Taking care of yourself is key for your happiness, health, and overall well-being. There are a few ways you can think about improving your self-care routine: physically, mentally, and socially.
First, maintain your physical fitness. Focusing on this impacts not just your body, but also the way you think and feel. Exercise is the activity that generally comes to mind first. In a study of more than 1.2 million people, researchers found that individuals who exercised had 43.2% fewer days of poor mental health compared with individuals who did not exercise (Chekroud 2018). Going to the gym isn’t the only way to get the endorphins running. Consider walking around your local neighborhood, participating in an intramural sport, or joining an active hobby group.
Proper nutrition and sleep are equally important. Consuming healthful foods rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals can lead to fewer mood fluctuations and an improved ability to focus, as well as combat symptoms of depression and anxiety (Selhub 2020). A good night’s sleep can also impact your mood, stress, and response. Target at least seven hours per night, and focus on your sleep quality with consistent bedtime and rise times and reduce the use of electronic devices before bedtime. As someone who frequently looks at screens for my work and personal hobbies, I leverage blue-light filters and an eye compress to relieve discomfort. I also set reminders to take stretch and water breaks to better tackle screen fatigue and become more mindful with my digital consumption.
SWE’s Advance Learning Center includes a Self-Management and Development track designed to address topics related to self-improvement and personal growth. Among the courses offered are:
- A Daily Reset: Mindfulness and Stress Reduction (https://bit.ly/364BhDM)
- Office Yoga: Add Wellness to Your Workday (https://bit.ly/39ZXjZe)
- Health Effects of Subconscious Bias: Mind, Body, and Community Well-being (https://bit.ly/3qI4NGZ)
- Survive to Thrive: Rewiring Our Brains in an Epidemically Stressed Society (https://bit.ly/364SUDr)
For more information and to view all of the courses available in the learning center, please visit https://swe.org/learning/
Second, dedicate time for your mental health. Strong mental health is characterized by self-confidence, a good handle on your emotions, and the ability to cope with stress and uncertainty. Try activities that keep your mind sharp or inspire you, such as solving puzzles, reading books, listening to podcasts, playing music, or creating art. Guided meditation via a local class or apps such as Headspace can help you calm your mind, lengthen your attention span, and learn to live mindfully. Introspection is also valuable for maintaining a healthy inner dialogue. I am a huge fan of journaling as it’s helped me better process my emotions and track my growth over the years. It can be as quick as writing down three things that went well that day or expressing gratitude for someone who helped you recently. Having that regular check-in with yourself is similar to how you might have a weekly sync with your work colleagues — it ensures you’re making progress on your goals and addressing any roadblocks you might be facing.
Finally, embrace social connections with those around you. Make time to connect with your friends and family on a regular basis, regardless of whether they live in your area or another place in the world. Technology has made messaging, calling, or video chatting someone a breeze, and it’s easy to set up a virtual coffee chat or a Netflix movie night. I’ve especially appreciated the times I’ve had heartfelt conversations with my loved ones. If you’re looking for topic ideas, the card game We’re Not Really Strangers offers excellent prompts for learning more about someone and digging deeper. If you’re interested in meeting others with similar interests, find a community where you can pursue your hobbies and passions. Your local SWE section is a great place to start! You can also look for volunteer opportunities where you can use your skills to help worthwhile causes and develop a sense of purpose.
Know that it is OK to not be at 100% every day. We all experience adversity, loss, and change. This is normal and you can always ask for help. Take a sick day if your physical or mental health is low and use that time to recover; or use vacation as a period of rejuvenation. If your organization has mentoring circles you can participate in or benefits for counseling, take full advantage of them. Lean on those you trust, and vent if you need to in order to recenter yourself and reenergize your spirit.
While life can get busy, spend the time to care for yourself. By finding ways to tend to your mind, body, and soul, you’re setting yourself up for success in the future.
Chekroud, Sammi R., et al. (2018). Association Between Physical Exercise and Mental Health in 1·2 Million Individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a Cross-Sectional Study. The Lancet Psychiatry 5(9): 739–746.
Selhub, E. (2020). Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food. Harvard Health Publishing (blog). Nov. 16, 2015; updated March 6, 2020. Available at:
Nicole Woon, a SharePoint program manager at Microsoft, provided the answer to this question.