast food and skipping exercise routines. The damage that this causes to physical health is exacerbated by the tendency of busy people to avoid going to the doctor or dentist for regular checkups. They feel they are much too busy to spend their valuable time in the waiting room of a physician. However, this is a poor long-term strategy as some simple physical health concerns can be caught and treated early with regular checkups. This will, in turn, prevent minor issues from turning into major life-changing events.

Maintaining a healthy work-space will help you take better care of yourself at work.
Maintaining a healthy work-space will help you take better care of yourself at work.

8. Create a Healthy Work-Space

Something which can be easily overlooked when there are so many other things going on is the incorporation of a healthy work-space. While it may be commonly ignored, it is nonetheless critical in so many ways. Those who lack a healthy work-space will tend to be absent from work and less productive overall.

By focusing on such simple solutions as testing air quality, maintaining consistent and comfortable temperatures, and having ergonomic assessments completed, the work-space can become comfortable and conducive to physical and mental well-being.


There can be little doubt that taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally at work is integral to our overall well-being. However, in the hectic and frequently chaotic work environment, this practice is often ignored. Individuals need to commit to a long-term plan for self-care at work. This will not only contribute to their overall health and happiness, but will ultimately help their workplace productivity as well.

A healthy and happy worker is a productive worker. Self-care at work can help us all to reach that optimal level of physical, emotional, and mental health which everyone deserves. Take care of yourself!

51 Self-Care Activities You Can Do While You Are At Work:
51 Self-Care Activities You Can Do While You Are At Work:

51 Self-Care Activities You Can Do at Work

  1. Go for a walk.
  2. Socialize with others.
  3. Listen to music.
  4. Read your favorite book.
  5. Call your spouse.
  6. Go out for lunch.
  7. Compose a positivity statement.
  8. Unplug.
  9. Practice Kindness.
  10. Go for a manicure at lunch.
  11. Meditate.
  12. Light candles in your office.
  13. Practice deep breathing exercises.
  14. Have your favorite treat to eat.
  15. Rearrange your office furniture.
  16. Work on your favorite hobby.
  17. Write a poem or a story.
  18. Watch your favorite show.
  19. Get a haircut at lunch.
  20. Listen to a self-improvement audiobook.
  21. Go outside and sit in the sun.
  22. Laugh with friends.
  23. Stretch your tired muscles.
  24. Create a "to do" list to organize thoughts.
  25. Yoga.
  26. Write a positive letter to yourself.
  27. Go for a ride on your bike.
  28. Try a new restaurant.
  29. Go shopping.
  30. Take some pictures with your camera.
  31. Eat something healthy.
  32. Do your favorite exercise.
  33. Perform a random act of kindness.
  34. Create a coping box full of things which make you smile.
  35. Go to a pretty park and enjoy nature.
  36. Have an herbal tea.
  37. Hug a friend.
  38. Sing your favorite song.
  39. Call a friend.
  40. Write in your journal.
  41. Attend an exercise class.
  42. Plan a party.
  43. Book a massage.
  44. Squeeze a stress ball.
  45. Go to the local gallery and enjoy the art.
  46. Forgive and grow.
  47. Call someone special and let them know what they mean to you.
  48. Color in an adult coloring book.
  49. People watch at the mall.
  50. Create affirmation statements.
  51. Respect yourself and others.

Join Our Discussion!

Do You Practice Self-Care At Work?

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  • Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress. Barbara Markway Ph.D. Psychology Today. 2014
  • Introduction to Self-Care. School of Social Work. University at Buffalo
  • Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus Researchers Find. Science Daily. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 2011
  • 7 Steps to Better Employee Self-Care in the Workplace. Dana Gionta Ph. D. Psychology Today. 2008
  • Self-Care at Work Makes Sense, Why is it Not Common Practice? Jane Keep. Unimed Living.
  • 70 Ways for Self-Care. Evelyn Lim. 2011
  • 45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body and Soul. Ellen Bard. Tiny Buddha
  • Self-Care in Therapy. Good Therapy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      An excellent article. Although we should know this information we seem to forget about it all too often

    • Shernae Grey profile image

      Shernae Miller 

      2 years ago from Bahamas

      Well done! This is one of those things that should be discussed and implemented in every workplace. Happiness is the new productivity says Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mindvalley Academy. Google, Apple and all sorts of major and not so major corporations understand that the well being of your employees directly affect your products and services and subsequently your bottom line, and judging from your list, it’s the simple things that count.


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