Amazing that Summer is upon us and half of the year has gone by. For some, it is has flown by and for others, it has crept. Either way, now is a good time to take a reality check on how you are doing with the whole idea of taking care of yourself.
Self-care is a hot topic. Almost all of my coaching clients, including high performing lawyers, executives, entrepreneurs and individuals who want to live more purposefully, address this issue and their ability, or lack thereof, to focus on self-care and its impact on their performance. Frequently, the level of focus is low and the stress is high; even though the understanding of the importance of self-care and the desire to be more effective at taking care of one’s self is well known. Let’s look at ways to incorporate this crucial action into your life.
Let’s look at ways to incorporate this crucial action into your life.
Start with the awareness.
Self-care shows up in several forms: Urgent, Restorative, Preventative, or Ongoing. Often, the Urgent category is the required precursor to making a change in behaviors and habits that get you to shift your focus to taking care of your health and wellbeing (mental, physical and spiritual). Relying on urgency is not the most beneficial approach. When this happens, the Restorative category is critical for getting back on track, but too often, you find when you get out of the immediacy of needing urgent care, you jump right back on the habitual road of ignoring what is needed for your health. Sound familiar? A better approach is to adopt the other two categories, Preventative and Ongoing, so that you don’t find yourself thrown back into a draining, exhaustive state of being.
While this seems like common sense, it is not common practice. Why? There are many factors that play into the phenomenon of ignoring self-care. Busy schedules, tight deadlines, client demands and family needs are obvious factors. But, let’s look at ways we approach these things, which is the main reason for burnout.
Guilt is a useless feeling much of the time. True guilt or remorse for doing something clearly wrong is one thing, and taking care of yourself and, if applicable, your family, is not wrong. This is an important concept to remember. Unnecessary guilt stems from fear and creates anxiety, which adds to the stress and the frustration and the exhaustion. It becomes a vicious cycle of negativity and does not lead to pausing, having a reality check and shifting into a different mindset.
Judgment and Comparison
Both are evident by the endless chatter in your head, either placing judgment on someone else, or on yourself. In both situations, focusing on what is within your control is important. You cannot control another’s behavior or approach to a situation. You can control yours, but, you have to be aware when you are obsessing over internal messages such as limiting beliefs, assumptions, interpretations or the voice of your inner critic which keep you in a negative feedback loop. Often, when your mind is caught in one or more of these patterns, you begin comparing yourself to others or other situations and that only fuels the fire of stress and discontent that leads to ignoring any need for self-care. Remember, there is no one like you. You have obtained the level of your career because of what you have accomplished and what you bring to the table, and if you want to continue growing rather than being stuck in patterns that hold you back, it is crucial to let go of these negative messages. The very idea of the importance of taking care of what you need to do to be healthy is not going to carry any weight or get any traction when these other unhelpful thoughts are polluting your wellbeing. Each one robs you of peace of mind, energy and the ability to be at your best.
Pain and Fear
The old adage “pain is inevitable; suffering is a choice” holds a lot of truth. You have the ability to choose how you will respond to any situation. Guilt, judgment and comparison all feed into suffering. Awareness that this is a response you have chosen is important. Once you have attained that level of awareness, consider the following:
- What can I do to get support for needed self-care? This is where a personal board of directors comes in handy. Have people on “your team” you can call on to assist you. These individuals may be in your workplace or in your home environment. Having support in place for when a need arises is extremely valuable. With support, you can get assistance, understanding, strategies that help manage through challenging situations and give you the ability to more calmly address priorities. We all need support but often are reluctant to ask for help, which does no one any good. If fear is the reason you won’t ask for assistance, you must figure out what the fear is and address it, and then as a wise colleague of mine says, “Let that s#!* go.” It is not serving you or anyone else, when it comes to being at your best.
- Set a strategy for getting what you need in order to take care of the situation. This applies to Preventative and Ongoing self-care. Determine what you need and the time you believe you need assistance; some time off; or ongoing healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercise, healthy eating, and personal time, which are all important. Then, if you need to adjust the length of time, or the schedule, you can do so – but don’t write it off as “not doable” and go back to neglecting your needs. Having a plan helps you manage your time, your care and your sanity.
I recently had major back surgery and have been recuperating with some pretty strong physical restrictions. I can tell you for a fact that I exercised these tips to help me focus on how to honor what is needed to fully recuperate and have peace of mind. I have not always been someone who can sit still and not be constantly “doing.” Building awareness of how the little messages in my head played out and including a practice of mindfulness and meditation are two priceless approaches to healing and health.
I hope you will thoughtfully look at how ready you are to care for yourself as needed and take steps to understand the value of self-care so that you can be at your best, be more joyful and content. The choice is yours. What will you choose?