In my last Blog we talked about putting yourself first, why and how it is so important. Let’s explore some ways that you can put this into practice!
- Focus on the physical. Sometimes all that we need is a good night’s sleep, hydrating properly, or eating well for the day to feel like our best self. Of course, the intent isn’t to add to the demands of the ‘to-do’ list – it’s more about taking one small step towards feeling physically refreshed. Self-care on the job can quickly turn into self-neglect when we lose focus of our physical bodies and its needs. So pack your lunch & snacks, grab your fave water bottle and take pride in the fact that you’re prepared for the day since when you’re on the job self-neglect can quickly creep in if we lose complete focus of our needs.
- Reach out and talk to someone. When faced with tough decisions or business transitions, we need to have trusted people we can lean on. This includes a strategic network of people you can discuss important business or career decisions – your own personal ‘board of directors’. You also need a set of people you can privately process frustration, concern, vent, and candidly share what is happening for your personally in the organization. Often, we buffer all the stress for our colleagues or teams, without any release valve for ourselves. So, use your ‘board of directors’ and make sure that you are also reciprocating by being on someone else’s ‘BoD’ to give them the same opportunity for support.
- Block-off time on your calendar. Part of our difficulty is the sheer number of meetings we attend daily. We open our Outlook calendars and see “back to back” meetings where we’re moving from one thing to the next. At a minimum, give yourself the first 15-30 minutes of the day to look at the day in total and consider which meetings are the most important and to do some minimal preparation. If you’re really in need of some “oxygen”, block a two-hour work block for yourself sometime this week for some focused, uninterrupted time (it will feel like a luxury!) – and do not let anything else overlap or bump this time. Complete or move forward the one item on your to-do list causing the most anxiety/stress.
- Renegotiate a deadline or give a timing heads up. We assume people need something sooner than they really do many times. We say yes or break our own mental flow to meet other peoples’ requests. Part of self-care on the job is having the courage to clarify incoming requests, negotiate deadlines, or give people a “heads up.” Often a simple message of, “Confirming receipt of this. I’ll be able to get back to you in a couple of days on that” or offering to set up a time to discuss vs. responding right away. The “heads up” offers the acknowledgement your colleague is seeking and buys you some extra time.
- Do something non-work related you care about or enjoy. Even for work we might love, too much of a good thing can take its toll. Even when you don’t feel like you have the time, doing one non-work-related thing that you care about or enjoy can help to ease the pressure. Go for a walk or hike, make it to your kid’s basketball practice, or spend time with friends on Saturday night. Engaging in something relaxing or fun can often be just enough of a step away to appreciate the role or work you have.
- Anchor in your integrity and values. Work demands can create discomfort or periods of uncertainty. Rather than feeling “blown around” due to the external circumstances of your company, take care of yourself by coming back to who you are and what you stand for. One of my all-time favorite articles comes from Harvard Business School Professor, Clayton M. Christensen entitled, “How Will You Measure Your Life.” He asks us to contemplate “how to live a life with integrity” and to make sure we’re choosing the “right yardsticks” against which we’ll measure our impact. I’ve seen clients slip from self-care to something that looks more like self-preservation where we’re wearing the oxygen mask in service of preserving a territory or turf vs. in service of a mission or purpose we believe in.
- Listen to your heart. Listen to your needs, your desires, to what your heart is telling you. If you are out of balance, if you feel something isn’t right, if you know that you are not giving yourself enough PAUSE. Take the time to pause, breathe deeply, and listen. If you know you want to lead a healthy life but don’t know why you haven’t started, or can’t stick to it, listen to your heart as it tells you that you are not going down the path for you. Once you listen, there can be awareness. Once there is awareness, there can be choices. Once there are choices, there is action. Once there is action, you are again on the path to living your best life!
So, I again invite you to join me and embrace the notation of self-care – the practice of taking an active role in protecting your own well-being and happiness – and make it a part of your daily life. Many walking this path find that they reap the benefits of greater peace of mind, strong results, better relationships, less stress and living a genuine and truly successful life.