With so much discussion around how we take care of ourselves at work and how our employers should support us, it’s time we get very intentional about protecting our minds at the place we spend the most of our day. Whether you work from home, are back in the office, or a freelancer, the lines become blurred between putting our best foot forward and depleting our energy supply. So if you’re finding it hard to adjust to the work world going back to business as usual, here are some ways you can prioritize your mental health daily. 

Set Firm Boundaries

Know your job description and work within the bounds of it. For many of us, showing up and showing out is the way we prove our worth in professional settings, but this could lead to taking on more duties than you’re being compensated for. Nevertheless, you can still shine without putting too much on your plate.

Say “No” To After Hours Work

After a year of many of us having no separation between work and home life, it can be easy to keep working long after you should have clocked out. We are not doing that, sis. Now is a great time to reinforce the hours you are on the company’s time and the hours that are for you and you alone. 

Schedule In Breaks

It may be tempting to power through your workday without stopping so that you can be as productive as possible, but this, actually, could work against you. The average person who works a traditional 9-5 can benefit greatly from micro-breaks throughout the day to bring down their heart rate, allow their brains to rest, and get their blood flowing by no longer sitting in one position. In addition, many of us spend most of our days glued to either our phones, laptops or desks—so taking some time to step away can greatly improve your overall mood. 

Activate Your Senses

Light a candle. Bring a pop of color into your work area. Keep a healthy snack nearby. Make a relaxing playlist. Activating our other senses can give us a temporary reprieve from the constant focus work usually demands of us. 

Count Your Wins Daily

Even if you only complete one task, that is a reason to give yourself a little credit. Taking the time to celebrate yourself can give you the push you need to go into the next workday renewed and ready to win. 

Use Your Vacation Days

Yes. Take full advantage of your PTO and vacation days. Don’t be afraid to fully utilize every moment you can take away from your job. They’re built-in for a reason, but so few people actually take them for fear of appearing to be less focused or dedicated than their coworkers. One of the most important aspects of protecting your mental health is putting aside any thoughts about what caring for yourself will make others think. 

Skip The Water Cooler Talk

Though it’s great to cultivate healthy working relationships, investing in workplace drama can take up precious mental space that you can use elsewhere. Office gossip can be juicy but usually becomes more complicated than necessary. Protect your peace, sis. 

Create Before and After Work Rituals

Just as it’s important to have a morning routine to step into your day with purpose and intention, it can be just as imperative to create a ritual for going into your work shift. Decide what needs to be done that day and commit to completing those tasks and those tasks only. When you’re nearing the end of your shift, try taking a few minutes to take inventory of what you completed, check in with your mental and emotional state, and make a firm decision not to bring work back home with you. 

Practice Gratitude

If you’re working a job that simply puts food on your table…that’s ok. Taking care of yourself is as important a reason as any to put your time and energy into work daily. If you’re working the job, you always wanted to have, remember when you wanted to be in the place you are now and applaud yourself for accomplishing this goal. Coming off of a year where so many people found themselves out of jobs, it’s so necessary to step back and realize how blessed you are to still be gainfully employed. 

Use Your Time To Devise An Exit Plan

If you’ve come to a dead-end in your current position, it may be smart to put your mental energy towards devising an exit plan. Most of our time at work is spent at computers; why not use that (paid) time to find something more in alignment with your life’s purpose? Create a vision board for what you’d love in a new job and set about finding positions that line up with those desires. It will give you something productive to do to pass the time besides social media scrolling. 

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