Self-Care: An Absolute Necessity for Today’s Leaders

Key Insights:

  • Many leaders feel exhausted and burned out during this time of year
  • Leaders often fail to engage in self-care practices, which leaves them feeling overwhelmed
  • There are proven benefits to practicing self-care, many of which are relevant to the lives of leaders
  • Self-care does not require large amounts of money or time; it requires making it a priority

As we approach the conclusion of 2019 and look ahead at what the new year will bring, I can’t help but notice that many individuals in leadership positions seem exhausted, worn down and defeated at this time of year. And sadly, this is nothing new. In fact, it is something I’ve noticed happening year after year for many leaders. This should be a time for celebration and acknowledgment of life’s blessings. It should be a time when leaders have opportunities to rest, reflect and be grateful. And yet, many are suffering with severe stress, strain and pressure, which is amplified during the holiday season.

Does this sound familiar to you and what you’re presently experiencing at this time of year? If it does, listen in, as I have some insights I want to share. If it isn’t something you are struggling with, that is amazing – congratulations on making better choices for your life!

To me, this is just another great reason why self-care is so essential these days. Leaders should not be limping over the fourth-quarter finish line; they should be striding into the new year feeling healthy, inspired and eager to tackle the new year with vigor and enthusiasm.

If you are feeling exhausted and burned out right now, I feel your pain. And I know what it’s like to feel completely spent during a time when rejuvenation should be happening. Self-care keeps me feeling fresh, energized and positive, even during my busiest moments. But I had to learn the value of self-care over the course of life the hard way, so let me save you the pain I endured earlier in my career when I suffered from extreme anxiety and stress. On the outside no one had a clue what was happening to me. But on the inside I was suffering immensely.

My routine consists of exercise, getting a decent night’s rest, eating well and taking time out for me when I need to recharge. I am extremely grateful for my self-care routine and the path I took to get here, and it’s my hope that you can reach a healthy level of self-care more quickly than I did. Perhaps you can set that intention for the new year and start making yourself a priority in your life.

Don’t Take It from Me!

I am proof that a healthy, consistent, habit-driven self-care routine really works, and I have helped numerous leaders reenergize themselves, become more productive and reach new levels of leadership. I get it – the concept of self-care may seem a little too warm and fuzzy to make any kind of real difference for some individuals, teams and companies. Thankfully, I have insights and research from health and wellness experts to support my beliefs about self-care.

Consider these numbers from a recent self-care survey conducted by The Harris Poll:

  • 96% of doctors surveyed said that self-care should be considered “essential” in terms of a person’s overall health
  • Physicians also believe that the majority of their patients (71%) would benefit from discussing self-care. Unfortunately, only 33% of patients bring it up with their doctors.
  • 80% of physicians say practicing self-care is “very important”
  • 28% of those surveyed say they feel “guilty” about practicing self-care
  • 44% of respondents said that self-care is a practice that is only possible for those with “enough time”
  • 35% of respondents believe that self-care is only possible for those with “enough money”
  • 75% of patients say they have not discussed self-care with their doctor over the last two years

Two big things stand out to me from this survey:

  1. Experts believe self-care is critical, and that more people should practice it
  2. The average person doesn’t feel it is important and will find common barriers such as money, time or guilt to avoid incorporating it into their lifestyle

There appears to be a disconnect in peoples’ minds when it comes to self-care. I think we can all agree that it is important – and physicians will back us up – but a huge stigma around self-care remains.

Self-Care Is Not Indulgent

I think the biggest barrier for many people when it comes to self-care is the culture. Here in North America, there is an overwhelming attitude around work that says people should always put themselves and their needs last. It’s meant to promote selflessness and a commitment to the greater good, but it has morphed into something more dangerous and insidious.

Because of our culture’s insistence that we should work at 100% of our capacity all the time, people suffer, become exhausted and perform at levels well below what they are capable of. That’s why this time of year is so taxing for so many leaders. During a time when you and other leaders should be celebrating, the season is instead characterized by a desire to wave the flag of surrender.

So, what is worse? Building self-care habits and taking time for yourself at regular intervals throughout the year? Or crashing and burning because you failed to give yourself what you needed?

To me, the answer is obvious – self-care may seem indulgent on the surface, but it is the key to enabling leaders to perform at their highest levels on a consistent basis. Ask any high-performing leader if they practice some form of self-care and I suspect you will hear a resounding yes to that question.

Self-Care Is Not Expensive

Yes, self-care has become a bit of a buzzword lately. As a result, an entire industry has sprung up around the topic. New products and services are available to help you engage in self-care, and companies have become quite good at convincing consumers that self-care is not possible without Product X. People need relief and are willing to pay large amounts of money for it, but the truth is that self-care doesn’t have to cost a single penny.

At its core, self-care is the act of prioritizing yourself. It’s about paying attention to your wants and needs. It’s about giving your body what it requires to remain healthy. Sure, you can spend money on these things if you want, but it is not necessary. It does not have to be complicated, either.

In my previous self-care blog post, I presented six tips for practicing self-care. None of them involve spending any money, and they are all quite simple. So, if someone tries to convince you that you need to pay a small fortune to find peace through self-care, I would be highly skeptical. 

Self-Care Is Not Time-Consuming

The other major self-care barrier mentioned in the survey I cited above is time. It seems that people are convinced that self-care requires time that they just don’t have; therefore, they ignore it altogether. Here’s the thing – self-care is not always about the amount of time people have. Rather, it should be focused on the ways people are spending their time.

To me, mindfulness is a crucial component of self-care. When you are mindful, you begin to notice all the little “time leaks” that happen throughout the day. Eventually, you realize that a lot of your busy-ness is because of your own habits. Although you can’t manufacture more time, you can change your habits and get much more out of the time you have.

Certainly, self-care means taking away from getting work done, but it should be more focused on getting more out of life’s moments than it is on adding more hours to one’s schedule.

Are You Having Trouble Integrating Self-Care into Your Life and Leadership?

Practicing self-care is simultaneously one of the easiest and most difficult things you will attempt to do. The momentum of conventional life will always pull you into a frenzied state if you let it, and the culture will never reward you for being good at self-care. But once you find what works for you – and make a commitment to doing it – it will seem effortless.

Getting to this point is the hard part, though, especially for busy people in leadership positions.

If you are convinced that you need to practice self-care, but you’re not sure how to get to the place where it is possible, I am here to help. If you are feeling exhausted at this time of year, it’s a good sign that changes need to be made, and I can assist you in making them with self-care in mind.

Ready to learn more? Great! I am excited to hear from you. Simply email me at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or give me a call at 1.855.871.3374.

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