As a productive, driven leader, you may not feel like there is enough time in your day to devote to self-care. You likely prioritize work and family, and you may not be carving out and protecting time to ensure that you are at your best.
You probably recognize the need for self-care and may continue to put it off, day after day, until you have procrastinated yourself into an even more frazzled state. Or maybe you’re of the mindset that now is your time to “grind,” and you can rest later.
When is later? Next week? Next month? Next year?
Honestly, I don’t think self-care should wait; it should be a priority.
Believe me, I understand the feeling of wanting to devote most of your time to your leadership role. The truth is that such devotion is unsustainable. Leaders who fail to take time for themselves burn out quickly, often feel overwhelmed and do not provide healthy examples for their people and the future leaders they should be focused on developing.
I think we can all agree that some amount of self-care is necessary for everyone. However, every individual is different, so what might work for you may not work as well for your counterpart in a different department or another organization. With that said, there are some basic aspects of self-care that can be adapted to any leader or situation.
For starters, your routine should involve a balanced approach that takes both your body and mind into account. I also recommend that it includes aspects of your social life, and I have some advice that you can apply to your specific situation.
First, I want to talk about the one thing that stands between you and a healthy self-care routine: Time.
Making the Most of Your Self-Care Time
The idea of self-care for leaders comes inside a tricky paradox: Leaders have the least amount of time available to devote to self-care and yet, they are often the people who require it most.
I would be surprised if this paradox doesn’t resonate with you. Most leaders I talk to are eager and excited to improve themselves and their skills, and they keep running into barriers imposed by their schedule.
The truth is that you may never get the extra time you think you need for self-care. So, it’s vitally important to make the most of the time you do have. Protect this time. Self-care is just as important as critical meetings or team initiatives in the workplace so please treat it as such.
Once you start looking after yourself on a more consistent basis, you can begin to integrate it into everything you do. Before you reach that point in your journey, you can improve your ability to stay fresh, rested and feeling good by taking advantage of the following tips.
#1 – Develop a Consistent Sleep Routine
When was the last time you experienced a truly great night of sleep? It’s been a while, right? For many leaders, a restful night of sleep is very difficult to find. For some, it seems impossible. That’s because most leaders and people in general do not prioritize it.
You can get better sleep, and you can experience it on a much more consistent basis by developing a routine.
That means no more staying up to burn the midnight oil, and it means no more forcing yourself to awaken before dawn so you can be the first one at the office.
Give yourself a nightly bedtime routine and schedule some wind-down time in the hours approaching that bedtime. Make it a habit by going to bed at approximately the same time every night. Ensure your wind-down time doesn’t include searching social media or finishing up last minute work tasks as that will fire you up.
Sleep is one of the major keys to overall well-being that many leaders simply overlook. My advice to you: Ignore it no more!
#2 – Move Your Body
Like sleep, exercise is another pillar of self-care and time tends to get in the way with this one too.
Again, I think it’s critically important to create routines around exercise. Turning it into a habit means you are more likely to stick with it and more likely to see the benefits you are looking for.
To give yourself the best chance of success, start small and take slow, deliberate steps to achieve your ultimate fitness goals. It’s not about having the perfect body, being able to lift a certain amount of weight or run a mile at a certain pace. Rather, it’s about making your physical health a priority.
The additional benefit is that when you build exercise into your self-care routine, you also make it easier to get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis. Plus, it will provide a boost to your overall energy levels.
#3 – Fill Your Tank With Better Fuel
Sometimes people pay more attention to what they put into their cars than they do their bodies. Leaders are no exception!
I like to think of food as fuel for the machine known as the human body. When you give the machine unhealthy fuel, you suffer and your body sputters. When you fill your tank with healthy whole foods and items that have been subject to a minimum of processing, you give the machine of your body an edge. It’s like trading in an old beater for a brand-new sports car!
#4 – Be Grateful
Psychologically speaking, there are few things more powerful than gratitude when it comes to practicing self-care.
Leaders are often focused on what’s not working or what needs to be changed. This mindset can create a negative mental state that increases stress and strain while zapping energy.
Practicing gratitude can stop this negative process in its tracks. When you take time to be grateful for things, you train your brain to see the world in a more constructive, realistic and healthy manner. You begin to operate from a place of inspiration and positive energy.
For tips to help you express your gratitude, try reading this blog post from Emergenetics®.
#5 – Just Say No
Here’s a little secret I wish more leaders were aware of: You don’t have to say “yes” to everything just because you are the leader and are in a position of influence.
One of the quickest ways to deteriorate your physical, emotional, spiritual and social states is to bite off more than you can chew. It’s okay to say “no” to things and it’s healthy to have boundaries. Your leadership will be more consistent, energized and inspiring when you practice discernment.
#6 – Spend Free Time the Way You Want to Spend It
I have spent time with countless leaders who felt like they needed permission to have fun or enjoy themselves. I have also spent time with leaders who have no idea how they like to spend their free time.
Don’t be the leader who devotes themselves so fully to work that you lose yourself in it.
I encourage you to focus on what you really enjoy in life. Determine what gives you joy, pleasure, richness and fulfilment in life. Then go do those things.
Your free time should be spent living life in the way that energizes you and gives meaning to your story.
How Do You Practice Self-Care?
Do you have any go-to self-care practices that work for you? Have you tried any of the tips I have listed here? I would love to know what you think, so please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.