Leader: It’s Time to Double Down on Self-Care

If a full year of traversing the fog of pandemic has left you drained of energy and filled with stress, you are not alone. According to a recent study by Oracle Corp. and Workplace Intelligence, 70 percent of the global workforce said the past 12 months had been the most stressful period of their lives. A Limeade Institute survey indicated that 72 percent of workers are experiencing burnout.

Although lower case numbers and increased vaccine availability offer hope that the crisis is nearing the end, the pandemic’s finish line is still an elusive target. On some days, you feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. On other days, it’s more like one step forward and two steps back.

Even as you get closer to some semblance of normal, there will be re-entry pains. The next normal will include new restrictions and limitations, at least for a while. And chances are, your pre-pandemic life wasn’t exactly stress-free, either. Limeade Institute reported employee burnout rates at 42 percent before the COVID outbreak.

These factors make it a perfect time for you to double down on self-care, both for your own sake and for the sake of the people you lead.

You can’t draw water from an empty well

In my work with clients, I often share an example of drawing water from a well. If you don’t prime the pump, the water stops flowing, and the basin dries out. There’s no water left to refresh yourself or others.

The same is true of self-care. It’s easy for constant deadlines and projects to get in the way of this crucial discipline. Once you stop, though, your well eventually runs dry—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Your ability to lead will also run dry. The best leaders recognize this danger and protect their self-care practices. They block time on their calendars, set reminders, and find accountability partners to keep themselves on track.

Over the past year, three standard self-care practices have emerged: eating right, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. These three practices are certainly foundational and should be part of every leader’s routine—all the time. The following section offers additional suggestions to help you prime the pump and freshen up your self-care practices.

Pursue off-screen hobbies

It wasn’t long into the pandemic before the term “Zoom fatigue” entered the vernacular. Social scientists identified numerous reasons behind the energy drain caused by virtual meetings on the namesake’s platform, and Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and others. Beyond virtual meetings, the shift to remote work led to substantially more screen time for many workers.

Take regular screen breaks by devoting time to analog, rather than digital, hobbies (sorry, playing video games, perusing social media, and watching cat videos don’t count). While facilitating a recent webinar, I asked participants to share their self-care hobbies. Here are some of their responses:

  • Working on cars
  • Cooking and baking
  • Salsa dancing
  • Meditation
  • Gardening
  • Horseback riding
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Putting puzzles together
  • Wood carving
  • Reading books
  • Daily gratitude

Use this list to get your creative juices flowing and add your own ideas to the mix. Freshen up your routines and try something new. Who knows, you might gain a new hobby to enjoy well beyond the pandemic!

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