The workplace offers us many challenges. We get to learn more about our passions and interests, as well as our strengths and weaknesses. As we take on new responsibilities, gain professional satisfaction, and chart a course for our lifelong career, the workplace becomes the foundation of an active, fulfilling life. However, there’s a flipside, which includes the reality that work is not always satisfying. Our work lives can be a severe and persistent source of anxiety and stress too. It can affect all facets of our lives and can have lasting effects on our physical and mental well-being. In such times, self-care can feel intimidating or unattainable. The intention isn’t to add more load to your already full plate. Instead, self-care flows from a plan to stay connected to oneself so that you can optimise your potential in the workplace. Therefore, it is essential to notice when you’ve slipped out of self-care mode. These are the red flags to look out for:
With demanding workloads, self-neglect can become a familiar pattern for most of us. As feelings of anxiety and tension increases, it becomes harder to maintain composure and say no to the interruptions and demands of others. We end our workdays feeling completely burned out.
Maintaining a professional and competent persona is an important skill, but one can go overboard. When you suppress or deny emotion to uphold a professional game face, you end up feeling exhausted by maintaining the act. You could risk being perceived as inauthentic or overwhelm yourself with this facade.
It is often possible that we don’t achieve our goals because we have gotten in our own way. Be cautious when you see yourself slipping into unproductive habits of procrastination, rumination, or distraction to avoid the anxiety or fear of completing your most important tasks.
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In a competitive world, it’s easy to surrender to a scarcity mindset. When we obsess about a lack of resources, we can lose touch with what’s best for the business. Being overly competitive can cause others to perceive you as protecting your own turf and being in it for yourself.
In each of these cases, we lose control of our emotions and fail to fulfil our professional responsibilities. Instead, anxiety, disdain of vulnerability, and fear run through. Notice when you’ve slipped into one of these places, and then gently reach for a self-care action to come back to yourself more fully.
Here are some of the common negative emotional behaviours and strategies that help in preventing and protecting yourself from them. When acted upon, they ease the passage that begins with the FROM’s to the TO’s.
Be aware of the constant negativity. Challenge the information in the thoughts, and consider replacing them with more productive beliefs.
FROM: I’m such an idiot! Why am I so stupid? If I tell that I made a mistake, I’ll get fired.
TO: I want to do my part. I will ask for help when I do not know what to do. By taking responsibility for my mistake, the authorities might see that I care about my work and want to improve.
Be aware of the negative thoughts and feelings that trigger the breakdowns. Consider alternative responses. Venting out can be an effective way of relieving stress if you know a simple method that works best for you.
FROM: When I see my co-workers laughing together in the kitchen, I assume that they hate me and are ridiculing me.
TO: When I see my co-workers laughing together in the kitchen, I realise that I feel lonely at work. I should consider ways to connect with them so that I can feel included.
Be mindful of how your feelings may lead to panic attacks. Plan ahead of time what you will do if you experience a panic attack. Consider talking to someone you trust at work and seeing if they can support you through. Consult a professional if it occurs frequently.
FROM: I feel tense and nervous when I look at the emails I haven’t checked.
TO: I’ll organise my day before I open my email. I will ask a co-worker to cover my phone calls for an hour while I sort and answer my pending emails.
Be watchful of early signs that anger is rising. Understand what physical and behavioural symptoms your body gives out when your rage intensifies.
FROM: When I’m angry, I can’t control what I say, and I say things that I wish I could take back.
TO: I’ve noticed that when my anger is rising, I get a knot in my throat. I forcibly slow down my thoughts and take several deep breaths before I speak.
Confusion and Lack of Attention
Consider other ways of having information conveyed to you. A different medium of communication may work better in some cases. Make a point to write down all the essential knowledge and keep it accessible so that you don’t forget about it.
FROM: I have a hard time remembering information when people tell me things verbally.
TO: I figured that I do better when people share information with me in a written format. So, I carry a notebook with me to write things down and ask the person to email it to me.
Consider alternatives to behaviours at work that could contribute to feeling anxious at work. Minimise consumption of caffeinated drinks or anything that hypes anxiety and jitters. Organise your desk and declutter your schedule. Use your favourite fragrance as aromatherapy.
FROM: I feel overwhelmed with my work, and fear that I will get in trouble for not getting it done in time.
TO: I will express my concerns to the manager and ask for help to prioritise and manage my workload.
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