What does self-care mean to you?
If you think self-care means putting yourself first, at the detriment of others, think again. Self-care means taking care of your needs so that you can feel your best and be your best when you are of service to others. If you are exhausted, hungry, stressed, or unwell in any way, you can’t do for others nearly as much as you would if you were feeling better. Ignoring your needs may work short-term but it’s not sustainable.
Self-care isn’t the easiest choice
If at the end of a long work day you relax by having some wine and eating snacks while watching television, you may experience a sense of relief, but you are not taking care of yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking a break from responsibilities and doing something easy and pleasurable once in a while but if it happens every night, it’s avoidance, not self-care.
Self-care requires organization and self-discipline. For many people, it’s far easier to sacrifice their well-being and go do something for someone else than to take care of their own needs. Helping others offers an instant reward (e.g. feeling good about yourself). Self-sacrifice is also a way to hide from what we don’t want to see, such as weight gain or failure of follow-through on New Year’s resolutions.
Taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs
To become the best leader you can be, and inspire others, you need to take care of all of your needs. I suggest you start with your body. Write down what you want to do regarding diet, hydration, sleep, relaxation, and exercise. There is no cookie-cutter solution. Choose what you know is appropriate for you. Don’t try to implement monumental changes overnight. Start with reasonable goals.
Next, ask yourself what you need to feed yourself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. What makes you happy? What brings you peace? What gives you a sense of purpose? Maybe you need to spend more time with your family, or play with your pets, or paint, or read, or write, or simply spend quality time with your friends. Or maybe you need to clean your house because the clutter is driving you crazy. Or maybe you need to avoid certain people that suck the joy out of life.
Schedule your self-care activities and get organized
It is critical that you schedule the activities you have chosen, because if you wait until you have spare time and you are in the mood, not much will change. If you decide to meditate, go to the gym, or take a class, schedule it and treat it as a “non-negotiable” activity. Otherwise, you may try to rationalize why it’s ok to postpone it or to avoid it altogether. Don’t give yourself an out. It will take self-discipline at first (changing habits always does) but it will bring you so much joy in a few days or weeks that you will no longer be tempted to cancel it.
Make sure to think about what it will take to accomplish your new self-care goals. For example, if you choose to stop eating processed foods, you will need to plan your meals ahead of time, go grocery shopping, and make time to cook. It will be so worth it! Or if your goal is to get eight hours of sleep at night, you will have to give yourself a non-negotiable bed time. And it will be worth it too!
How to motivate yourself
Now that we have established that self-care isn’t over-indulging with chocolate or wine, or spending Sundays in your pajamas watching TV, it may feel a bit intimidating. If you think of it as more obligations to do what you don’t want to do, you won’t follow-through. To motivate yourself, you need to remind yourself of your purpose!
You want to take care of your needs so that you can feel better, function better, and have more to offer people. It is time to get rid of chronic fatigue, foggy brain, anxiety, and aches and pains in your body. For most people, the discomfort associated with changing old habits is nothing compared to the discomfort they feel everyday because their needs are neglected.
Have you noticed how it seems easier to care for a loved one than for yourself? Why do you think you are quick to deny yourself what you wouldn’t deny someone else? It may be because helping others brings instant gratification and has more meaning to you. Doing something for someone is an act of love whereas doing something for yourself may seem unnecessary. So please, keep reminding yourself of what you want and why you need to take better care of yourself. Others depend on it too!
Re-connect with yourself
If in the past you’ve felt guilty for taking care of yourself, your life probably revolves around everybody else’s needs. It is a beautiful thing to love and to be generous but you don’t need to lose yourself in the process. When I ask people what they are passionate about, what they do for fun, or what gets them out of bed in the morning, they don’t always know. The weight of responsibilities is so heavy that it leaves them no time at all for self-reflection.
It’s time to get re-acquainted with yourself. Start journaling! Ask yourself what your heart desires. It may feel selfish at first, but it isn’t. Once you give yourself the attention you need, you will be able to feel more appreciation for yourself, remind yourself of your passions and interests, and get back the glow and joy you lost when you became overworked.
Who do you know that you would describe as magnetic? It is usually people who are completely at peace with who they are, who practice appreciation and gratitude daily, and who have a strong sense of purpose. It is never the over-worked, stressed out, and tense administrator down the hall. Choose who you want to be.
And remember, self-care is not self-indulgence, in fact, it’s self-indulgent to neglect self-care. Putting yourself last isn’t honorable, it’s lazy! You deserve better than that. Let’s team up to make this process easier for you. Now is the time to take better care of your needs so that you can take better care of other people’s needs too! Click here to schedule a complimentary call with me. Talk to you soon!
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, and online courses. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.