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

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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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Self-Reflection

Want to Lead with Greater Ease? Start with Self-Reflection.

Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.”

Debbie Ford

What’s the foundation for extraordinary leadership that leaves a lasting impact?

Self-reflection.

Far from being selfish, self-reflection allows us to explore ourselves more deeply – or as Inc.com author Jacob Morgan asserts, “Before you can lead other people, you have to learn how to lead yourself.”

The Many Benefits of Self-Reflection

Leaders – or anyone who consciously engages in a practice of self-reflection – can expect to enjoy many benefits:

  • Stronger clarity and confidence when making decisions

  • More effective, productive communications with others

  • A deeper understanding of our thoughts, moods, and behaviors

  • Ability to tap into our highest potential with greater ease

  • A sense of groundedness and connection in work and life

As most leaders know all too well, it can be incredibly easy to get so caught up in the rapid pace of modern life with its seemingly endless parade of responsibilities that we put self-reflection on the back burner.

When this happens, we lose touch with ourselves and our ability to lead with authenticity.

Leadership strategies

It’s Time to Get BOLDLY Honest – With Ourselves.

When is the best time to practice self-reflection? That’s a question only you can answer, but here’s a great hint from Forbes contributor Naz Beheshti: “It is in the times where you feel that you cannot find enough time that reflection will prove most useful.

Self-reflection is all about getting radically honest with ourselves, getting clear on what our values are, and asking the right questions to provoke a deeper, inner contemplation. “Radical honesty would require us to stand fully in our truth,” suggests Beheshti.

There is no right or wrong time to engage in a practice of self-reflection. Rather, finding what works for you and doing it consistently is key.

Some people may find it most effective to self-reflect first thing in the morning, before the hectic pace of the day gets underway and a greater sense of clarity is present. Others may prefer to bring closure to a busy day with a quiet time of self-reflection before retiring for the evening.

Simple Self-Reflection Practices to Incorporate into Your Life

Need some inspiration to get started? Try any of these simple strategies to discover which ones most resonate with you…

1- Start a journal. Spending time in the solitude of self-reflection can be just the springboard we need to take effective action when we feel ready. And journaling is one of the best strategies we can use to increase our self-awareness. Do an entire brain dump or just scribble down a few thoughts – you might be surprised at the big insights you gain from this age-old practice.Self-reflection in leadership

2- Try a little gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just a feel-good strategy – it has proven benefits, backed by science. Consistent expressions of gratitude actually alter the molecular structure of our brains, enhancing our levels of both happiness and health. This is one simple practice you’ll want to make a part of your everyday life!

3- Ask questions. Indeed, self-reflection involves getting radically honest. When we take a step back from the constant activity of the day, we can ask deeper (and sometimes difficult) questions, like: What are my values? Did I live in alignment with them today? What is my “why”? What legacy do I want to leave as a leader?

4- Infuse self-care. Self-care isn’t self-indulgent; instead, it can become the foundation of a virtuous circle around you: the kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you will likely be to others. The more they receive kindness, the more they can give it to themselves and others. And so on. Think about it: it all starts with you.

Self-Reflection5- Challenge convention. If you’ve followed my blogs for any length of time, you know that I’m not afraid to go against the grain when the situation dictates. That’s where the whole “radically honest” part of self-reflection comes in. When we’re willing to “get real” with ourselves, we sometimes uncover things we were completely unaware of.

At times, the insights we receive as a result of self-reflection may surprise us. They may call for us to challenge conventional wisdom, to go against a common mindset. And that’s a wonderful thing!

It was John F. Kennedy who once said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

May we all integrate a strong practice of self-reflection into our daily lives so we too, can get BOLDLY honest, challenge convention, and lead with greater ease…and lasting impact.

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Self Care Strategies

7 Simple Self-Care Strategies for Leaders to Infuse Today

Self-care. The term has become so ubiquitous that many of us overlook just how important it really is. For leaders in particular, effectively infusing self-care practices into our daily lives can have a tremendously positive impact that radiates out into our world.

In order to create well-being in their workforce, leaders must create a culture where self-care is encouraged and enhanced. This is most effective when top leadership models the behavior they want to see in their organization.”

Monica Thakrar in Forbes

Without further ado, let’s get started with 7 easy self-care strategies to help you live – and lead – with a greater impact and deeper sense of fulfillment:

Self care for leaders#1 – Redefine what self-care means to you. Have you been holding on to a rigid definition of what self-care means? What is your personal concept of self-care? Self-care is so much more than sipping a cup of hot tea or enjoying yoga a few times each week. By challenging how we think of self-care, we open up to building a deeper connection to ourselves. Think of self-care from a whole perspective, encompassing physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

#2 – Infuse self-care into your everyday life. Too often, we put unneeded pressure on ourselves. Shift your focus for short periods from one of “must do” to “ahhh, simply be.” Notice the spacious feeling that arises from within when you loosen up for a little while. (Feels good, doesn’t it?) Taking these short breaks throughout our day can enliven our energy and help us to return to regular tasks with a sense of renewal and joy.

#3 – Keep company with supportive people. It may be a new concept to think of self-care as having anything to do with other people…but it does. HBR author Amy Jen Su calls healthy, supportive relationships a vital part of self-care. “Take notice of who feeds your energy and who drains it,” she suggests. Also become aware of the people in your life who nurture your soul and encourage growth. Which brings us to our next two important self-care strategies…

#4 – Set your boundaries and learn to say “no.” Cutting back on your obligations can help you lower your stress levels while boosting your confidence, too. Say “yes” to taking care of yourself and “no” to all the things in your life that are not serving your highest good. Need some easy pointers? Check out this helpful article on Psychology Today fittingly called 10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better.

#5- Stay accountable. Accountability is critical in all areas of leadership – and yes, even in self-care. Think about a time when you were working on an intense project. You were going to take that break … but did it happen? Or did you just push through without taking your own needs into consideration? It can be easy to neglect our own needs, which makes staying accountable to self-care key. Check in with yourself throughout the day.

Self Care Strategies#6 – Freshen your space. Have you ever noticed how our workspace seems to influence our mood and productivity? Your work area, asserts HBR author Amy Jen Su, “should feel like a reflection of your best self.” Truer words were never spoken. We all deserve a space to work and play that is free of excess clutter or energy that hinders our progress. Add special touches to your space, such as motivational images or small meaningful items that inspire positivity.

#7 – Inspire others to practice self-care. Leadership is all about the “we” – not the “me.” Two impactful things happen when we as leaders practice self-care. It’s often said that we cannot give from an empty cup; when we take care of our own needs, we’re better able to come back refreshed and energized – ready to share the best version of ourselves with the world. And the best part? We can then inspire others to enjoy the benefits of incorporating gentle self-care practices into their own lives. Think of it as a ripple effect of positivity…

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