Self Care: A Necessary Requirement for BOLD Leaders

Self-care. Many of us have heard that term so many times, we don’t attach any particular significance to it anymore.

Yet, in the wake of a global pandemic and the tumultuous times that have become our “new normal,” self-care is more important than ever before – for leaders, for those we lead, and for every single person in the world.

Self-Care Is Like a Healing Balm for the Soul

Unless we are dutifully mindful of ourselves, we can become ensnared in an “I have to do it all” mantra at work…and overly engaged with the digital world. We act – and react – to the world around us at a frenzied pace, often short circuiting and depleting ourselves.

Most of us have been in that frantic, frenetic and furious hamster wheel at times. And we discover we’re running as fast as we can – but getting nowhere.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

-Anne Lamott

Unplugging from it all – taking time for ourselves – is a healing balm for our bodies – mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Working remote? Back in the office? A little bit of both? Take a few minutes out to explore how a few simple self-care strategies can help us lead with greater ease, clarity, and confidence.

Just What is Self-Care?

Amy Jen Su summed up self-care in Harvard Business Review: “self-care is your relationship and connection to self.…it means that you’re attuned to and understand what you need to be your most constructive, effective, and authentic self.”  Self-care is more than just physically taking care of ourselves. It means maintaining and enhancing our whole being.

Really, self-care is about so much more than physical health. Su notes we need to pay attention to more of our whole selves – our emotions, relationships, and our mind. “Self-care flows from an intention to stay connected to oneself and one’s overall mission.”

Not practicing self-care and living with stress depletes us. Researchers David B. Ross, Julie A. Exposito and Tom Kennedy wrote in Stress and Its Relationship to Leadership and a Healthy Workplace Culture, that leaders under stress for an extended time can experience negative consequences, such as inability to make decisions, making emotionally based decisions, or lack of listening.

We must get over the idea that self-care is selfish. It isn’t. How can we be there for anyone else if we are not there for ourselves? And we must stop saying that we don’t have time for self-care. We do.

“Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax.”

― Matt Haig

Achieve More as a Leader With Self Care

Erin Urban wrote in Forbes of a senior executive who discovered that when he let life pull him to the breaking point, it hurt his career. “You cannot give what you do not have,” he shared. “Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that investing in self-care allows me to achieve more as a leader.”

Here are some practical, actionable strategies to weave self-care into your workday – whether you’re working remote or back in the office – or a little bit of both…

A few simple suggestions by Erin Urban can start us on a self-care mission:

  1. Set boundaries. Learn to say no.
  2. Ditch the perfectionist attitude.
  3. Leverage the power of delegation.

Following those suggestions, Urban says to take time to refuel ourselves…

  1. Do one thing that will bring joy and recharge those batteries.
  2. Just breathe…become aware of the breath.
  3. Go outside, be at one with nature, take a walk.
  4. Practice gratitude and kindness.

Strengthen Leadership Through Effective Self-Care

The National Conference for College Women Student Leaders offers practical tips to strengthen leadership through self-care. Topping their suggestion? Getting rid of the notion that we can do it all.

And, perhaps just as important, learn to delegate. Delegating challenges our teams and gives us some free time to refresh and refocus…a win-win. Make sure self-care is a part of this extra time.

While a focus on the “we” is crucial to impactful leadership, “me” time is vital too. Try to take a brief time each evening, to relax and refuel. It can be as simple as just closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing.

We can also emphasize gratitude – it is a gift that keeps on giving – the more gratitude we have, the more goodness comes our way.

This one is really important, especially in our new era of Zoom calls & a new, more intense digital connection. We must consciously choose to disconnect from the 24-7 digital world of news and social media and work responsibilities. Bask in the solitude, allowing your body the ultimate self-care it so deserves.

It is so important to take time for yourself and find clarity:

“The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.”

-Diane Von Furstenberg

Solitude indeed is a golden gift. In the silence, we nourish ourselves. We learn about ourselves. We discover things that may have gone overlooked in the noise of everyday life.

Spending time in the silence allows us to return to our work refreshed, restored, having treated our complete selves to the ultimate self-care therapy: solitude.

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