161 Ways to Practice Self-Care While Working from Home

sunset in a window

We recently asked our fellow colleagues at Automattic

How are you taking care of yourself during the pandemic, or making work from home more manageable for yourself and your loved ones?

Here are 161 of their best answers. 

  1. Light a candle.
  2. Put some art you love in your field of vision.
  3. Switch a video call to audio.
  4. Have an audio 1:1 where you both go on neighborhood walks.
  5. Put some flowers or greenery on your desk.
  6. Play your favorite music.
  7. Change locations, even if at your house. Take an hour on a couch, or sitting outside.
  8. Change devices: What could you do on your phone or tablet?
  9. Hug a loved one.
  10. Snuggle a dog. 
  11. Take breaks to learn to play an instrument.
  12. Work with your feet submerged in a stream, or even just a kid’s wading pool.
  13. Write a postcard/card. “Snail mail helps remind me of the value in slowing down and, by focusing on another person, it shifts my perspective outside of myself.”
  14. Create an elaborate meal as a “date with yourself” — bonus points if you get slightly dressed up for it. 🙂
  15. Go on photography walks or do creative photoshoots of your room.
  16. “I put Ariel’s doggie bed under my desk so when i feel overwhelmed or upset or even when I am feeling good I can reach my toes out and touch her warmth. It’s pure love and grounding and wholesome.” 
  17. Feel okay about taking an afternoon nap. (Or just lie down for five or ten minutes! It can be remarkably refreshing.)
  18. Change your schedule! Instead of working 8-4, try 10-6, noon-8 or even a split shift. (Communication is oxygen, so don’t forget to include your team in this change.)
  19. Enjoy a cup (or two, or three) of coffee in the afternoon. Brewed just the way I like it!
  20. Breathe all the way in. Pause. Breathe all the way out. Unclench your jaw. Unclench your stomach. Repeat.
  21. Walk to your mailbox and check for mail, even when you know there isn’t any waiting. 🙂 I use this as a micro-break to get some movement and clear my thought patterns. 
  22. I do a variant of the Pomodoro method using playlists I created that are exactly 25 minutes long. 
  23. Plant a garden, even a small herb garden can be fun and frustrating.
  24. Tandem work with the children. “They may actually know what I do now beyond ‘Dad works on the computer.'”
  25. Go for a pre- or post-work hike or walk.
  26. Paint! It doesn’t need to be planned, or even good. 🙂 It’s a great way to just unwind and make a mess.
  27. Having a coffee break with your significant other/roommate if you have one. Easy to find a coffee shop in your own kitchen.
  28. Drop on a yoga mat and skip right to the end for five minutes of Shavasana.
  29. Let yourself have a good cry if you need to.
  30. Be gentle with yourself (and others).
  31. Take a break to journal or free-write, I find this can really clear my head. “I think writing on paper can be valuable because it’s so tactile, but most of the time I end up using Simplenote or 750words.com.”
  32. The Headspace app has tons of short and themed meditations, sometimes if I’m feeling frazzled I’ll just do a 5-minute one to re-center myself.
  33. An ice-cold shower releases endorphins.
  34. Schedule a workout at the time that works best for you. Work (literally) around this appointment because you know it will give you more energy for the rest of the day.
  35. Listen to a podcast as you walk around the block.
  36. Keep a Kindle within arm’s reach so you can read a few pages to clear your head.
  37. Start a call with a few minutes of video, then switch to audio, and back to video just to say bye. This way you can start and end with a face and hopefully a smile. 
  38. Go outside and weed the garden for a few minutes.
  39. Head to your nearest park and watch dogs frolic and play, and pet them if you can. (I imagine for dog owners, you could just play with your own or take them for a walk. 😆)
  40. Add to your gratitude journal.
  41. Watch bloopers for a movie/show you like.
  42. Browse reddit.com/r/aww/ for a couple of minutes.
  43. For anyone leaning more toward the burnt-out side, stay positive and: 1. Sleep; 2. Drink water; 3. 3. Ask for help; 4. Slow down. Ground yourself; 5. Take care of the outside of your body to convince the inside to feel better. 
