Self-Care Tips to Help Keep You Grounded & Top of Your Game
Last week, we wrote about managing toxicity in the workplace and the negative consequences it can have on teams and organizations. This week, we are pivoting back to a topic we have written about in the past which is fundamentally critical to your success, and your health and well-being.
The term self-care is becoming a cliché because it is being talked about more now than ever. There are endless articles and books being written on the subject, and thankfully, it has become a priority within leading-edge organizations who care about their people’s mental and physical health.
The emergence of new COVID variants, war in Ukraine, and uncertainty around the return-to-work strategy, is causing mass amounts of anxiety and stress worldwide. There is so much going on that it can feel overwhelming and disheartening, which makes it hard to focus on you when everyone and everything is spinning around you.
As a productive, driven leader, you may not feel like there is enough time in your day to devote to self-care, and frankly the feeling of guilt may also be holding you back from doing what you need to take care of yourself. You prioritize work and family, which may feel selfless and honorable, but you may not be carving out any time for you to recharge your batteries so you have the energy and resilience to keep moving forward.
Like many people in positions like yours, you probably recognize the need for self-care, but you continue to put it off, day after day, until you have procrastinated yourself into an even bigger, more frazzled state. Or maybe you’re of the mindset that now is your time to “grind,” and you can rest later. Is later next week? Next month? Next year? Honestly, I don’t think self-care should wait because your leadership effectiveness and health are dependent on it.
Running Full-On Means Burn Out Ahead
Believe me, I understand the feeling of wanting to devote most of your time to your leadership role as this is where you spend most of your time – at work. The truth is that such devotion is unsustainable. Leaders who fail to take time for self-care burn out quickly. They aren’t suited for long-term success, and they are characterized by a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Leaders who operate in this way do not lead effectively, nor do they provide healthy examples for their people and the future leaders they should be focused on developing.
I think we can all agree that some amount of self-care is necessary for everyone, especially leaders who want to operate in a consistent manner and guide their organizations to greatness. However, every individual is different, so what might work for you may not work as well for your counterpart in a different department or another organization. With that said, there are some basic aspects of self-care that can be adapted to any leader or any leadership situation.
For starters, your self-care routine should involve a balanced approach that takes both your mental and physical fitness into account. We also recommend that you consider aspects of your social and spiritual lives to assist in you feeling more fulfilled in all aspects of your life. Finding the time can be a challenge but there are simple, practical ways to do this.
Caring for Self: Make the Most Out of the Time You Have
The idea of self-care for leaders comes inside a tricky paradox: Leaders have the least amount of time available to devote to self-care and yet, they are the people who often require self-care the most.
I would be surprised if this paradox didn’t resonate with you. Most leaders I talk to are eager and excited to improve themselves and their skills, but they keep running into barriers imposed by a lack of time in their schedule.
The truth is that you may never get the extra time you think you need for self-care. So, it’s vitally important to make the most of the time you do have. Protect this time. Do not let it get pushed to the end of your calendar, only to get pushed into next week (or next month or next year). Time devoted to self-care is just as important to time devoted to critical meetings or team initiatives in the workplace, so please treat it as such.
Once you start practicing self-care on a more consistent basis, you can begin to integrate it into everything you do. In fact, I would argue that this is the whole point. It’s not so much about carving out time for self-care as it is about integrating self-care into everything you do.
But before you reach that point in your self-care journey, you can improve your ability to stay fresh, rested and feeling good by taking advantage of the following tips.
#1 – Consistent Sleep Routine
Sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of every person's overall health and well-being. It is important because it enables the body to repair and recharge, preparing for another day.
When was the last time you experienced a truly great night of sleep? It’s been a while, right? For many leaders, a restful night of sleep is very difficult to find. For some, it seems impossible. That’s because most leaders and people in general fail to prioritize sleep.
You can get better sleep, and you can experience it on a much more consistent basis, however, that is dependent on you developing a consistent sleep routine.
This means no more staying up to burn the midnight oil, and it means no more forcing yourself to awaken before dawn, so you can be the first one at the office or online.
