How to Practice Self-Care
Without Limiting Job Performance

See also: Self-Regulation | Self-Management

On the surface, self-care and job performance may seem at odds when they’re actually inextricably linked. Inappropriate practices like spending time on social media or having prolonged chats at the water cooler during work hours in the name of self-care will hurt your job performance. However, genuinely caring for your physical, social and emotional needs will improve your health and work life.

Caring for yourself in the present may temporarily take away from job performance, for example of you take an extended vacation. However, the benefit comes in your long-term success in your role. Maintaining health and happiness is the key to prolonged occupational satisfaction and achievement.

Follow Your Circadian Rhythm

You can’t beat the powerful effects of a good night’s rest. At this stage in your life, you’ve likely heard the recommendation to get eight hours of sleep each night. However, an even more important detail is when you get that rest.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day allows your body to sync with a circadian rhythm, meaning you’ll start to naturally get tired and feel more alert at the same times every evening and morning. You’ll rest better and wake more refreshed, improving your health and job performance.

Eat Good Food

Food is nourishment for your body and soul. Prioritizing nutrient-dense foods will maintain your physical health. However, macro and micronutrients are only the tip of the iceberg.

Instead of rushing through each meal to move on to the next item on your list, ground yourself in the moment and appreciate what you’re eating. Savor each bite, your atmosphere and the people around you. When done right, food can become a way to care for your whole being. This could look like taking your lunch outside to enjoy the sunshine and birdsong at work. At home, sit at the table and talk with your loved ones, letting the conversation lead wherever.

Move Every Day

Exercise can improve your mood, help you concentrate better and keep your body’s systems healthy. Even a 30-minute walk during each workday can drastically improve your mental and physical health and job performance.

Take a break during your lunch or other time in your schedule to get outside in the fresh air and walk. If your workplace has an in-house wellness center, take full advantage of the equipment when you have free time.

An alternative is working out at the end of your workday, which can be especially beneficial for remote employees who don’t need to drive home. This release of endorphins will let you unwind from the day and create a separation between your work and personal life.

Set Boundaries Between Work and Home

Your professional and personal life are separate entities and should be treated as such. It’s your job to concentrate on the tasks at hand when at work. You shouldn’t stress about your laundry list of errands and household chores you need to complete. Similarly, you shouldn’t think about that report you must write while relaxing at home with your family.

Leave your personal life at home when you go to work and leave your job behind when you clock out at the end of the day. Creating firm boundaries between the two will significantly improve your mental health and ability to focus on your priorities.

Say No More Often

Your time is your most valuable commodity because you can never get it back once spent. Use yours to the fullest potential by learning to say no to things that don’t serve you or your values.

For example, if you get your physical activity elsewhere and have no desire to play organized sports, saying no to the company softball team would be wise. Train yourself to think through every commitment before deciding rather than agreeing out of guilt or people-pleasing tendencies.

Turn Off Your Phone

People often view time on their phones as a form of self-care. However, that’s often far from the truth. Blue light can disrupt your sleep cycle since staring at a screen creates posture problems and social media worsens mental health and self-image.

Plus, spending time glued to your cellphone at work causes more interruptions than you could imagine. So-called “minor” distractions on the job add up, with one study finding they took 238 minutes away from productivity.

Practice Personal Hygiene

Arriving at work with your nails groomed and hair done and donning professional attire feels much better than leaving the house at a frantic pace wearing whatever was at the end of your bed and having barely pulled a brush through your hair.

Your hygiene habits will largely dictate how your co-workers view you and how you perceive yourself. Regardless of gender, take care of the basics like nails, hair and teeth. Make an effort to look polished, and your mental health and career prospects should improve.  

Take a Break

Everyone needs an occasional break from work. During the day, you should have lunch away from your desk and a few opportunities to move around and stretch. Sitting at your computer all day will lead to burnout and a decline in your physical health. Over the long term, you’ll be much more successful and productive at your job if you take regular breaks.

You should also plan to take a mental health day when needed. If you’re losing sleep and your health is suffering because of pressures at work or home, a day off may be just what you need. You can return refreshed the following day.

Take an extended vacation from work at least once a year. Go to the beach with your kids. Hike a bucket-list trail with buddies. Go on a romantic getaway with your partner. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you leave your worries behind. Your home and work life will be much better when you return.

Give Yourself Gifts

Who doesn’t love receiving gifts? Don’t wait for someone else to step up. Buy yourself something little to brighten your mood right now. Giving and getting gifts releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, which help create emotional bonds and increase happiness. When you give yourself something, you get the best of both worlds.

Buy yourself some themed desk accessories or a live plant. Order a delivery of a fruit basket or fresh flowers just for you. You can even get bigger things like a certificate for a full-body massage or a work-improvement tool like an under-desk mini bike.

Start With Small Steps

These actionable tips will improve your self-care without limiting your job performance, but you should refrain from trying to enact everything at once. Take small steps toward your goals of a more balanced lifestyle. Add one idea at a time and see how it improves your health and work life. Remove anything that doesn’t work for you, make a habit of things that do and continue to try new things.

About the Author

Jack Shaw is a freelance writer who has spent the last five years writing about fitness and health. He's served as senior writer for Modded, and since then has contributed to Sports Medicine Weekly, Better Triathlete, and Hella Wealth among many other publications. When not writing, he can often be found training for the next event, hiking or running with his dog.