Self-care tips for working professionals
Updated: Mar 17, 2020
Everyone has heard the term "self-care" but too many people view it as a luxury, a "nice to have," or sometimes even as a selfish desire. But if you don't practice self-care on the regular, you'll likely end up depleted, stressed out, or sick. And, if you're like many Americans, if you're ill, you probably won't use those sick days to stay home and recover. This is why so many colds and flus sweep through offices, reducing productivity and angering coworkers who don't want to pick up their colleagues' germs. It's gross.
And while you can't always prevent stress or getting ill, having a regular self-care regimen actually goes a long way to keeping you balanced and healthy: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
While everyone is *soooo busy* running their daily lives, there are some simple self-care practices even the most scheduled of people can incorporate into their routine.
Deep breathing (or pranayama)
This one is particularly useful when you're stressed out, or you need to calm your nerves before a big meeting, presentation, or conversation. One of my favorites is Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise. This involves taking a deep inhale for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and then slowly exhaling for 8 seconds. If this is too long, or you have compromised lungs (say, from asthma), then cut the ratio in half: 2 - 3.5 - 4. If you're looking for some guided audio breathing exercises, check out some of Deepak Chopra's practices, which I produced.
Spice up your pre-bedtime routine with a 30-minute elevation of your skincare regimen. One night a week, give your skin some extra pampering. For me, this is a 20-minute oat milk hydrating mask from PCA Skin and a homemade lip exfoliation. Here's an easy-to-make, 5-minute lip scrub recipe you can do home. I take a longer-than-average hot shower before bed, using the sugar scrub. Then, when my skin is still warm, I apply the hydrating mask while I brush my teeth and do my nightly 100 situps (this is LA, it's always summer body season here). Since I usually have some extra time before the 20 minutes are up, I prep the rest of my skincare products on the counter and slather myself up with some hydrating body lotion. I also apply lotion to my feet and slip on socks to wear to bed. 20 minutes later, I wash off the mask, finish up the rest of my skincare, and slide into bed.
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
This one is a no-brainer. Not only has it been scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve long-term health, but exercise is also a great break from your overworked brain. For many people, working out is the first thing to go when you're stressed or over-scheduled, but there really is no excuse why you can't work it into your daily routine. It doesn't even have to be a major event like hitting the gym. You can go for a walk at lunch, get up 1 hour earlier to squeeze in some cardio, or invest in app-based exercise program like Glo (yoga) or Jillian Michaels' My Fitness (major girl crush on her!) so you can have a teacher in your pocket.
No phone 1 hour before bed
This is a super tough one to practice, but we all need time away from our phones. The Cleveland Clinic put together a really great article on how your phone and blue light affect your sleep. Since sleep is one of the most important self-care practices you can employ in your life, this little tip will help you create a healthy habit for restful Zzz's.
Stop checking your phone when you wake up
I used to be guilty of this one at my last job until I realized a few things...
I was stressed out the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed (and honestly, even in my sleep)
My work was not paying me enough to be on-call 24/7, and
By responding at all hours of the day, I was training people to have higher expectations of me than I was actually willing to meet.
So, I stopped checking my email when I woke up. Since I had to have work email on my phone as part of my job, I decided not to open the app until I got to the office. Of course, if I was expecting something urgent, I made an exception, but once I made the conscious choice to stop letting email and work rule my life, the things that seemed important changed. This took A LOT of discipline to do, but over time, it got easier as it became my new habit. Check out Sid Savara's article on this exact topic, which was a real eye-opener for me. It helped me understand WHY I felt the need to check my email first thing... and why it was actually harming me. Seriously, if you work can't wait for you to get to it during actual work hours, they're not paying you enough.
Stress does not have to be a way of life, but it often feels like it does. That's why it's important to bring in self-care practices (which yes, even includes cutting out unhealthy habits) regularly. You can't give to others if your own tank is empty, so be sure that you are carving out time and space to recharge yourself. After all, Oprah has the same 24 hours in a day that you do, and she practices self-care daily too.