Self-Care in the Workplace
Is it possible that our bodies actually love to work and thrive on it?
However the common experience for many of us is that we go to work, get worn out, exhausted and stressed and use the weekends to ‘recover’.
According to the Health & Safety Executive, in 2015/16 stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/)
Many of us tolerate work as a 'necessary evil' in order to earn money so that we can do other things that we enjoy far more. People go to work and ‘do their time’, often looking forward to their evenings, weekends and holidays, as the only real time to enjoy themselves.
Is it work that wears us out?
What if there was a way to work that didn’t leave us feeling drained, but actually offered us more vitality?
Could the key to transforming our relationship with work be about changing our relationship with our bodies through self-care?
One of the simplest ways to start is through bringing more self-care into our daily routine both at work and at home.
So what is self-care exactly?
Self-care simply means listening to our bodies, while respecting and responding to what our bodies are communicating with us on a moment by moment basis. This means living in a more consistent way that considers and cares for our whole body.
Self-care begins with developing a deeper connection with our bodies and discovering the natural flow and rhythm that our bodies innately have on a daily basis. This flow or rhythm produces the least amount of stress and strain on our bodies but still honours the fact that we have things to do in the day and jobs to be done.
For example, if we are watching TV in the evening do we stay up, even though we are yawning and our eyelids are drooping, our do we put ourselves to bed? Or do we work late into the night to get a project done, with no dinner or rest time?
If we are not connected with our bodies we may over-ride the feelings and messages we receive, because have set our mind on achieving or completing something.
If we keep over-riding the body in this way, we are working at odds with our natural homeostasis, the balance in our bodies. This creates a tension and an exhaustion and even a resentment because we can sense that the way we are living is at odds with our natural flow and rhythm.
Employers could also bring a greater understanding of caring for the body into the workplace to support employees. Examples of this would be having healthy food options easily available for staff, having a room or a place to rest and generally encouraging staff to take breaks and support their bodies rather than only focusing on the end product or result.
These, along with other apparently small and affordable changes, in the workplace and life could potentially have a significant impact on the current levels of absenteeism In 2015/16, 30.4 million working days were lost due to self-reported work-related illness or injury, the majority being related to stress, anxiety, depression and musculo-skeletal injuries which are all completely preventable conditions (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm).
Learning to listen to our bodies and make choices in our day based on this relationship is one of the simplest and most powerful choices we can make, to have fulfilling and full lives both at work and at home.
It is a completely different way of living that brings vitality and purpose which energises the body, rather than wearing it down. When we work in harmony with our bodies they respond very well, we can develop a very real relationship with the purpose we have in life and actually enable us to enjoy work and working!
Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain 2016, Health & Safety Executive
Working Days Lost statistics, Health & Safety Executive, 2016