At the beginning of a new year, many of us contemplate the work habits we want to change or new goals we want to set. If you haven’t taken the time to ask what stands between you and your work performance, maybe it’s time to consider what you want to change. Perhaps you get swept up in commitments, gossip from disgruntled colleagues or work challenges and don’t realize the toll—mental and physical—it takes. Maybe you’re too hard on yourself, and it backfires lowering your engagement. Or perhaps you blame your boss or a coworker for your unhappiness.

You can’t fire your boss, give a badmouthing coworker a pink slip or take over the company and restructure it. But you can be a better manager of your self-care. By taking care of yourself first, you will have less stress and more to give to your job. Ten New Year’s resolutions can reboot your mental health and uplift your mood when workplace pressures throw obstacles in your way:

#1. Set Lifelines Instead Of Deadlines

They’re called deadlines for a reason, and if you’re dead, you can’t be happy or meet your career goals. Set realistic lifelines that can give you more time, slow you down and make you more productive and effective. When you set lifelines, you don’t over-schedule or procrastinate. You put time cushions—chances to breathe, eat a snack, go to the bathroom or just look out the window—between work tasks. Lifelines make you less likely to hear that whooshing sound as deadlines go by or feel that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach for “always” being behind. Your days become less hurried and harried, and you enjoy them more.

#2. Extinguish Your ‘Blame Thrower’

If you’re like most people, you have a relentless “Blame Thrower” that lives in your brain, ruling your mind and career and bludgeoning you with criticism, blame and oppressive words such as must, should, ought and have to. In an effort to perform better, the relentless voice kicks you when you lose a promotion or miss a deadline. Coming down hard on yourself after a setback reduces your chance of rebounding. Instead of kicking yourself when you slip up, forget or fail at a task, be kinder to yourself and you will bounce back quicker.

#3. Avoid Gobble, Gulp And Go

Slow down, for heaven’s sake. Even the fast lane has a speed limit. A healthy lifestyle—nutritious meals, ample rest and regular exercise—gives you the stamina to withstand the fast lane. The acronym H-A-L-T, which stands for “hungry, angry, lonely, or tired,”is a gentle reminder for you to stop and bring yourself back into balance when you’re out of gas: eat when hungry, let out your anger in a constructive way, call someone if you’re lonely and rest when tired. Indulge in a restorative activity—a hobby, yoga, massage, meditation or hot bath—that rejuvenates your mind and body.

#4. Change Your Scenery

Scientists report that “nature bathing” for 120 minutes a week—no more and no less—boosts your happiness. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing (running, playing tennis or walking) or how you break it up, two hours a week outdoors gives your fatigued mind a break, boosts your mood, and recharges your batteries. Dine away from your desk outdoors, take a walk around the block or sit in a park before returning to the office. When indoors, consider giving your workstation a makeover. A disorganized or sloppy work area can raise stress. If your desk look like a tsunami struck, a pleasant work space can raise happiness levels and establish feelings of calm and control.

#5. Choose The Perspective Less Taken

Scientists say your brain is like Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity. It takes five positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. But you always have the power to choose your perspective. Focusing on problems, instead on solutions, constricts your outlook, jails your ability to see possibilities and keeps you from believing in yourself. Happiness at work is yours once you flip your perspective and pinpoint the opportunity in a difficulty instead of the difficulty in the opportunity.

#6. Reward Yourself

Your brain is hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. If you’re like most people, your brain loves a reward. After you complete a portion of a job task—not before you complete it—give yourself a payoff. Instead of having the frozen yogurt before completing an aspect of the task, plan to have it after finishing a designated part of the project. This approach raises your motivation to get something done and gives you a treat to look forward to and enjoy.

#7. Come Up For Air And Clear Your Head

The human mind and body weren’t designed to be desk-bound for long periods of time. Move around and stretch. Keep your mind in the present moment as much as possible to enhance your performance energy. Take off your socks and shoes and feel your toes against the floor. Pay close attention to how the floor feels against your feet. If you have an opened window, focus on nature: sounds of chirping birds, fragrance of blooming flowers or sight of squirrels nesting in trees. Take 60 seconds to identify the sounds around you (traffic in the background, voices off in the distance, the gurgling of your stomach) then notice your heart rate slow, your muscles loosen and your mind clear.

#8. Send Distorted Thoughts Packing

When self-doubt and fear of failure precede your path, you’re already halfway down, and you haven’t even started the journey. Distorted thoughts overshadow facts about who you truly are and what you can achieve. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true. Learn to watch your mind’s constant chatter—much of which is meaningless and inaccurate—like you would inspect a blemish on your hand. You will recognize the distorted thoughts for what they are. If you have a self-defeating outlook, replace it with a positive outlook and take steps to make the positive thoughts reality.

#9. Make A To-Be List Alongside Your To-Do List

Avoid being “always on.” When you commit to self-care, you notice there are moments when you can just be without requiring yourself to constantly do. Watch a sunset or a bird build its nest, listen to nature sounds around you or feel a breeze against your face. These activities recharge your batteries and contribute to job success. Meditating or contemplating at your desk for just five minutes is restorative. It helps you unwind, clear your head and refresh your mind, body and spirit.

#10. Be Master Instead of Slave To Your Work

When your schedule calls the shots, you become slave instead of master to your work. Learn to draw the line when someone asks you to do something you don’t have time for. Integrate personal time into your workday (such as taking your child for a doctor’s appointment) as often as you integrate work into your personal time. Tell yourself there’s a limit to what you can do and see this practice as a strength, not a weakness. Scrub making yourself accessible to work 24 hours a day and protect your personal domain from electronic leashes. Know when to unplug and block off time for coworkers, friends and family. Take health days instead of sick days and vacations instead of guilt trips. Learn to ask for help when you need it and delegate tasks instead of trying to do everything.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: