Don’t Wait For Everything To Fall Apart. Preventative Self-Care Offers An Edge Against Workplace Burnout

Fortune Well December 31, 2023


Don’t Wait For Everything To Fall Apart. Preventative Self-Care Offers An Edge Against Workplace Burnout

When work stress strikes, most of us will reach for anything and everything to feel better. An impulse purchase. A blood-pumping spin class. A drink with a friend. But what if instead of waiting for everything to fall apart, we practiced preventive self-care?

What is preventative self-care? 

Preventative self-care is a cornerstone practice of combating burnout, according to Minaa B., a social worker, author, and mental health educator. In times of mental turmoil, human brains aren’t adept at deciding which wellness practice will better their situation. “Burnout is a form of mental and emotional exhaustion. So when you’re experiencing that mental exhaustion, that also means that your executive functioning skills (the parts of the brain that help with problem-solving, analysis, and mood regulation) are struggling,” explains Minaa. 

When we have a consistent self-care routine that our brain identifies as safe and nurturing, these wellness practices have a greater impact on our lives. “Our nervous system is always looking for things that feel familiar,” says Minaa. “So it’s important for us to be thinking about how are we taking care of ourselves, so that when burnout does come, we already have a toolkit that we can tap into.” If you have a consistent meditation practice, for instance, that ritual will extinguish the fires of burnout faster than if you practice mindfulness only during hasty deadlines. 

How to choose your preventative self-care practices 

When you’re choosing your form (or forms) of preventative self-care, ask yourself: What practices feel good for my mind? My body? My spirit?  

Minaa says movement is one gateway into preventative self-care. “I say ‘movement’ instead of ‘exercise’ because I think we are socially conditioned to hear the word ‘exercise’ and think ‘gym.’ You do not have to have a gym membership to move your body,” she says. 

Moving can look like walking your dog around your neighborhood every single day or finding a dancing workout on YouTube. “You will have to do what is best for your body and what your body is capable of doing,” she says. 

Remember: Self-care doesn’t have to look its immaculately curated social media image. At its best, self-care is a reflection of what you love and what makes you unique. “Do you like to read books? Do you like to listen to books? If you’re tired of watching certain things on TV, can you watch a TED talk? Can you watch something on YouTube that is productive? Is there a new skill that you want to pick up? Do you want to learn a new language? Do you want to learn how to cook that new recipe right?” All of these questions may lead you to your ideal preventative practices, says Minaa.

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