In college you hear a lot about self care and how to take study breaks, balance your fun with studying, eating healthy, healthy sleep patterns, and on and on. But remember, when you start your first job or internship – self care is equally as important.
A bummer of a study came out this fall, conducted by Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics and published in the Harvard Business Review which found that about half of millennials and 75% of Gen Zers have left a job because of mental-health reasons.
But this doesn’t have to be you. With a few proactive habits and tools in your pocket, you can have some control over the stress that can come with a new work environment.
Here are 10 things that each take under 10 minutes that you can do for self-care at work:
- Meditate: It is scientifically proven that meditation can shift your brain. You don’t have to go full monk, you can get an app or a shortcut on your desktop to a 3, 5, or 10 minute guided meditation. If you do this even once or twice a day it can have a proven positive impact on your mindset. Try it, it really works!
- Take a walk outside: During your break, don’t go and eat a donut in the breakroom. Get outside and walk around the block or the parking lot. It is also proven that fresh air and exercise can be as impactful as medication for mental health. Walking meetings, especially one on ones, can also be a good way to get out and feel better!
- Gratefulness: This is another one that sounds simple, but has huge rewards. Create a habit of noticing things you are grateful for – this can be in a fancy little journal, in your notes app, or even post a pic once a day of something that made you happy. Being consciously grateful for things helps our brains. Make it a habit every day.
- Challenge Your Thinking: The human condition, for some of us, includes some modes of thinking that can really disrupt our mental health. Unhelpful thinking styles “they” like to call them. Things like all or nothing thinking, jumping to conclusion, and disqualifying the positive – do you find yourself doing any of these? It is possible, once you become aware, to change those unhelpful thought patterns. This is a hard one and takes lots of practice, but doesn’t take a lot of time.
- Brush Your Teeth: I have no science behind this one except personal practice and experience. A friend said to me once when I was feeling down, “Go brush your teeth and you will feel better.” Well…that little tidbit was true then and is still true now. Somehow brushing your teeth creates a shift, and allows you to get some good hygiene in while resetting your brain. So put a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste in your desk drawer.
- Don’t Immediately React: This is another one that takes practice, but can create a healthier mental environment at work. Get a text or email that stresses you out, hurts your feelings, or triggers you at work? Don’t immediately react – don’t shoot off a response. Just sit, breathe, and put things into perspective. Could this person be having a bad day and it has nothing to do with you? What is a sound response to the issue? Are there other probing questions you can ask to get clarity and look at the issue in another way? No matter what the topic, don’t immediately react to things that give you big feelings. Take a bit of time, think through your options, and then respond.
- Healthy Snacks: All that “feed your brain” stuff you learned remains true. Eating a candy bar, drinking a sugary soda or a bunch of coffee can cause you to crash and feel worse when you are trying to get through a work day. A piece of fruit, some granola, hummus and veggies, WATER (you know the list) – these are far better choices for snacks, especially in the afternoon.
- Make a Friend at Work: Having a buddy can make work stress bearable. Someone you can talk to for a few minutes about something that has nothing to do with work can give your mind the break it needs. Make each other laugh. Support systems are important in all areas of our lives. But a word of warning: don’t just complain about work – in the long run that’s not good for either of you and could cause more harm than help.
- Prioritize: Have so many things to do you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? Make a list and ask your manager for prioritization. This helps you know where to start, manage stress, and recognize that tomorrow is another day to do the things that are identified as lower priorities.
- Congratulate Yourself: Did you get up and get to work? Did you take a minute to make yourself look presentable? Are you doing your best? Good Work! Things may get stressful, work can be a lot, but don’t forget to tell yourself “congratulations” on doing it. It is no small feat to face your first job or internship, and showing up and doing your best is something to celebrate.
Try to incorporate these things into your work life in the new year. Being a human is an amazing thing: we can practice positive self care, feel better, and see the results.
If you find yourself in need of mental health care, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, look for resources at work like an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or call a hotline. Take care of you!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255) Available 24/7
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)