When Is Self-Care Over-Indulgent?


I promote self-care a lot because I know that science supports it.  Stress in the workplace contributes to major chronic illnesses responsible for most early health-related deaths. It’s also a high cause of absenteeism. Self-care CAN be a way to manage stress.

However, since I teach generation Z and Millennials and work with Generation X through baby boomers, the chasm in understanding of the role of self-care and reasonable limits to self-care during work hours is vast and causing a lot of conflicts in today’s workplace, which has never had so many generations before.

Millennials have been accused of having a sense of entitlement. One of my current students, a millennial, even admitted that their reputation is earned.  However, the workplace also has much different expectations than when the generations before them entered the workforce. For the most part, there was a finite beginning and end to the workday. However, since internet and cell phone connectivity have enabled people to work remotely, the delineation between work hours and personal hours has been blurred. In some family-friendly companies, the employees who are parents enjoy more flexibility in their schedule, but the single employees are sometimes expected to pick up the slack.

How do we create boundaries around self-care that don’t cause drama that threatens collaboration and productivity? How does a company decide what is fair, enough, and truly restorative?

Firstly, it’s unrealistic and refuted by science to assume that people will fulfill all of their self-care needs at home. Brain fatigue starts to set in after just a few minutes of concentration. One or two 30-second breaks per hour to do something pleasurable is sufficient to restore the brain. Yawning and stretching (very slowly) are highly restorative exercises. This is a great time for mindfulness, like being present and still. The best part about mindfulness is that employees will start to become more and more self-aware and emotionally intelligent, and will naturally consider the impact of their self-care regimen on others.

Self-care does not have to consume a lot of time, in fact, less than a minute. But people misunderstand self-care and engage in activities that actually contribute to mental exhaustion, like social media, “venting,” and personal errands.

Even some fitness activities can be draining rather than restorative. It only takes 10 minutes to increase oxygen to your brain. There is some science that suggests that endurance training can make you more resistant to fatigue, but that doesn’t mean employers can allow employees to run a marathon during work hours.

If we follow a model that our country’s laws were designed around, your rights end where another’s begin.  Because emotional intelligence does not fully develop until the 3rd decade of life, usually well into a person’s career, most entry-level workers have blind spots around how their self-care impacts others, and they need to be coached here. They also have developed habits, especially social media, that can lead to greater distractibility and more frequent mental fatigue, which leads to more mistakes and less accountability.

In my career prep course, as well as in my coaching practice, I work with my students on defining who they want to be at work, what reputation they want to build, and how to brand themselves and deliver on that brand for optimal career growth. They are taught the neuroscience of mindfulness and are guided in making it a life-long habit.

My firm, Epic Careering, offers coaching to companies that achieve the same results, and as a byproduct employees spend less time in drama, less time in self-indulgent non-self-care, and more time cooperating, collaborating, and producing.

Schedule a consultation today and catalyze the growth of your employees’ potential tomorrow.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

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