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Leading Edge Journal

Self-Care: What is it good for?

Posted by Megan O'Donnell on Jul 23, 2019 11:31:29 AM

Today’s society often requires people to constantly be on the go, to be ahead of the game, and to never make a mistake. The pressure of succeeding and meeting deadlines are everyday issues that leaders face regularly. It is easy to push self-care to the side in order to feel you are meeting the requirements of the job. This could quickly lead to burnout, also known as executive burnout, and can easily trickle down to the staff you lead. Self-care is crucial to staying on your A-Game as a leader and as a positive support system to the people you lead. Mark Athitakis (2018) states that “The CEO who looks after him or herself is in a better position to get the job done, and to encourage everybody on the org chart to feel the same way.”

So, with all of the talk about self-care in today’s society--what exactly is it? There have been many definitions of what self-care is, and Raphailia Michael (2018) explains self-care as:

“Any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”

Self-care looks different for everyone. Some people spend the day binge watching Netflix and not leaving their beds. Others practice self-care by “seizing the day” and getting up at 6 a.m. to go on a hike. (I myself am a big fan of the Netflix self-care path.) Self-care could also simply be taking 10 minutes a day to practice deep breathing, or going to bed an hour earlier every night.

Whatever your self-care looks like, it is just as important that you are taking time to disconnect from work life and focus on the needs in your personal life. This includes respecting your time off. Many organizations have created a culture and a norm that people should be always working, a lot of management level staff are unable to disconnect from their email, texts, and calls from the office. Some people may feel like they’re practicing self-care by taking some time off, but they’ll be answering calls and emails the entire time. This doesn’t exactly count as self-care. So, trying to make the conscious effort to disconnect from work when you are able to, plays a huge role in being able to fully practice self-care. Planning ahead, creating a plan for while you’re out, and identifying a backup staff you can count on at the office are all ways to plan ahead for the time off that you deserve.

Another huge opportunity for self-care in the management world is learning to say “no.” In a world of layoffs and downsizing, companies are continuously piling too much onto one person. Being able to know your limits and say no to a new project or task is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance of self-care. Creating those healthy boundaries with your supervisor allows you to feel more comfortable with saying no. Developing the people you lead is essential in being able to say no because then you are able to delegate tasks to different people, which also assists in their own professional growth as well. Everyone needs to remember that they are only one person, and need to know your limits.

Practicing regular self-care has many benefits that effect your personal life and work life. A main benefit of practicing self-care is the opportunity to reduce stress. When you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work, your performance can suffer. This doesn’t include only your personal performance, but also the way you lead your staff. If you are in a stressed place, how can you effectively lead your staff? The people we lead often “feed” off of the emotions leaders are feeling. If you as the leader are constantly high strung and stressed, this will trickle down to the staff members. This then leads to a culture of stress. Being stressed at work can also spill over into your personal life. So, it is crucial to find the source of stress and work on solving it before it is effecting every aspect of your life.

Another benefit of practicing self-care is being able to increase your productivity at work. Once you are rested and refreshed, you accomplish more work than you would just working your body non-stop like a machine. This ties in with being able to say no to things that will affect your productivity. Being able to work nonstop and work over your scheduled hours a week is self-sabotage and will inevitably lead to burn out. Instead, take pride in knowing your limits and boosting your productivity. “Much like refueling the engine of your car, self-care activities refuel your body and mind. Bringing more balance to your daily routine will help you be more productive and more resilient to stressors” (Homewood Health, 2016).  

What self-care isn’t is selfishness. Homewood Health (2016) states that: “There’s a mindset among many people that self-care amounts to selfishness. It’s a misunderstanding rooted in an ethos of self-sacrifice and hard work that drives many people to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion, raises stress to unhealthy levels and puts pressure on relationships.” People often mistake taking time to practice self-care as being selfish or pushing others to the side. However, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Meaning you can’t be effective in your leading if you are stressed, overwhelmed, tired, and overworked. People should never feel selfish for doing what is best for the physical and mental health.

Creating a self-care plan and putting it down in writing could be beneficial to following through with practicing self-care. Some agencies require staff to create a self-care plan at hire. These plans can be used when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just need a break. The plan can be as simple or complex as you need it to be, and it is beneficial to carry it with you to be able to visually see the plan when needed. An example of this would be to write your plan on an index card to keep in your wallet or purse.

As a leader, remember to ask yourself, am I practicing self-care? Am I practicing enough self-care? We as leaders are expecting our staff to practice self-care, but we need to make sure to lead by example. What self-care routines do you practice or wish you would practice? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

References

Athitakis, Mark. (2018). Self-Care as a leadership skill. Retrieved from:

https://associationsnow.com/2018/04/self-care-leadership-skill/

Homewood Health. (2016). Self-care starter kit. Retrieved from:

https://employees.viu.ca/sites/default/files/homewood-self-care-starter-kit.pdf

Michael, Raphailia. (2018). What self-care is and what it isn’t. Retrieved from:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Wong, Kristin. (2016). Why self-care is so important? Retrieved from:

https://lifehacker.com/why-self-care-is-so-important-1770880812

Topics: Lesson in Leadership, pursuing wholeness, effective leadership, self-care, mental health

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