This post is an edited excerpt from the book, Self Care at Work: How to Reduce Stress, Boost Productivity, and Do More of What Matters.
Make this your #1 priority (and why)
Think of yourself as a vehicle, and your work (or life) is the road. Sometimes you’re on the straight and narrow. Other times your road twists, turns, or even circles back a time or two. What is your fuel through all of this? Self-care. Whatever the road ahead or the path you’ve taken, self-care is what keeps your motor running and your wheels turning.
One of the main reasons I began writing about and teaching self-care is because it’s a topic that’s often brought up and brushed off as nothing more than a buzzword. As is true with most things, self-care isn’t a universal “do this once and it’ll change your life” deal. It’s a self-care practice, after all.
I’ve found that self-care is often described as one of two extremes: survival or indulgence. It’s presented as either drinking water and getting enough sleep or getting your nails done and going shopping. Of course, you need water and sleep in order to keep your vehicle running (and, you know, stay alive). And sure, going shopping or getting your nails done might be a nice way to treat yourself now and then. But we need more than these two options on either end of the spectrum.
The good news is that self-care is the spectrum. Self-care refers to meaningful self-investment. It’s a practice of paying attention to your intention and doing things that matter to you.
Your self-care is all about reinvesting energy into yourself so that you have the energy to expend (to send outward in productive ripples and waves).
In this context, long-term success is defined by consistent and intentional practice. This requires your self-care practice to reflect three pillars: it must be personal, purposeful, and practical.
Make it work for you with these 3 keys to success
#1: Personal — start from the heart.
Self-care starts with self-awareness. Tune into yourself. How do you feel? What do you want or need?
#2: Purposeful — make it matter to you.
Self-care strives for self-fulfillment. This is your “why” or the roots of your tree. How can you meet your needs and wants? How can you fuel or nourish yourself?
#3: Practical — commit to your practice.
Activities that cultivate self-awareness (personal) and fulfillment (purposeful) will only continue to fuel you if you can continue to practice them. What personal and purposeful activities can you do regularly to stay fuelled and fulfilled?
Start today by clarifying your own definition
Spend a few minutes now creating your own definition for self-care. But before you dive in, remember that work and life coexist. Wellness at work follows you home and vice-versa. The same goes for when you’re not well, fuelled, or fulfilled.
Work and life aren’t opposing forces to balance; they go hand-in-hand and are intertwined as different elements of the same person: you.
So when creating your definition of self-care, consider your wellness both at work and outside of it. And know that the benefits of your self-care action plan will extend far beyond the walls of your workplace. Know, too, that your definition can (and likely will) change as your needs, wants, work, and life change. And that’s okay because you can create an action plan that will be simple and flexible enough to adapt to these changes.
Start with a definition that aligns with your current lifestyle. Ask yourself:
What does self-care look like for you now?
What do you want it to look like?
Why is it important?
Once you’ve jotted down your definition, ask yourself how you can start paying more attention to your intention to take better care of yourself. This is where you’ll begin—starting today.
Want to create a self-care practice that will boost your productivity and improve your personal wellness?
Self Care at Work is a practical guide to self-care and productivity. In eight short chapters, you’ll explore foundational concepts, simple exercises, and transformative questions, designed to help you:
- Align your thoughts, practices, and day-to-day schedule with your needs and priorities
- Gain skills, tools, and self-awareness for growth and success, according to your terms
- Work productively, fulfill your needs, and spend more time doing the stuff that matters
Melissa Steginus is a mindfulness teacher and productivity coach helping people structure their work and lives to be intentional, empowering, and fulfilling. With a background in social work and over a decade of experience as a counsellor, coach, yoga instructor, and world traveller, Melissa has helped thousands of people transform their personal and professional lives through her workshops, classes, online courses, and individual sessions. Now living blissfully on the west coast of Canada, Melissa develops and teaches workshops on mindfulness and stress reduction for clinicians, entrepreneurs, and students of all ages.