Today I was scheduled to lead a session on “Effective Self Care for Today’s Women Leaders” at United Way’s Women’s Leadership Summit. While the Summit has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the need for self-care has never been more acute in a COVID-19 world. Here are six practical and effective tips for self-care:
1. Nobody is “too busy.”
One of the most common things I hear from self-care skeptics is that self-care is an indulgence they just don’t have time for. As I tell my clients, you don’t pay me to sugar coat it for you, you pay me to keep you honest, so hear me when I say this: nobody is too busy for self-care. While how we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually is a deeply personal experience, one thing is universal: self-care is a conduit to your best performance. Sure it takes some time, but just like investing in the stock market, you have to pony up some cash upfront to purchase the stocks. When you make the right investments, however, it pays a dividend.
2. Reframe self-care as an act of service, both to yourself and to others.
There is a famous teaching in Judaism:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?” — RABBI HILLEL
Taking care of ourselves isn’t a personal indulgence, it’s part of our duty to show up for others in a meaningful and authentic way. Whether you are a leader making some of the most difficult decisions of your career right now or a working parent trying to keep your work going while your children are home, now is not the time to sell self-care short. We are going to be living in a COVID-19 world for the foreseeable future and we cannot afford to have our leaders or working parents burn out right now.
Here’s a secret I will share from my coaching practice: the most successful and senior executives I work with do not short change their self-care and they understand the fundamental impact it has on their teams and family. With the most responsibility and stress, they are also often the most committed to their self-care routines and rituals.
3. Everyone has 60 seconds to spare.
To debunk the corporate “I don’t have time” myth, Dr. Ashley Whillians and her colleagues at Harvard Business School studied call center employees; individuals they identified as having the epitome of a job where performance is measured quantitatively by time. The workers who took 30 – 60 second breaks in between calls — what Whillians and team called “self-care micro moments” — had both the highest performance ratings from customers and the highest job satisfaction ratings. Proof again that self care is a conduit to performance and an act of service to ourselves and our teams.
4. Put it on your calendar.
Amidst all the conference calls and virtual meetings, can you schedule a meeting with yourself? One of my favorite insights from Whillians is this truth bomb:
“How we spend our time signals everything we care about”
Putting your self-care on your calendar, just like you do all of your work and family commitments, signals that you are making it a priority. You are making yourself a priority.
It also makes those self-care activities more likely to come to fruition. One trick I use to keep myself on track is looking at my calendar every Sunday night and making sure I have time to exercise daily during the coming week. It takes about 15 seconds and gives me enough advanced notice on my schedule to calendar it in before my schedule gets too jammed.
5. Get actionable.
As my dad would say: “Less talking, more walking.” It’s great to have a plan on paper, but how do you make it actionable? One tip I recommend is choosing one thing in your life you will say “no” to and one thing you will say “yes” to every single day to take care of yourself. Try doing this exercise each morning and actually writing it down: they can be small things like “no, I will not fold laundry today” to make 15 minutes for something else. They can also be bigger commitments like “yes, I will sign up for a Coursera class on Spanish” because, remember, intellectual self-care is self-care too.
6. Emotional self-care is more important than ever.
One thing I’m watching closely in a COVID-19 world is what I see bubbling up as a secondary health crisis: This kind of uncertainty and seclusion can be triggering for anybody with a history of depression, anxiety or addiction. Nearly 10% of Americans have some sort of substance abuse issue and nearly 20% of the population suffers from anxiety. Prioritize things that keep you calm and centered whether it’s a walk, starting your morning with your favorite song, yoga and meditation, or just moderating your news and social media intake.
I can think of no other time when self care has been more urgent than in a COVID19 world. Remember: this is not an indulgence, it’s an imperative.
Randi Braun is a coach, consultant, speaker, and the Founder of Something Major.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.
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