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While the arrival of the holiday season, for some, signals the beginning of stress, hectic last-second shopping forays and sometimes volatile family gatherings, it’s also an important time to decompress from our work lives and reconnect with ourselves.

It is no secret that we now live in a world of constant movement and engagement, defining “productivity” by the amount we have on our plate, and it seems that so-called mental health days are seldom taken from work because spending free time doing nothing is just not part of human nature any longer.

The key to productivity, as has been proven time and time again, is striking that special balance – and self-care is the solution that can accomplish just that. 

What exactly do we mean by self-care? In this case, it’s the act of intentionally tending to activities and practices that improve one’s own physical, emotional and social well-being – and it doesn’t pertain to activities solely outside of the workplace. In fact, incorporating a self-care at work plan into your day can also yield beneficial benefits with regard to your performance; of course, everyone’s plan will look different, but practicing to improve well-being begins with setting aside time to reflect on what it means to you and how it will affect your life. 

Below are some tips (or, as we like to call them, productivity hacks) when it comes to taking time for yourself as a way to recharge from the busiest moments of life and work. Now, keep in mind two important points when beginning your self-care journey: First, the effects are cumulative, so making a small change in one area will positively affect other areas of your life. Second (and this might make you smile), you can start anywhere – it’s less challenging than you think, and there is no single right way to begin. 

As you become more aware of your own unique self-care needs, go ahead and expand the following list of "productivity hacks" by adding your own.

1. Recharge by taking a few five-to-10-minute walks throughout the day, and consider asking a coworker to join you.

2. Take a lunch break away from your desk at least once a week; enjoying a meal without your smartphone will be a revelation, believe us.

3. Reorganize your workspace – decluttering and updating your desk environment can have a rejuvenating effect, so discard unnecessary documents and put up reminders of the things that matter to you and to your workspace. This may include pictures of family, friends or pets; activities you enjoy; quotes and more. Remember: The environment we create has the power to inspire and motivate how we feel.

4. Maintain professional boundaries and surround yourself with positive-thinking people; set boundaries on the workload you take on by assessing your needs and available resources before saying “yes” to projects.

5. Notice when you’ve slipped out of “improve well-being mode” by being aware of:

Self-neglect
Self-management
Self-sabotage
Self-preservation

By incorporating self-care at work – and returning to it in times of stress – we can all become our most effective, constructive and authentic selves.

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