self care

Self-Care is A Must Especially During COVID Overwhelm

It might seem contradictory to say that the time when we need the most self care is when we’re overwhelmed, but it’s true.

Think about it: how essential is self-care when we’re already doing great?

Yeah, thought so.

To top it off, many of us are re-emerging after a year of living with mandates, lockdowns, and shortages. The one thing that has helped many of us to keep going is the notion of getting our old lives back.

Longing for the “good old days” – a cup of coffee enjoyed with co-workers, dinner out with friends and family – we all yearn for our pre-pandemic lives.

And yet, as we emerge slowly from the crisis, it isn’t all that simple.

We hoped that once we return to our ‘normal’ lives, we’d all breathe a sigh of relief.

But we’re not quite there yet.

Self-Care Should Be Every Leader’s Top Priority

There’s a new and hidden shadow following many that there is no vaccine for:
anxiety, depression, grief, and a host of other mental health issues.

Fortunately, many organizations are recognizing the stress and burnout in their employees and are extending pandemic benefits, offering flexible work hours and even time during the workday to destress, like taking an outdoor walk or even a visit to a museum.

It may sound cliché, but never has it been more impactful:

Self-care has never been more important than right now.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
–Christopher K. Germer

Self-Care: A Whole New Awareness

Wayne Jonas, MD, executive director of Samuel Integrative Health Programs, recently partnered with The Harris Poll for a survey of just over 2,000 adults, gauging the status of the participants’ mental health and self-care after a year of the pandemic:

  • 64% report giving more attention to their mental health than before
  • 38% plan to be more mindful regarding self-care post pandemic
  • 44% needed guidance to bolster their self-care efforts

Companies are responding to their employees’ burnout and increased stress levels with a variety of ways to promote self-care:

  • For one week, Mozilla shut down for “Wellness Week”
  • Shopify implemented “Rest & Refuel Fridays” globally
  • Marriott added 3 paid “TakeCare Days Off”
  • PepsiCo and other firms are extending paid time off, child (or elder) care benefits and offering flexible work schedules

Marianne Cooper, sociologist at Stanford University, summed up what workers and their employers face:

“Expecting people to just ‘return to work’ does not acknowledge the challenges and difficulties employees endured. Employers can’t expect employees to just pretend like we didn’t just live through a social catastrophe —
especially as that catastrophe continues to unfold around the world.”

“Employers need to understand the employees returning to the office are not the same people who left last March.”

Obviously, COVID-19 effects are not just physical.

We are a world suffering from pandemic fatigue. Women have left the workforce in record numbers and People of Color are suffering added impacts, as they are at greater risk of losing their jobs.

So where do we go from here?

Lead With Care and Empathy

self careLead by example.

In communicating with our employees, it can be helpful to share our concerns, too. Everyone bears some COVID scars. When we share our own discomforts, it allows us to demonstrate care and compassion – it makes us human in the eyes of our team and colleagues.

Harvard Business Review noted the importance for leaders to relate their own stories of mental health struggles. Sharing personal stories has been proven to be a successful way to open discussion so that others speak up about their own challenges, feelings, and emotions.

A sense of “they feel that, too” develops. The feeling of isolation is lessened, and a hope is instilled.

As an authentic, compassionate leader, lead by healthy behaviors:

  • Tell your team you’re taking a break for a walk outside.
  • Share that you’re having a therapy appointment. (One colleague of mine, a partner in a top auditing firm, actually blocks his calendar for all to see that he has therapy – bravo!!)
  • Have regular Check-ins: ask specific questions and listen to answers.
  • Offer flexibility, be accommodating.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all, band-aid solution to the problems brought on by the pandemic.

HBR writers Kelly Greenwood and Natasha Krol highlight the importance of flexibility:

“Being accommodating doesn’t necessarily mean lowering your standards.
Flexibility can help your team thrive amid the continued uncertainty.”

Leaders need to set an example and nurture a team that feels they are cared about, that their needs are being met, and most importantly – that their leader is available to listen.

Self-Care Strategies – for Leadership & Life

Tchiki Davis, Ph. D., offers up some simple self-care suggestions:

  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep has a huge effect our whole being. Much research has been done to prove this. Tools such as Fitbits can help monitor our sleep patterns.
  • Eat right. It’s good for our bodies and our minds. Smoothies are a great way to get our fruits/veggies in: I have one every day.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety by daily exercise – find what most resonates & stay committed. Online yoga or bar classes lasting anywhere from 15-75 minutes can accommodate any level and schedule.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ to your non-priorities. Stop feeling obligated to others. Say ‘yes’ to self-care.
  • Treat yourself to a trip to the park or beach – just for you. This Summer, I took off by myself to a Cretan beach – was pure heaven. Self-care is truly a healing balm for the Soul.

“Surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to be.” – Unknown

Don’t forget to seek the company of supportive people – we all need a support circle. Yet when we think of “self-care,” we often overlook the impact our relationships can have. I am part of a global group of women who meet daily to support each other in our self-care habits. Many of us report that we wouldn’t be half as far in our lives if didn’t have each other to lean on.

While these strategies sound simple enough to incorporate into our routines, they’re things we often shrug off and say, “someday…” That someday is today.

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow.
You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Want more simple, actionable leadership tips, delivered fresh to your inbox each week? Sign up for our FREE Weekly Bold Moves!