Tobi Crosbie — CEO of commercial estate agency Making Moves — outlines how incorporating more self-care into your week can benefit busy working dads.
For many, the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about self-care is someone applying a face mask, enjoying a bubble bath, or practicing meditation — activities that may not be in most men’s daily routine. Not only this, but discussions around self-care can often be geared less towards men and tend to take place at home rather than in the workplace.
Recent studies have found that women were around two times more likely to engage in self-care and 35% more likely to speak with friends and family to support their mental health. Combined with the fact that working parents generally have little time to prioritise their own well-being, working dads are therefore less versed in acts of self-care that could help prevent burnout.
However, putting your mental and physical health first can help you be a more productive worker, a more available and supportive parent, and generally live a more balanced, happy life.
Self-care is not only vital for maintaining our mental and physical health: recent research by the University of Warwick has found that being happy can also make you around 12% more productive. Their results indicated that happy employees used their time more effectively, managing to increase the pace they worked but without compromising the quality. Creating a more supportive work environment should therefore not be seen as a luxury, but rather as a crucial part of daily operations that is in everyone’s best interests.
To help you get started, here are four simple, realistic acts of self-care to start incorporating into your workday.
Some days you might be running a little late, meaning you need to hop on public transport or drive to the office. However, as often as you can, try to switch up your daily commute to get some more fresh air and exercise. This might be a brisk 15–30-minute walk while you drop your kids off at school, or you could try cycling to the office after the school run if your workplace is further away.
Whatever you decide to do, incorporating this extra physical movement into your day is a great way to keep up self-care in your normal work week. Many modern jobs, while still of course being mentally challenging, are quite sedentary: getting your body moving at the beginning and end of each day can therefore help you stay active, healthy, and even improve your focus throughout the day. Not only this, but keeping up a good level of fitness means you’ll have more energy to run around after your little ones at the end of the day!
If you have to drive or take public transport to the office (or if you work from home), then making time for a quick walk on your lunch break is a practical way to look after your mental and physical health. As well as allowing you a few valuable moments to yourself, getting outside for just 20 minutes a day ensures that we get enough vitamin D and natural light, which play a key part in regulating our sleep patterns and circadian rhythm. Enjoying a quick break with some of your favourite music, a podcast, or simply the rare sound of silence can be a simple yet effective way to feel refreshed and decompress throughout the day.
Nowadays, most jobs are impossible to do without using screens. If you work in front of a computer all day, you’re more likely to get dry, irritated, or strained eyes which can also contribute to a headache by the time 5 o’clock rolls around. A simple habit to help with this is the 20-20-20 rule, which involves looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, after 20 minutes of screen time (Healthline). This lets your eyes readjust to objects in the distance, helping to prevent strain from prolonged use of computers and other devices.
It’s also wise to recognise when you need to take a break for your mental health, particularly when working on something that’s particularly stressful or time-sensitive. It’s important that businesses provide separate spaces in their office where employees can take five minutes to decompress, stretch their legs, and recharge with a quick drink. If your office provides these spaces, be sure to make the most of them and sit for a quiet minute whenever you feel overwhelmed. This way you can return to your project feeling calmer and ready to be productive.
Self-control around screens and devices is also important behaviour to practice in front of your kids — seeing you set boundaries with TV, phones, and tablets can help them be more receptive to time limits or ground rules you might introduce at home.
When we get busy, our diet and nutrition are often the first things to go by the wayside. It might be that you only make time to grab food on the go, or you might be a little too reliant on coffee or sugary snacks to keep you alert throughout the day. However, self-care is fundamentally about being proactive rather than reactive: so, setting aside time on Sunday evening to make a few easy meal-prep recipes for the week can make the world of difference in helping you make healthier choices.
Not only this, but you’ll save money too! Get the kids involved with making their packed lunches while you make your weekly recipes, as this can teach them about how important food is in helping them feel healthy, happy, and strong.
As well as keeping up a balanced, nourishing diet, another key factor in brain function and productivity is staying hydrated. Before you reach for another cup of coffee at work, try to start the habit of drinking a glass of water first, as this will help with alertness much more than you think. Coffee is also a diuretic, meaning it can contribute to dehydration and headaches, all of which certainly won’t help with a positive and productive state of mind.
We can all get a little stressed and overwhelmed when balancing our work and home lives. So, rather than repressing these concerns and pushing on for the sake of productivity, it often helps to take a moment to reset, evaluate, and acknowledge your accomplishments.
A great way to do this is by keeping a folder on your computer where you keep notes of any big achievements, positive feedback, and generally things you’re proud of doing. This way, when you’re having a difficult week, you can remind yourself of all the great things you’re capable of and the good feedback you’ve received, helping you to get back into a positive, motivated mindset. This can therefore be a practical and simple way to perform self-care in the workplace. Similarly, keeping some of your children’s photos, drawings, or little notes at your desk is a tried and tested way to cut through a stressful day and remind you of the important things in life.
Not only is self-care vital when balancing work and family life, but it’s also time to change the way men view and approach it. Even if they seem like small things, starting positive, affirming habits in the workplace can have a huge impact on your mental health, which will develop a better work-life balance that benefits both you and your family.