Give yourself a nightly bedtime routine and be sure to schedule some wind-down time in the hours approaching bedtime. Make it a habit by going to bed at approximately the same time every night. Ensure your wind-down time doesn’t include searching social media or finishing up last minute work tasks as that will fire you up vs. help calm you down before a restful night of sleep. Then, when you feel tempted to sabotage your sleep, you will, instead, stick to your healthy routine.
#2 – Sitting is the New Smoking – Get Moving!
Sitting for too long increases your risk of chronic health problems and is bad for your mental health. Being active is not as hard as you think. There are lots of simple ways to include some physical activity in your day. Here are a few suggestions to help incorporate it into your day.
- Schedule some exercise time for yourself at the beginning of your day, at lunch or at the end of your workday – whatever works for you. Stay committed and get moving.
- Walk-and-talk meetings – for one-on-one discussions, or a weekly team meeting that does not warrant being on video, take the call while you take a walk outside or on your treadmill. This also encourages your people to take breaks from their screens as you are role modeling the right behaviors.
- Find an accountability partner to exercise with. It will help keep you focused and committed.
- Take advantage of the company offerings or start your own group with work colleagues. Progressive organizations offer a variety of health and wellness programs for their employees. Take advantage of them, and use them for your own benefit, and encourage others to do the same.
Again, like any activity/interest, it’s important to create routines around it in a way that you will easily adapt to the change. To give yourself the best chance of success, start small and take slow, deliberate steps to achieve your ultimate fitness goals. It’s not about having the perfect body, being able to lift a certain amount of weight, or run a mile at a certain pace. It’s about making your physical health a priority.
The additional benefit is that when you build exercise into your self-care routine, you also make it easier to get a good night’s sleep on a more consistent basis. Plus, it will provide you with a boost to your overall energy levels.
#3 – Fuel Up on Goodness
A healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert. It can also improve concentration and attention span. Conversely, an inadequate diet can lead to fatigue, impaired decision-making, and can slow down our reaction time.
Sometimes people pay more attention to what they put into their cars than they do their bodies, and leaders are no exception to that. When you give the machine unhealthy fuel, you suffer and your body sputters. But when you fill your tank with healthy whole foods and less processed foods, you give the machine of your body an edge.
#4 – Be Grateful
Psychologically speaking, there are few things more powerful than gratitude when it comes to practicing self-care.
Leaders are often focused on what’s wrong, what isn’t going well or what needs to be changed. This creates a negative, self-perpetuating mental state that increases stress and strain while sapping energy and removing a leader’s ability to think rationally.
Practicing gratitude can stop this negative process in its tracks. When you take time to be grateful for things, you train your brain to see the world in a more positive, realistic and healthy manner. When your brain swims in a sea of negativity, it can cause you to lead ineffectively. But when you are grateful, you can operate from a place of inspiration and positive energy.
#5 – Think Before You Say “Yes” to Everything
Here’s a little secret I wish more leaders were aware of: You don’t have to say “yes” to everything just because you are the leader and are in a position of influence.
One of the quickest ways to deteriorate your physical, emotional, spiritual and social states is to bite off more than you can chew. It’s okay to say “no” to things and it’s healthy to have boundaries. Your leadership will be more consistent, energized and inspiring when you practice discernment. It’s hard to not say “yes” to everything, but I urge you to explore the options that you do have which are:
- Connect the request to strategy and priorities by asking yourself, ‘Will this really add value to the bottom line and overall strategy of the team or organization?’
- Negotiate a realistic timeframe for the request with the requester
- Delegate or assign it to someone on your team
You have options, and not everything that comes your way must be done by you. Be smart and start asking more questions, dig deeper and explore the options you do have.
#6 – Honor Yourself
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.
Don’t be the leader who devotes themselves so fully to work that you lose yourself in it. You are a human being with a life outside the workplace, so choose to live your life to its fullest in a way that is honorable and true to who you are.
I encourage you to focus on what you really 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 in order to devote more time to work?
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.
How Do You Practice Self-Care? Do You Encourage it With Your Teams?
Do you have any go-to self-care practices that work for you? Have you tried any of the tips I have listed here? Are you encouraging your team to take time out for themselves and not burn the candle at both ends?
I would love to know what you think, so please send an email to email@example.com or call me at 1.855.871.3374 to share your thoughts.