  44. Play Animal Crossing and join the turnip speculation fun. Yes, I’m serious.
  45. Wrap oneself in a thick blanket and call oneself a Burrito With Feelings and stay like that for 30 minutes. 
  46. Stay hydrated. It’s easy to neglect a habit — even as “simple” as drinking water — when stressed out. Staying hydrated keeps ourselves alert.
  47. Scroll Tumblr and find weird memes, smol/absolute unit animals pics. Rewatch funny videos.
  48. Move the body. It doesn’t have to be an exercise; move the body. While doing Support, I usually listen to some upbeat songs and dance a bit while working. When nobody’s around, I sing.
  49. Sing no matter who’s around! 
  50. I find it especially beneficial to do something that is both physical and creative. For me, that’s carpentry. 
  51. Create video content — Everyone has something to teach or share. Challenging yourself to publish this knowledge in video form can be a fun departure from just writing content (even if it’s just for your eyes only). 
  52. Play a game — Video game. Board game. Mobile game. Any game!
  53. Buy a plant for the office — indoor plants reportedly can help boost one’s mood and potentially increase productivity or creativity. 
  54. Clean & Organize — Not just organizing your physical things, but your digital things as well.
  55. Make an extra effort to connect/socialize with a loved one or friends — Zoom, FaceTime, Messenger, or whichever your preferred method of getting in touch with others is.
  56. Set Goals — It’s what helps us move forward in life. It gives us a destination, an objective, a sense of purpose. With a lot of time to ourselves these days, it’s a perfect opportunity to revaluate what exactly it is we want to accomplish, put it down on paper, and then create actionable steps to reach these goals.
  57. Practice handwriting, it’s satisfying to see writings not set on a typeface somebody else made.
  58. Plan a day of AFK (“away from keyboard”) soon, and use it to rest instead of doing other non-job work.
  59. Take a long bath in the evening, with a book and a lot of non-caffeinated/decaf tea. I prepare both a mug and a thermos of tea so I can soak longer.
  60. Play a few days of Stardew Valley.
  61. Go on a walk and look at something that lifts your heart. For me that’s mountains.
  62. Close your eyes and listen to a rain soundtrack, purring cat, or other sound you find relaxing.
  63. Watch full episodes of The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, free on YouTube. 
  64. Find a few minutes to savor some good chocolate.
  65. Take a break to do some yoga. I find this wrist & hand care video and this quick neck & shoulders yoga especially helpful for relieving the tension of being at the keyboard all day. I’ve been doing these on carpet while I don’t have my mat.
  66. Invest in a high-quality wireless headset. Stand up and take a stroll around the room while talking. Incorporate your voice in the audio feed mix so that you don’t have to shout to hear yourself talking (those in close proximity will thank you).  “I’ve really enjoyed using this headset for the last two years.”
  67. Work while lying in your bed for an hour or two —change positions. 
  68. Drive/walk/cycle to a nice spot (not crowded), watch the sunset, bank of a river, or top of a hill. If you want to work from there for an hour or two, even better.
  69. Set up a home cinema or home gym. 
  70. Organize and send a surprise for a friend/family member (send them flowers/small present/something that will make them happy) — all ordered online. You will make someone smile. 🙂
  71. Take a mindful break from the news and social media.
  72. Mail handwritten letters to colleagues. They won’t expect it and it will likely make them smile. 🙂 (this has been my favorite quarantine activity).
  73. Thank a colleague for something small they do (or did) that they would not normally be thanked for. Acknowledge mundane everyday efforts with gratitude; it will give you and them a boost.
  74. Give yourself a five-minute window break: look out the window and watch the world.
  75. Eat lunch outside if you have that option and can do so safely.
  76. Send a random ping/message/email to a coworker to say something nice or funny, without needing anything from them.
  77. “We recently had a happy hour (via Zoom) where we played Drawful 2 together, ‘which challenges players to draw ridiculous prompts on their smartphones and tablets,’ and it was so stinking fun. We laughed and laughed.”
