27 September 2023

Prioritising self-care starts with you

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Dan Schawbel* says that in today’s workplace environment, leaders who set an example of self-care are giving a valuable lesson to team members.

‘Self-care’ is one of those phrases that is on everyone’s lips these days, but the concept isn’t well understood.

It’s not selfish or self-centred to prioritise your wellbeing.

Self-care is also not a luxury.

When you take care of yourself, you feel positive, you can do your job, and you help others on the team feel better too.

Think of self-care as a way of showing others that you respect them enough to show up to work with your best face forward.

When you take the extra effort to function at your best, it encourages others to do the same.

Self-care is a win-win for you, your team, and your organisation.

However, while many leaders acknowledge the importance of self-care, it can be challenging to know where to begin.

Sometimes that’s because leaders have put others first for so long that they don’t even consider their own wellbeing a priority anymore.

Other times, leaders get around to caring for themselves only after they start to feel the effects of burnout.

However, self-care works better when you’re proactive about it, and the great news is that it doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

This year many managers are feeling more burned out than ever, and they’ve experienced steeper declines in engagement than their employees.

So it’s important that wellbeing regains its status as a top priority.

There are numerous benefits you can look forward to when you do this — so let’s take a look.

Self-care rituals set you up for a more productive day.

Creating a morning routine allows you to begin each day with a positive attitude, feeling in control.

Some leaders I’ve spoken with like to exercise or read, while others do a bit of meditation.

Meanwhile, an end-of-day routine focusing on relaxing activities can help you sleep better.

These rituals will vary from person to person, but the important thing is to create a routine that works for you and stick with it.

Self-care makes you feel happier, and happiness is contagious.

Self-care is a proven way to regulate your emotions and keep negative feelings in check.

This is important because emotions are catching.

Those around you can pick up on how you’re feeling, even across a computer screen.

If you consistently ignore your own wellbeing and are exhausted, stressed, or frustrated, your team members will surely pick up on this.

If you’re refreshed and energised, they’ll absorb your positive attitude and apply it in their own lives.

Self-care helps you relate to your team’s struggles.

When you prioritise self-care, you’re admitting that there are areas of your wellbeing you’d like to improve.

This helps you become a more empathetic leader — someone who truly understands your team members’ struggles.

In fact, acknowledging your own vulnerability will help your team members not just look up to you, but relate to you better.

Remember, workers trust authentic leaders who can admit their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

Self-care can help you make better decisions.

Self-care helps mitigate stress, which is critical — especially for leaders.

While a little bit of short-term stress can add adrenalin and help pump you up for an important meeting, chronic stress can impact your cognition and make it harder to make clear-headed decisions.

When you manage your stress through exercise or other anxiety-reducers like meditation, you’ll be able to think clearly again.

Even micro-breaks throughout the day can act as stress reducers.

Self-care puts you in touch with what’s really important.

Focusing on your wellbeing helps put you back in touch with your core values.

No one should be focused on work all the time — this isn’t just unhealthy, it means you’re probably ignoring family, friends, hobbies, and other priorities that make up who you really are.

Taking time for self-care can give you a new perspective by reminding you to check in with yourself.

It’s about making sure you have the time and energy for what matters to you outside of work.

Modelling self-care makes it easier for others to invest in their wellbeing.

When leaders talk about and prioritise their wellbeing — especially their mental health — it makes it okay for everyone on the team to put energy toward this.

That’s where real progress can begin, which is critical since 52 per cent of employees feel burned out right now.

So don’t be afraid to tell your teams how you’re incorporating self-care into your life and why this is benefiting you.

They’ll get a clear message that this should be a priority for them as well.

*Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future.

This article is part of his Workplace Intelligence Weekly series.

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