There’s no denying the benefits of self-care; they are well known and touted more emphatically than ever, given the past year. Yet despite this understanding, many “serious” [she clears her throat] leaders and professionals are resistant to taking a scosche of time for themselves.
Why is that?
If it can be a good idea for our younger, mini-leaders to separate themselves, gather their thoughts and let their minds explore greater possibilities in a brief time-out (think of the tyrannical toddler at home or next to you at Starbucks, pre-COVID, of course), then why are older, larger-leaders skittish to practice the same concept. Results could be similar – return to the environment refreshed, renewed, often with a different perspective and eager to get back to the team with innovation and confidence.
Our hesitation boils down to misconceptions of what true leadership looks like, what self-care actually is, and how it really works. (Personally, I think the term “Self-Care” does itself no favors, as for some, it conjures up images of candles, chakras, nature walks, etc…it doesn’t necessarily depict the leader jamming to Metallica in their car, of which one of my very “serious” leaders does on a weekly basis and it seems to be working out quite well.)
So let’s agree to collectively reframe self-care as a cost-effective investment that will increase your overall productivity, effectiveness, and focus.
In so doing, let’s also bust some common objections with a few quick and easy tips you can implement today, regardless of your affinity for Metallica.
1. But Stacy, “I don’t have time for that! Who has time for that?” * You do, that’s who! You have time for that, and you’re going to choose ONE thing to say NO to today that will return at least five minutes to your day. What’s it going to be? (Hint: if you check LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram any time throughout the day, you’re losing more than FIVE minutes. Also, think about responding to the “got a quick second?” with “Can you shoot me an email on that?” or “Can you come back at 3pm?”; often the person will resolve the issue themselves before the email or 3pm, whichever comes first.) * Now, how are you going to use this time to improve your well-being and performance? Are you going to set a timer on your phone and think about one issue you have on your mind? You’ll be able to make some headway on it, believe me.
2. But Stacy, “I’m a strong leader, I shouldn’t need self-care.” * Practicing self-care is a sign of STRENGTH, not a sign of weakness. If the strongest leader you knew was struggling with stress, what would you advise them to do? If you didn’t NEED help, but you just wanted to recharge your battery – how would you do that? * Take your own advice; put your answers to these two questions into action.
Other effective strategies my clients use:
1. Make peace with the term self-care or find another phrase that sits better with you.
2. Make it your own. Jam out to Metallica, get a Zen coloring book, listen to an audible, lock the bathroom door and pretend you’re not scrolling Facebook (this, I’ll allow)
3. Make it mini. Short diversions pack a big punch. Set an alarm on your phone for 5 minutes every 90 minutes. Resting your brain every 90 minutes allows you to focus, knowing you’re rewarding yourself with a brain-break. Stand, stretch, walk around, pet the pet, or start a practice of randomly emailing one person a positive thought, compliment or kudo. They’ll think it’s awesome and you’ll feel amazing.
4. Mark it on your calendar. Once you’ve got a few things you’ve figured out you can do, schedule it on your calendar as a recurring item, or set an alarm. I’m talking two, 5 or 10-minute blocks each day. That’s it. 5. Once you’ve got it, share it.
As a leader, you set the tone. If you share what works for you, you promote the investment in health and well-being and your entire organization will follow your STRONG lead. Investing consciously and consistently in tools that help you become a better leader and a happier, healthier person inspires and gives permission to those around you to do the same.
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