  78. Play a virtual boardgame session of 7 Wonders with the team.
  79. Host a passive video stream to work while having other people in the background.
  80. Always have a good, in-progress LEGO set on hand.
  81. Have a morning routine and stick to it.
  82. “I love aquariums — put a tank with a goldfish in your office.” 
  83. Listen to new music from unfamiliar genres, including those you think you dislike. You may find your tastes broadening, and discover wonders you might not have appreciated in the past.
  84. If you live with someone else, make time for them in your work schedule, and be compassionate, supportive, and extra sensitive to them if they are having a tough time. Do this even if you yourself are having a tough time. Service to others helps us as well as them. If those you live with are loved ones, use this time to get closer. Make a point of it every day.
  85. Splash cold water on your face.
  86. Discover colognes, perfumes, and other sources of scent-sory pleasure.
  87. Give yourself plenty of “me” time, especially if interacting with other people makes you anxious even in the best of times.
  88. Learn about social and political issues that are roiling society now. I don’t mean get into debates on Twitter, although if that’s your jam, I don’t judge. I mean read books, especially those books most recommended by folks who are most affected by the political issue you’re studying—folks for whom it’s not an “issue,” it’s their life.
  89. If you live with others, develop shared comfort rituals, i.e. pasta night, ironic movie/TV watching (be your own Mystery Science Theater 3000!).
  90. Call old friends. Life is unpredictable and tomorrow isn’t promised.
  91. If it’s not harmful to you or others, find a way to forgive someone.
  92. Taco Tuesday! Saturday morning cartoons with cereal! When you’re home all the time every day can feel the same so it’s good to mix things up.
  93. I try to set aside time each day in my planner for an aesthetic hour. (It’s usually only 15 minutes). Derived from the Greek root ‘aisthēta’ — to perceive or digest — this is a time designated for me to process my day. Lately, my aesthetic hour is putting on a record and having a dance party for one. I am having a David Bowie moment, which sounds so good on vinyl.
  94. If possible, start each day outside. I like to take a short walk around the block, or even just a quiet moment sitting in my backyard before I begin working.
  95. Force yourself to eat lunch without your computer and phone nearby.
  96. Fully and completely sign off from work and at the end of the day.
  97. If you have a hobby that can happen online, now’s the time to embrace it. “I collect vinyl, and have bought way too many records since this all started. Bandcamp’s waived revenue share days have been like shopping holidays for me, where I can support artists while also growing my collection. (The obvious caveat here is shipping: I’ve actually reached out to some of the smaller sellers/artists I’ve purchased from to let them know there’s absolutely no rush, and they should ship only when they feel comfortable doing so).”
  98. Set boundaries for working hours and try not to check your phone, Slack, or email after 7 p.m. at night.
  99. Be mindful of the content you consume and how it makes you feel. 
  100. Eat as healthy and as clean as you can.
  101. Honor rest, meditation, and anything that brings you calm.
  102. Subscribe to a puzzle service or two (for example, the New York Times Crossword, or the Puzzle Page app for iOS or Android). 
  103. I enjoyed playing an online chess tournament on chess.com with my fellow Automatticians. It helped me connect with colleagues I don’t regularly work with, return to a hobby I abandoned 20+ years ago after I entered college, and learn how the chess world changed in the last two decades, revolutionized by the internet, computers, and globalization. 
  104. Throw on a load of laundry.
  105. Place some fresh flowers or a plant on your desk.
  106. Enjoy your favourite healthy (or naughty) snacks…..there’s nothing in the fridge you don’t like!
  107. Wear something different from your wardrobe (not just your exercise gear).
  108. Rewatch a favorite TV series or movie (we recently rewatched The Office as a family and the show has two new young fans).
  109. Pet or play with your cat, dog, hamster, parrot, etc.
  110. I find ASMR videos very soothing. 
  111. Spend time on grooming in the morning before starting your day. Take a bath or shower, put on an outfit you like, do your hair (and makeup), put on some jewelry. This helps you feel fresh, awake, and ready for the day.
