It seems like self-care tips are everywhere lately--and that's a good thing, especially for people like me. Since my childhood, I've been an independent spirit. This has led to a lot of positives, like graduating college at 18 and starting my own company. It can also be a huge downfall, particularly when it comes to taking care for myself.
As leaders, it can be difficult for us to afford ourselves self-care. But doing so not only improves our own mental health, but can help us take better care of our employees and loved ones, too. Thankfully, September is National Self-Care Awareness Month, so it's the perfect time to learn some easy ways to practice self-care. Take these five tips into the next month, and watch your energy, productivity, and wellness soar:
1. Unpack It
First things first, figure out what's causing you stress in your life--you can't solve a problem without identifying it. I like to write down the things that are stressing me out; seeing them on paper makes them feel more manageable.
When doing this, try to go beyond the vague ("I have a lot of projects on my plate") and get more specific. Dig deeper, until you can get to the root of the issue. Maybe a client has been giving you a hard time, or your deadline is unrealistic. The more you can pinpoint an issue, the better your game plan for solving it can be.
2. Put. The Phone. Down.
How many times a week do you hear this advice, from friends, family, Twitter and Instagram? Probably more than you can count,. But how often do you actually take it?
I'm definitely guilty of always wanting to be "on," and no one can master the art of unplugging in a day. So start small--try to not check your e-mail during your commute, or turn your phone on airplane mode for one meal. Realistically, you probably can't do this every day, but doing so every now and then will help ground you and remind you that usually, work can wait.
3. Ask For Help
Believe it or not, self-care isn't a one-person show. Sometimes, it requires outside resources, whether that be a friend or a colleague. I have difficulty with this, too, but it's important to remember that being a leader means knowing when to ask for help.
If you need an extra set of eyes to look over a deck, speak up. Loop in a trusted colleague if you need backup going into an investor meeting. Call a friend and ask to grab dinner so you can take your mind off work for a couple of hours. It's a team effort.
4. Keep In Touch
With your body, that is. While self-care is often thought of in terms of mental health, it often requires active steps toward physical health, too. And honestly, it's time we stop glamorizing sacrifices to our physical well-being.
Try your hardest to get eight hours of sleep (for some of us, this will require cutting the late-night e-mails--I'm working on it, and you can, too). Invest in a reusable water bottle and hydrate. Eat three square meals, and if you're often on the go, keep healthy snacks with you. Squeeze some physical activity in, whether it's walking to grab lunch or hitting the gym after work. Taking care of your body's most basic needs will allow you to focus on more pressing matters in your work and personal life.
5. Say "No"
There's a lot of pressure on leaders to be "yes" people. The assumption is often made that we got to where we are by only saying yes. And while certain opportunities feel like they could make or break a career, many of them won't, which means it's okay to say "no" to something if you're not feeling up to it.
Sometimes, this requires some deeper thought, or a list of pros and cons. But don't be afraid to trust your gut--if something just doesn't feel right to me, or I'm not feeling up to it, I say "no" and move on. It can really be that simple.
It's cyclical; the more you take care of yourself, the better you will know yourself, and the better you know yourself, the better you can care for yourself.