Self-Care for HR Professionals

I am naturally a very positive person, so I love Mondays, the first day of the month, and the New Year. However, I often find Tuesdays a struggle as I realise this week could be very similar to last week J

Have you heard of Blue Monday, which was last Monday 17 January 2022? The first Blue Monday was January 24, 2005, after Dr Cliff Arnall, a tutor at Cardiff University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning was asked to work out the most depressing day of the year. It was calculated using a series of factors in a (not particularly scientific) mathematical formula based on the days since the last payday, days until the next bank holiday, average temperature, hours of daylight, and the numbers of nights in during the month. Some other factors include the amount of time since Christmas, and the time it typically takes for people to begin failing their New Year resolutions, and generally lose motivation.

A new factor in 2022 is the relentlessness of the Global Pandemic which is proving difficult for all professionals to manage but for people in HR, the challenges have been particularly significant. Working in HR means caring for the needs and expectations of an entire organisation. In these unprecedented, stressful times, the demands placed on HR professionals have been greater than ever. Often, it can seem that while HR professionals are expected to care for others, there is no one left to care for them.

That’s where self-care comes in.

Today I would like to take some time to think about what is self-care and how you can just take some time this week to think about your own well-being.

Self-care is a simple term for when a person takes time to care for their own health and wellbeing. Anything that helps a person relax, relieves stress, and simply feel better mentally and physically is all part of defining self-care.

A wide variety of activities can be classified as self-care. While what will qualify as self-care varies from individual to individual, what doesn’t change is the importance of having some solid, reliable methods that suit you.

Here are a few ideas for self-care for you to consider:

Start with small changes

You already have a very busy life, so start small. It is okay, to begin by making small adjustments to your day, as you set your priorities and find new ways of finding time for yourself.

Self-care often centres around finding activities that can help you unwind at the end of the day and relieve the stress of the day. So what can you do to help you relax at the end of today? Consider listening to music, reading a good book or having a bath.

More active, goal-oriented pursuits can also be a valuable part of relieving stress. Sometimes, having something that totally absorbs your thinking can be an important element in helping you detach from thinking about work. Running, practising yoga, and any other form of exercise will naturally relieve stress and raise your mood by releasing endorphins. Don’t forget the importance of hobbies that truly engage your focus. Do you have a hobby?

Stay organised

When I am organised I feel in control and it reduces my feeling of overwhelm. In my experience to get through their volume of work most HR Professionals are naturally organised but I guess there is always room for improvement. I love lists and have used different tools to make my lists. Find a tool that suits you and stick with it. I then try to stay focused and do one thing at a time and I do it now!

Getting organised and staying organised is a huge topic but one tip that has really helped me in the last year is identifying the three tasks I want to do each day and doing them first, I find everything else seems to fall into place after that.

Take breaks throughout the workday

Even when you are busy with work, it’s important to take short breaks throughout the day. This is especially important if you are working from home. Taking breaks can help you clear your mind and come back to your work feeling more refreshed. We can often fall into the trap of not taking our lunch break, or eating lunch at our desk, thinking that this is a good use of our time. However, walking away from your desk and giving your full attention to your lunch will allow your creative mind to be heard.

Research has shown that our productivity declines as our sitting increases and the brain functions better when the body moves. Since working from home I have started eating my lunch standing up, to give my body movement. Likewise, don’t forget to take shorter breaks within the workday to stretch and take a moment away from your screen. Not easy when you have back to back virtual calls but look at your calendar and see how you can incorporate more movement into your day.

Connecting with others

One of the most basic forms of self-care is connecting with others and this has been so hard over the last 18 months. Friends and family are ultimately the most important connection we have, take a moment and think about when did you last have a good conversation with a family member?

Are you making time for your family and friends? What is the one small action you can do this week to have a meaningful conversation with a family member or friend? Can you call a relative that you haven’t spoken to in a while? Meet a friend for a walk or have a quick lunchtime coffee catch up?

Working remotely, it can be hard to form supportive relationships with like-minded colleagues. However, fostering positive relationships with colleagues can have an enormous impact on both your mental and physical health.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Employee Report revealed that developing meaningful relationships is the number one contributor to employee engagement, with 77% of respondents listing this as a priority. https://positivepsychology.com/positive-relationships-workplace/

Office chatter tends to happen fairly organically in the workplace but, while working remotely, you’ll need to put in some effort to make it happen. Can you allocate some time at the beginning of each meeting to have a quick, informal catch-up with your colleague(s)?

As HR professionals we lead overwhelmingly hectic, busy lives. Often dealing with challenging Business Partners, we spend each day with a laser focus on how we can add value to our organisation. We are often dealing with complex, emotional people-related issues, challenges and commitments. If the pressure and stress of your work are not relieved, you will feel miserable and stressed resulting in both an impact on your physical and mental health leading to a high risk of burnout.

Make self-care not a luxury, or something you should do, but a priority you need to make for life success.

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Susan Manning

Leadership Consultant and Clarity Coach — Providing essential CLARITY for greater effectiveness in a chaotic world. www.susanmanning.ie