How to bolster emotional resilience and prioritize workplace self-care

Be mindful of your stressors, learn to say ‘no,’ and set healthy boundaries.

How to prioritize self-care at work

When we think of how well organizations look after their employees, we typically think of health and safety areas.

Ergonomically correct offices and safety committees have become almost standard practices and expected features in a workplace environment of any size. However, emotional care is still not well understood and practiced in many organizations. There are indications that this is beginning to change, led by millennials whose expectations are permeating the workplace. In 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, millennials spend three times as much as Boomers on workout regimens, diet plans, therapy and apps to improve personal well-being.  In their desire to attract millennials, this change is causing workplaces to take notice and seriously grasp the emotional self-care of their people.

Here are seven habits to prioritize your self-care at work:

1. Be aware of your stressors.

When it comes to what causes us stress, one size does not fit all. We are all different and need to know what exactly causes us stress. Is it the workload, the people we work with or meeting deadlines? Are we stressed working in a team, or working alone? Do we prefer an environment in which a lot is happening, or do we need a quiet area free of distractions?

When I was in university, I found I was able to study more effectively in the student lounge with lots of activity, rather than by myself. Studying alone, without any side activity caused my thoughts to wander, making it difficult to focus. Self-awareness, an essential first step in emotional intelligence, is crucial to knowing what we need to do to look after our emotional needs.

2. Learn to say “no.” 

Many of us think, or have been led to believe, that saying “no” means we are not a good team player or we miss out on being promoted. However, it is an essential part of letting people know that we are at our limit. It is important to frame our saying no in the right context. Instead of sounding like we are whining about the amount of work we have, we can frame it in a way that indicates that we are proud of what we do, the contribution we make and the quality of our work. Let it be known that if you accept the extra work, the quality of the work you do will suffer to the detriment of the team and organization. You may find that this will earn you respect from your colleagues and management and encourage others to do the same.

3. Set and keep boundaries.

We must set boundaries and let others clearly know where those boundaries are. Do we need a quiet time to mediate, recharge and regenerate? Let everyone know this, and be clear that outside of emergencies, you would appreciate not being interrupted during this time. If you are working on an important project with a tight deadline, let everyone know and thank them for helping you by allowing you to focus on this important piece of work until completion. Encourage others to let you and others know when they have an important piece of work and facing a deadline.

4. Protect your energy. 

There are certain people at work who can drain your energy if you let them. Sometimes referred to “energy vampires,” their attitude and negativity can get in the way of looking after yourself emotionally. Avoid them if you can, and limit any interaction that you are forced by circumstances to have with them.

When socializing with colleagues at work, avoid talking about areas that you have strong feelings about. Typical areas to avoid are politics and religion. Getting into pointless arguments with co-workers will drain your energy and make working with them in the future more difficult.

5. Ask for help when you need it. 

There is no benefit to be a hero or a martyr. Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness; it is an indication of someone who knows themselves, is open and a good team player. Consider that others may feel good about the fact that you trust them and their work enough to ask them for help. Only do this when you are genuinely overwhelmed and need help so that you earn the respect of others. We all know people who are more than happy to let someone else do the work that they should be doing. Let your colleagues know when you have some free time and are able to help them with something in return.

6. Accept all your emotions, but choose which you will focus on.

According to Jonatan Mårtensson: “Feelings are much like waves. We can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.”

Emotions are neither good nor bad, and we all experience many every day. Instead of wasting energy trying to suppress negative emotions, ride them out, but don’t keep focusing on them. If you are experiencing positive emotions, you can extend them by focusing on them. In this way you can extend your positive emotional energy.

7. Be gentle on yourself when things don’t work out as planned. 

When you have given your best effort and things don’t go as planned, practice being gentle on yourself. Ask yourself how you can use the experience to help you improve in the future. Remind yourself that even the most highly successful people have failed, countless times, before they reached success.

Look at all setbacks as temporary and not as indictments of you as a person. All successful people who have overcome obstacles have had this outlook. Instead, give yourself credit for stepping up and giving it your all. Pay it forward by supporting others in the workplace who are feeling bad about a setback.

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker.

Learn how to better engage employees and build a healthier company culture at Ragan’s Remote Employee Engagement & Culture Virtual Conference.

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