  112. Choose an outdoor destination within walking distance of your home—a park bench, a pond, a patch of grass, a tree, a garden—and commit to visiting it every day around the same time, rain or shine.
  113. If you find yourself being distracted by notifications when trying to focus, quit the app or set notifications on your devices to Do-Not-Disturb for a few hours.
  114. If you work in an asynchronous environment, be asynchronous — don’t feel obligated to switch focus and dive into something new at a moment’s notice just because you were pinged.
  115. Get projects and to-dos out of your head so that you don’t have to think about them when you’re not working on them.
  116. For me it’s time-boxing my calendar. Allocating time slots in advance for focused work time, 1:1 and meetings, breaks, meals, family time, personal time, and even sleeping has been a life saver during the last months where all days looked the same. 
  117. “The other day my wife and I went for a drive just to get out of the house and go nowhere. We ended up at a friend’s house and they happened to be outside, so we stood 10 or so feet apart and just talked.”
  118. One of the biggest things for me has been finding hobbies/activities that pull me away from work.
  119. Change the light configuration during the day, and during the week: turn on lights, turn off lights, get a beautiful new colored LED light, or a projection light.
  120. Doodle without a specific goal in mind.
  121. Find a comfortable position and listen to the sounds around you, without any music. City sounds, nature sounds, farm sounds, anything around you.
  122. Imagine a friend of yours feeling how you feel, and imagine how you would help them. Then, do these things to yourself.
  123. Dress up, whatever “up” can mean for you. Just feel fancy, for yourself.
  124. Nature is number one for me. Getting outside and off devices, if even for 30 minutes midday, is rejuvenating. 
  125. Listen to Whale songs! They can be mesmerizing. (some context in this Invisibilia episode).
  126. Try cooking. I learned cooking in this lockdown. I have not ordered food for more than two months now (that’s a personal record 😉 ).
  127. Read a book.
  128. Put your feet in the grass. 
  129. Eat ice cream. 
  130. Do nothing for five minutes, preferably outside. No input, no output.
  131. Lie in a hammock. I have one that’s flat, like a raft, and one that’s soft, like a cocoon, and they have very different effects.
  132. Wash your hands with warm or cold water. It’s great for transitioning between tasks.
  133. Lie down on the floor. Roll your spine over a foam roller or lie on top of it to open your shoulders. If you can, put your legs up against the wall or drape them over a piece of furniture.
  134. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue — this helps release jaw tension and adds levity if someone happens to see you.
  135. Read a poem.
  136. Listen to or watch something that makes you laugh — not just chuckle, but laugh so hard that you have to catch your breath. Figure out what does this for you and lean into it. Allow yourself to enjoy something absurd. 😛
  137. Change the space you’re working in for the morning/afternoon/evening.
  138. Put on some ambient noise in the background, I’ve been using coffitivity.com.
  139. Listen to a podcast.
  140. I host online Jackbox games with my friends, family, and coworkers!
  141. Roll your feet on a tennis ball (or any kind of ball of similar size). Just five minutes of foot reflexology massage has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and blood pressure and improve immune functions.
  142. Make a fancy-ish but simple mocktail to sip on while working (e.g. seltzer water + pomegranate juice + lime).
  143. Stand up during the workday. Using a standup desk to change positions helps keep your body moving increasing your energy level. If you’re daring, try a treadmill desk and walk during the day!
  144. Drink green tea in the afternoon instead of more coffee or energy drinks that may cause an afternoon energy crash, or affect your sleep later that evening.
  145. Walk away. Sometimes it’s best to take a few minutes to step away from the computer and take a walk, dance, play with your dog, stretch. Even five minutes can help you reset and come back with a different, fresh perspective.
  146. Rest your eyes. Remember to look up, gaze at something far away. Rub your hands together to warm them up, then cover your eyes for a minute and rest.
  147. Use an oil diffuser to boost your mood or help you relax. For example, peppermint oil can cause you to be more alert and focused.
