We all know we should be doing it, and we intend to do it right after we get caught up on the week's to-do list or at the end of the month when things settle down. But honestly, how many of us spend time taking care of our own physical and emotional needs? How often does your other half say, "Here, let me do the dishes. Go draw a bath, light some candles, and pour a glass of wine for yourself. Enjoy some "me-time."?
When was your supervisor last telling you that you were working too hard and said you should get away from your desk to take a walk or find a quiet space and enjoy a break?
Employers have a unique opportunity to encourage employees to practice self-care even if they don't have a wellness program.
Self-Care and Then There is #Self-Care–
The self-care and wellness movement started about 72 years ago, in the 1950s, when institutionalized patients were encouraged to keep some of their independence by maintaining grooming tasks themselves. Staff noticed this simple routine had a positive effect on patients' mood and their level of self-confidence.
In the 1960s, self-care settled into the academic world, with psychologists and psychiatrists recommending that first responders practice self-care to help reduce the incidence of PTSD.
During the 1970s, self-care found its fame when the Black Panthers promoted it. They deemed it essential for all Black citizens to practice self-care to remain resilient while they experienced repeated injuries of systemic racism.
As the movement grew, young people also jumped in on the self-care scene and touted various self-care activities, promoting the idea that self-care led to overall wellness.
Self-care through the 80s, 90s, and aughts ebbed and flowed. It would gain momentum over a cause or be picked up by the news, and people would remember they were supposed to be allocating time to take care of themselves.
The idea of self-care never really took hold in the mainstream population. People didn't do it, seldom talked about it, and many were ambivalent as to its necessity. The workplace wasn't interested in employees' problems or their well-being because it was still hard at work prioritizing and normalizing mental health.
Digitalized #Self-Care Changes the Meaning of Self-Care
As self-care grew in popularity, so did the hashtag self-care (#selfcare). It is now a trillion-dollar industry. Just pull up the #selfcare hashtag on Instagram, and you will see why. Photos of people lounging on beach towels in the Caribbean sipping margaritas or being pampered with a massage in a lavender-scented room make you wonder if you are doing self-care right.
Self-care doesn't have to cost money, and it doesn't have to be something you do for yourself. If you feel reenergized by volunteering to spend a few hours visiting the residents of a senior care center or are happiest giving time to an important cause, then do that.
Self-care cannot be done wrong if the activity results in a happier, more peaceful state of mind upon completion.
“Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind, and spirit – the realization that everything we do, think, feel, and believe has an effect on our state of well-being.” ~Greg Anderson
Reluctance and Resistance – Self-Care Obstacles
Study after study after study finds that practicing self-care has positive effects on your mental, emotional and physical health. Why then doesn't everyone get involved?
Barriers to self-care include –
• The belief that self-care isn't a priority. Research shows that 44 percent of people surveyed think self-care is only possible when you have enough time.
• Thinking it costs too much. About 35 percent of people think they don't have enough money to practice self-care.
• People don't understand the difference between self-improvement and self-care.
When people want to fix something about themselves, they chart a self-improvement course. This requires a commitment to learning to do or be better. Self-care is embracing yourself and giving yourself guilt-free permission to love yourself as you are.
• You think putting yourself first means putting everyone else last.
• You don't know when you need it.
• You feel guilty.
These are valid reasons not to weave self-care into your daily routine, especially when a good part of your day is spent working.
People spend close to half of their lives involved in work-related activities. Commuting can add a significant amount of time to the workday for those going to the office.
Those who work from home often have difficulty shutting down for the night and checking emails late into the evening.
This type of schedule can quickly lead to unhealthy behaviors and burnout. The goal in a work environment is to be productive yet engaged while at work.
Self-care in the workplace
Healthy employees handle work/life balance pressures well when they are engaged in a satisfying self-care activity.
However, most workers state they don't have time due to their work schedules. But when encouraged by upper management to incorporate self-care into their daily routine, employees are more likely to give it a go.
Companies can easily support self-care in the workplace even if they don't have a wellness program and have little to spend.
Here Workforce Institute lists ten ways organizations can be supportive of employee self-care initiatives:
1. Make ergonomics a priority.
2. Create "stop doing" goals. What if every employee sets a goal to stop doing something rather than adding an item to their to-do list?
3. Encourage the use of health insurance wellness benefits. Make sure employees know the preventative health services available to them.
4. Plan healthier company-sponsored meals. If companies want to encourage healthy eating, they should offer healthy options.
5. Promote sleep. Lack of sleep has been attributed to driving accidents, obesity, and unethical conduct.
6. Offer stress and time management courses. Schedule a lunch and learn session that can be done in-person or virtually.
7. Practice mindfulness. Giving employees 10 minutes could yield significant results - for them and the company.
8. Recognize employees for their work and accomplishments. Managers can lift employees' confidence by giving them recognition in a way that means something.
9. Have "walking" meetings. We've heard the phrase "sitting is the new smoking," so pick a route and walk the meeting.
10. Provide flexible work schedules. Giving employees flexibility helps them manage their lives.
Many employees are struggling as they return to pre-COVID jobs, and the stress level in the world is at an all-time high. If companies want to improve engagement and retain employees, they should look at how they can incorporate self-care into the workplace.
Remember, it doesn't have to cost anything. It just must be something that leaves you happy and satisfied.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
Creating a Culture of Self-Care in the Workplace. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calm: https://business.calm.com/resources/blog/creating-a-culture-of-self-care-in-the-workplace
Employee Self-Care: 10 Ways Organizations Can Be Supportive. (2017, October 23). Retrieved from Workforce Institute: https://workforceinstitute.org/employee-self-care-10-ways-organizations-can-be-supportive/
Lawler, M. (2021, May 19). What Is Self-Care and Why Is It So Important for Your Health? Retrieved from Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/
Maher, B. (2019, Dec 18). Why You Struggle with Self-Care. Retrieved from NAMI: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2019/Why-You-Struggle-with-Self-Care