The Importance of Self-Care in Today’s Business World

The Importance of Self-Care in Today’s Business World

Is the importance of self-care a challenge for you?  What about other business leaders? A senior manager at a small company recently reached out to me because he felt overwhelmed by work and had recently received feedback from a team member that he seemed to be walking with the “weight of the world” on his shoulders.  Before I gave him advice, I wanted to understand the source.  After a long dialogue about his current work environment, it became clear that his stress was the result of the trickle-down effect from his CEO, who also seemed to be overwhelmed and stressed with pressure to deliver business results.  Recently the CEO had been short, abrupt and negative in meetings and personal interactions.  This started to cascade to the other leaders in the organization.  Previously, the CEO had led with a positive, confident and engaging style despite the mounting obstacles.  The CEO believed the organization had the right people and strategy, and while they had a difficult mission in front of them, he exuded a belief they would reach it.  Now it seemed that continuous pursuit of their mission had taken its toll and worn down the leadership, making them less effective. The importance of self-care was definitely not a priority for the organization’s leadership and it was taking a toll on morale.

This story does not have to be about someone at the senior management level or CEO level.  It can happen to a leader at any level.  It could be a stay-at-home mom managing a household, a Production Team Leader working overtime to get equipment up and running, a Sales Representative trying to hit a sales goal that she missed last quarter, and the list could go on.  Most leaders are Type A, meaning when they get in the situation when the “chips are down”, they work harder, “spin the wheel faster”, demand more from others.  Without some self-care, this can lead to burnout.  The problem is that rarely will someone walk up to you and say, “Hey, I noticed you seemed stressed.  Tomorrow, I think you should take some extra time for yourself and exercise, eat healthier, watch a movie with your spouse and take the following week off.”

Each of us alone is responsible for not losing sight of the importance of self-care.  Listed below are some ideas that people have shared with me on the topic of avoiding burnout and actively taking care of YOU.

  1. Exercise regularly. This is easy in the military where physical training is mandatory. Too bad it is not mandatory in the business world.  Endurance is a direct function of physical conditioning, and exercise is also a great way to stay mentally conditioned.  Even after a blistering workday, there is something very uplifting about getting up early and putting in a good workout.  It makes it easier to tackle another day.
  2. Eat for performance. Coffee, processed sugars, and diets laced with carbohydrates and fast food might make you feel good while you eat, but they put your body through an energy roller coaster that ultimately leads to physical fatigue. Physical fatigue over time can wear down even the strongest mental attitude.  Watch what you eat.  Exercise and good diet habits help maintain self-esteem, physical endurance, and mental outlook.
  3. Smile, say “Hello” and “Thank you”. Take the focus off of yourself for a bit. When you walk down the hallway, smile and greet people.  When someone on your team does a job well, thank them.  Write a note or send an email.  These are positive actions that will lift up others as well as yourself.
  4. Look for the Small Wins. A good way to endure a steady stream of challenges is to look for the Small Wins. One or two victories in a day can make up for dozens of setbacks, but you have to be conscious and look for them.  They can be personal and/or work-related.  The Small Win doesn’t always have to directly relate to you, but maybe it’s someone on your team you can celebrate with.  Few, if any, brick walls come pre-assembled.  Instead, they are built by laying one brick at a time.  Over time, those Small Wins will add up.
  5. Read good books. Read broadly, not just leadership and self-help books. When was the last time you picked up a good fiction book?  Something you could escape to while you were on the plane or for a few minutes at night?  How about biographies and autobiographies?  You will quickly realize you are not the only person with what seemed like insurmountable challenges.
  6. Have a hobby or two. I have to admit that with work and 4 children at home, I did not really have a hobby. I argued I didn’t have time for one.  My wife pointed out that I do better when I look forward to something.  When I go on vacation, I love to paddle anything (a standup paddleboard, kayak or a canoe).  So, I bought some kayaks.  I don’t get out every weekend, but about every 6 weeks I’ll set out with friends, family or myself. Now with two children out of the house, I’ve even taken up golf!  These activities and looking forward to them act as a balm to soothe the tough mid-week days.
  7. Compartmentalize. You may just have to leave work problems at work. Easy to say but hard to do.  I would suggest scheduling in time for fun, turning off the phone and email for a period of time, watching a movie and/or going for a walk.

Energy, passion, positive attitude, creativity, mental agility — these are characteristics of great leaders.  They are also the first things to fly out the window when a person experiences burnout.  The harder your work schedule and pressures, the more you need to manage burnout.  Ignoring this in a high tempo work situation can cause you to spiral out of control.  Take personal responsibility and don’t lose sight of the importance of self-care.  Your family, friends, team members – and your future depend on it!