As leaders, we spend a lot of time thinking about other people. And that’s not a bad thing; that kind of care connects us to our followers and our communities so that we can better serve them. However, too much of any good thing can be a bad thing. When we spend a lot of our energy on others, we often forget to give energy back to ourselves. In the long run, this leaves our cup half empty and you can’t pour from an empty cup! This is what a lot of people refer to as ‘burn out’. When we feel burnt out, the work that we do feels less rewarding and more draining than it once did.
I’ve perfected the practice of overworking and have repeatedly found myself in this ‘burnt out’ place. But, I haven’t ever done much about it other than push through until I break free on the other side. That’s no way to work and that’s no way to live. And as I’ve shouldered more responsibility in my work and in my own life, I realized that taking care of myself wasn’t just a nice suggestion anymore, it was an absolute necessity. So, I learned me a thing or two about this mystical buzzword ‘self-care’ that I kept hearing tossed around.
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. It might seem obvious, but in today’s fast-paced world, I think that this idea is truly profound. I don’t know who said this, but they said it well, “Self care is always being there for ourselves, treating ourselves like we would someone we love, and making choices that increase our long-term emotional and physical health and sense of well-being.”
Self-care is very personal.
And as such, is different and unique for every person. What works for me, might not help you. This means that self-care requires personal reflection and exploration. Take the time to think about what is really important to you; what rejuvenates you, what fills your cup? This may be challenging, but don’t be disheartened. Trust the process and find motivation in knowing that you will find what works for you! Self-care isn’t something that anybody else can do for you. It’s up to you, yourself, to make the kinds of healthy choices that are really going to benefit your whole being. This kind of agency is powerful.
Self-care is not binge-watching Netflix.
It just doesn’t make the cut. As addicting as the new season of The Walking Dead may be, there are studies that show that binge-watching television is linked to depression (that’s the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish!). Self-indulgence is mindless, self-care on the other hand requires thoughtful and meaningful introspection. It might seem counter-intuitive that self-care requires more work, but the only way that you can really reap the rewards is if you commit to putting work into yourself. What do you hope to get out of your self-care? Less stress, more focus, motivation, inspiration? Once you know your desired outcome you can make choices that will get you there.
It’s a learned skill that takes practice and dedication.
Self-care isn’t something that is taught to us, even though it totally should be. Modern education focuses so much on our cognition and intellectual performance that our holistic well-being is often neglected. I had never heard of ‘self care’ until I was in college! Granted, people had been telling me my whole life that I needed to take better care of me, myself, and I, but I never had a word for it. Even when I did, I didn’t all of a sudden magically have the skills I needed to be ‘good’ at self-care. Like riding a bike or public speaking, self-care is something that must be practiced. And that means making it part of your daily habits and routines.
The little things matter most.
Self-care doesn’t have to be huge elaborate acts, it can be just as important and impactful (if not more so) in tiny habits that you practice every day. I’ve found that often my biggest excuse when it comes to self-care is that ‘I don’t have the time’. It’s a phrase that I overuse, and if I’m really honest with myself, it’s just not true. We choose very intentionally how we use our time, and we have the ability to make different choices that are better for our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Instead of spending fifteen minutes on Facebook or Pinterest, I can unplug and use that time to read a chapter of a book (just for fun!), stretch, tidy up or declutter, snuggle with a pet, write in a journal, or soak up some sun! I have to want to make these kinds of life choices for them to become a reality. That means no excuses just conscious, effortful, decision-making. Choose YOU!
Self-care should be a priority.
We practice self-care because we are worth it. Self-care isn’t selfish. Give yourself permission to be a priority in your own life. Stephen Covey said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is to have a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” Do away with any guilt or excuses that may interfere with your ability to really commit yourself to the process. And then, intentionally build self-care into your life. Hold yourself accountable to these practices, and celebrate the changes to your quality of life as you do!
It’s all about balance.
There is a huge difference between practicing self-care and being self-serving. The time you take to care for yourself should re-energize you and motivate you to serve others. If you are acting solely in your own self-interest then you will find yourself distanced further and further from your followers and your communities. It’s important to find a healthy balance between caring for yourself and caring for others. This balance will keep you aligned with your hopes, values, and goals so that you can accomplish all of the wonderful things that you have envisioned.
Create your own 21-Day Self-Care Challenge:
- What fills your cup? Make sure to find things that address your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
- Be reasonable; choose activities that are realistic for your lifestyle.
- Put them on the calendar, hold yourself accountable, and have fun with it!
- Tell us how you feel after 21 Days!
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.