What's in Your Self-Care Toolbox?

Shalane Williams, 16 September 2020


It’s Wednesday afternoon. The to-do list has increased by 50% since the beginning of the week. There’s only 2 days left of the working week. At this point, the cortisol in your body starts rising, stress and anxiety creeping up as the prospect of working another weekend fills you with dread. Sound familiar?

We all experience this at some point of our lives; whether at work or outside of it. The key to working through this is to have strategies in place.

Over the years, in my role as a project manager, I’ve explored various techniques to mitigate my stress and anxiety levels when it comes to the inevitable “juggle” of projects and the desire to have a work/life balance.

Here are the key ones I’ve incorporated daily. For some, this might come across as a bit kumbaya. However, I challenge you to give it a go and explore the reputable science behind it:

1. Practice gratitude daily. All it takes is 5 minutes and doesn’t require more than a notebook and pen. I generally write down 3 things I’m grateful for each morning and then 3 things just before I go to bed.

2. Meditate! There’s been an abundance of research around the benefits of having a meditation practice. The key thing is to do what works for you. It doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, saying “Om”. I usually fall asleep while listening to a meditation on YouTube (there are many great free ones!) and there are a lot of amazing apps out there that can help as you’re starting out! My favourite is Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

3. Breathe Did you know there are many books written about breathing? One called Breath, written by James Nestor, is a fascinating scientific, cultural, spiritual and evolutionary study of the way humans breathe and how we’ve been doing it wrong for a long, long time. I recommend you give it a read. However, in a moment of stress and anxiety, do the 4-7-8:
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.

4. Positive affirmations: Affirmations can help strengthen self-worth by boosting both your positive opinion of yourself and your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. They can also help counter the feelings of panic, stress, and self-doubt that often accompany anxiety.

5. Here’s a simple one: Be Kind to Yourself! Easier said than done, I know, but remember to speak kindly to yourself.

There are only so many hours in a day. Ensure you have a good support system around you and add some new techniques to your self-care toolbox!