  148. Talk it out. Reach out to a friend or colleague and just talk, rant, walk them through an issue or problem you are trying to solve. Having that sounding board can help you see a different perspective, reduce stress, and put you on the path to a solution.
  149. When you’re feeling burnt out, you may have too much on your plate. Take some time to do a brain dump. Write down all of the projects and things you are responsible for, all of those work tasks that are waiting for your attention. Go through that list and identify the one or two things you can do to make the most impact today.
  150. Request time off. It’s okay to take time off, rest, sleep, reset or go on an adventure for a few days. Do something different and come back to work refreshed.
  151. Start coloring. It does help relaxing quite a bit. If not with actual colors, you can try any of the phone/tablet apps.
  152. Speak/vent to yourself in front of a mirror if you are not comfortable ranting/yelling at someone else or just don’t feel like talking to anyone 🙂
  153. Pamper yourself with some good skin/hair care routines.
  154. One that has been helping me recently has been turning off my morning alarm and allowing myself to wake up and start the day whenever I naturally wake up. I’ve found I still wake up at around the same time anyway, but end up feeling more well-rested.
  155. Try different beverages during work especially when you feel burnt out or lack energy. So far I have tried black coffee, green tea, and detox water (currently). I keep changing it and it keeps me fresh the whole day.
  156. Family games! We play charades with our older two (8.5), and it’s good for moving around in the evening and also for laughing with the family.
  157. My wife and I take time away from our laptops & phones together, put on some loud music (not too loud so we don’t bug the neighbors) and dance like-we-just-don’t-care for 15 minutes at the end of every day 😊
  158. As a working parent with everyone at home during COVID, I have found solace in taking an hour or two in the evenings once my little one is in bed to focus on deep work. It may seem odd especially since I am often so exhausted, but there is something about the space of sitting in my dark office, alone, in the quiet, that boosts my morale.
  159. Resort to grounding rituals that bring you joy. For me, it’s burning some incense. I especially love Moss Garden from Shoyeido.
  160. When I feel especially frustrated or anxious I make a list of small actionable self-care goals for the day. (For example: Take your multivitamin / Move / Read something / Text a friend to check-in / Shower / Drink the green smoothie / Drink water.)
  161. Look at the stars.

Special thanks to: Timmy Crawford, Nathan Bloomfield, Dan Walmsley, Anne McCarthy, Kat Hagan, Isabelle Forter, Jordan Gillman, Jessica Gardner, Laurena Rehbein, Caimin Jones, Sadie Ferguson, Brent MacKinnon, Paul Jacobson, Phil Coxon, Matthew Denton, Holly Hogan, Kathryn Presner, Claudiu Lodromanean, Sam Vaidya, Sara Rosso, Mark Armstrong, Jenny Zhu, Andrea Lee Bishop, James Tien, Elizabeth McGill, Benoit Person, Andy Affleck, Retno Nindya Prastiwi, Alicia Henry, Hugh Lashbrooke, James Huff, Melissa Silberstang, Paolo Aquino, Hafiz Rahman, Timothy Price, Ehtisham Siddiqui, David (Lenny) Lenehan, Petya Milcheva, Adam Heckler, Andrea Badgley, Kristina Nikolova, Raúl Antón Cuadrado, Kristen Zuck, Kyle McPheron, Ivan Ottinger, Erica Kuschel, Nadir Seghir, Nagesh Pai, Darren Ethier, Anthony Bubel, Aadil Mamujee, Steve Kryworuka, Jeffrey Zeldman, Chloé Bringmann, Kjell Reigstad, Britni McCotter, Jarda Snajdr, Mo Carter, Caroline Moore, Sasha Stone, Raam Dev, Paolo Belcastro, Eric Binnion, Erin Casali, Khristian Snyder, Omar Alshaker, Maruti Mohanty, Gina Gowins, Andy Peatling, Ken Gagne, Alisa Owens, Liz Swafford, Pooja Shetty, Rua Haszard, Rasmy Nguyen, Vinny Kaur, Zandy Ring, Tyler Spencer, and Matt Mullenweg.

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov from Pexels

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