I’m not struggling, so self-care can wait. I’ve got too many things to do!

I know I should make time for myself, but I just can’t spare the time! 

I know I should stop replying to work messages after work hours, but it’s so hard to keep my mind off work! 


Many of us long to have the time and space to take care of ourselves and to put our needs before our family’s. Yet, sometimes, it’s just so difficult in Singapore’s fast-paced and competitive working culture. We know how it feels and we’re here to tell you, it is possible to incorporate self-care into our daily work routines in small and simple ways!

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.

— Jack Kornfield



Officially, self-care has been defined as providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). However, put simply, it really is about prioritising ourselves and our mental health when we feel overwhelmed.


Why is it important?

  • It helps us to stay focused and productive during working hours. 
    • Keeping to our work hours means we can produce our best work during work hours and look forward to rest afterwards.
    • This expectation and hope is helpful in driving performance and productivity even during stressful and tiring days.
  • It also prevents us from feeling overwhelmed and burning out quickly, especially if we have many tasks on hand. 


Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Anne Lamot

5 things we can do to self-care

We know, we know. It’s easier said than done. It has been quite a busy period for our team the past few months as well. However, we have been learning to adapt and instill positive practices to help ourselves keep well during this difficult season.

Here are some self-care tips, from our team to you!

1. Schedule 15 minutes breaks between tasks

  • Many of us tackle each day like a bullet train speeding by, thinking we have to optimise every single minute of our work hours. However, perhaps like us, you realized that it simply wasn’t sustainable and your focus started waning. You might want to try what we did — we introduced a plan to take 15 minutes of break after each completion of a task and discovered just how useful it was for us, physically and mentally. 
  • Some things we do during this period of time include: 
    • Looking out of the window to rest our eyes
    • Having a quick entertainment break via our phones 
    • Stretching 
    • Making a quick drink and enjoying it while staying away from the desk 
    • Having a short conversation with family members
  • Here are some benefits of taking breaks: 
    • Interrupt the cycle of stress that can lead to us feeling overwhelmed
    • Help us to think more clearly and effectively
    • Allow us to be more productive when we return from the break as we feel more well-rested and can produce a better quality and quantity of work


2. Communicate personal capacity and needs

  • As humans, we all have different mental and emotional capacities for dealing with stress and challenges. Learning to communicate with your team when you are at a low capacity to handle tasks assigned allows your team to support you during your difficult seasons, with you doing likewise for others when they face difficulties in coping. This allows for a more effective delegation of work, where people are less likely to burn out and feel constantly overwhelmed. 
    • According to the World Health Organization, “Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity”.
  • Apart from communicating with your colleagues, you could also communicate your need to claim time off to rest after OT-ing for consecutive days. 
  • If you are a manager or leader, respecting your employees’ need for space and rest is most helpful to their productivity and morale levels in the long run.

3. Reduce digital fatigue

  • In this work-from-home period, it can get exhausting to constantly stare at our screens the entire day. Some people in our staff team find that our eyes feel very dry, while others find themselves frequently going on auto-pilot mode after long hours of working in front of the computer. 
  • Here are some signs you may have digital fatigue:
    • Dry or watery eyes
    • Difficulty focusing
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Blurred or double vision 
    • Pain in the neck, shoulders or back
  • As digital fatigue can affect us both physically and mentally, here are some ways we can reduce it:
    • Stay away from screens during break times and meal times
    • Not answer / settle work enquiries during lunch breaks
    • Switch off after work hours


4. Practise mindfulness

  • Starting and ending each day with 5 minutes of expressing gratitude 
    • Some of us practice mindfulness by taking the time to express gratitude at the start and end of each day. Those who did so found that being grateful helps us to look at the bright side, instead of always dwelling on the negatives (e.g., work undone, more work tomorrow, it’s only Tuesday, when’s Friday coming?!). 
    • Indeed, when we go through each day in a very cyclical and mechanical manner, it can cause us to lose focus, and start to take things for granted. 
    • This COVID-19 season has caused us much inconvenience and imposed many restrictions. However, what are some things you are still personally thankful for? 
  • Thought journaling at the end of each day 
    • After a long and tiring day at work, some of us also like to pen down our feelings and thoughts of the day. 
    • Penning down negative emotions and events that have occurred during the work day can help to objectify the thoughts surrounding it and reframe them into something more positive and constructive.
    • We find this helpful in preventing us from brooding over and zooming in on our flaws.

5. Lastly, stay hydrated and snack healthily

  • Research has shown that dehydration can cause us to lack energy and to be unable to focus or function at our best. 
  • Here are some tips that we follow: 
    • Cutting down on sweet drinks and caffeine intake as they are poor substitutes for water 
    • Drinking at least 8 cups of water a day 
    • Snacking periodically and healthily on fruits or nuts to keep our glucose level more stable
      • This is because excessively high or low glucose levels are unhelpful to our productivity levels – high glucose causes “food coma”, while low glucose causes poor focus and craving for high glucose food

What is your definition of self-care? Have you been setting aside time to take care of your mind, soul and body?

References:

Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (2001). Principles of biomedical ethics. Oxford University Press, USA.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2013, November 21). Fight Fatigue with Fluids. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/fight-fatigue-with-fluids

Scott, E. (2021, February 19). How Stress Works With and Against Your Memory. https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-your-memory-4158323

World Health Organization. Mental Health in the Workplace. https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/mental-health-in-the-workplace