Self-Care Isn’t a Nice-to-Have – It’s a Must-Have Best Practice For Leaders
Last week, we expanded on the topic of burnout and the impact it has on leaders in our current world of work. We offered up some simple proactive best practices, and self-care, no surprise, was at the top of that list.
This week, we want to revisit the topic of self-care because the consequences of not practicing it, to some degree, has consequences. Those consequences could lead to unmanageable stress levels, and ultimately burnout or mental health issues if we are not mindful.
As we said in our last blog, working in the hybrid world of work has changed the game from a leadership perspective and leaders are contending with a lot more in this virtual world than ever before. As a result, some leaders are experiencing burnout or perhaps symptoms of it, which impacts your level of effectiveness as a leader.
Leaders will perform at their best, on all levels, when they integrate essential self-care into their lives. It is not just a “nice to have”, it is a must-have to keep up and to thrive in times like today and in the future. When leaders practice the self-care they need to feel more in control and less stressed or fatigued, they benefit tremendously and so do their loved ones, teams, and organizations.
There are various dimensions to self-care – it's about taking care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Let’s take a deeper look into these various dimensions to assess where you might need some focus and attention to help establish a self-care routine that will benefit you.
Your mind is a muscle and the way you think, and the things you expose yourself to, will influence your psychological well-being. Mental self-care might include doing things that keep your mind sharp, like learning about a subject that fascinates you, reading or watching movies that are good mind fuel. Being more aware of your own thinking – negative self-talk and being more compassionate and gracious with yourself are also critical to your mental health.
There is a direct connection between your body and your mind, and when you care for your body, you will think and feel better, too.
Physical self-care includes being mindful about what you eat, your sleeping habits, being physically active and how well you care for your physical needs, i.e., attending healthcare appointments, taking medication and supplements that you need to manage your physical health.
Sitting is the new smoking as we have learned in recent years. Do yourself some good and get some movement in throughout the day so help keep yourself energized and feeling good physically.
It's important to have healthy coping skills to deal with life’s ongoing highs and lows which can sometimes trigger negative feelings such as anger, anxiety, and sadness.
Emotional self-care may include having people in our lives that act as our sounding board where we can freely express our feelings without judgment. Journaling is another great self-care activity to help us process and manage our emotions more effectively. I am also a big fan of seeking help through coaching or therapy, having an unbiased third party to help you process and work through your emotions.
There are also many other helpful resources made available to us through our employers (employee assistance programs). Our healthcare providers can help direct us to credible resources, and there are various other free resources that are available to support all aspects of our self-care. We just need to be resourceful in how we search for these outlets and resources online.
Socialization is key to self-care, and having close connections are important to your well-being. Let’s not ignore the research around having a best friend at work. There are tremendous benefits to having people around you that you can interact with socially.
The notion of social self-care does not suggest that you need to become a socialite or extrovert who likes to engage with others as everyone’s socialization needs will vary. We encourage you to think about how much time you are interacting with those that you care deeply about.
All relationships require time and attention, so assess the overall health of the relationships that are most important to you, and ensure you are carving out some time to fulfill your social needs.
Nurturing your spiritual self-care doesn't mean you have to be religious, but it might for some people and that is okay, because that works for them. It can involve anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe or others.
How it might show up for some of us is feeling connected to a common purpose and something bigger than just ourselves. We like to call that feeling “emotionally connectedness” to something that has a compelling meaning and purpose in our lives.
Practicing gratitude can help support both our mental and spiritual self-care needs. By focusing on the positive, it helps promote more positive thinking and establishes a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
Where might you require some time and attention based on these dimensions? We have written about this topic before, and you can tap into the tips we have provided to help you feel more balanced by focusing on your self-care routine and habits.
Why Is Self-Care Important?
Having an effective self-care routine has been shown to have several important health benefits such as:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and the potential of burnout
- Strengthens resilience muscles
- Allows us to feel more fulfilled and happy
- Enhances energy levels
- Deepens our relationships, and we feel more connected to others
I have spent time with countless leaders who felt like they needed permission to have fun or enjoy themselves. I have also spent time with leaders who have no idea what they enjoy or how they like to spend their free time because all they focus on is work.
Don’t be the leader who devotes themselves so fully to work that you lose yourself in it. You are a human being with lives outside the workplace so choose to live your life to its fullest.
I encourage you to think about what you really value and enjoy in life. How do you like to spend your time? Are you spending any time doing the things you love? Or are you sacrificing fun and enjoyment to devote more time to work? Are you spending any time with the people you value and cherish in your life?
Determine what gives you joy, pleasure, richness, and fulfillment in life. Then spend some time doing those things. Yes, you are busy, but that doesn’t mean your free time should be spent worrying about how busy you are. It should be spent living life in a way that energizes you and gives meaning to your story.
Do You Practice Self-Care?
How do you define self-care? Do you have any go-to self-care practices that work for you? We want to hear from you, so please send an email to email@example.com or call me at 416 560 1806 to share your thoughts.