Guest blog by Julie Gibbons, Associate Coach & Mentor with Spring

 

So here you are, feeling great about yourself. You’re 21 days into your new commitment of taking some ‘self care.’ That daily walk you gave yourself permission for and your daily 5 minute morning meditation are paying off. You’ve got more balance in life, making it home for dinner with your family at least 2 nights a week. You’ve also got so much more energy, you feel the change and benefit of daily movement in your body.  Your sleeping pattern is fantastic, you are in the habit of going to bed at the same time every night. Your relationships are feeling more connected, especially with your partner and family; everyone seems to be benefiting from you looking after yourself.

Wind the clock forward a few days and you are excited to have won that new client you’ve been chasing. With your new vitality and energy you get stuck into your work. Your team loves being around you, your energy is rubbing off on them, everyone has lots of ideas, creativity, drive and things are motoring.

Fast forward 4 weeks and you are starting to feel like crap..…again! Your team also seems less energised.

So what happened? Sound familiar? You started focusing your energy back ‘out there’ rather than staying connected and replenishing what’s ‘in here.’

Self care is a way of managing self awareness, stress and performance. A study by Janne Skakon and colleagues found that the way leaders cope with their own stress does have an impact on their employees’ which results in an impact on their work experience and stress levels. For me personally this resonates not only for organisations but also at home.

I’ve heard the analogy that most of us carry our bodies around like a rucksack. I see this not only in the workplace but also in my role as a yoga teacher. The problem with a rucksack is it’s on your back and when it feels light you forget it’s there. In addition, because you’ve forgotten it’s there, you forget to open it up and see what’s inside. In fact some of us don’t notice the rucksack at all until it becomes increasingly heavy, or painful, weighing us down.

Self awareness about our increasing need for self care is on the rise. However in a society and culture that is so outwardly focused, driven by tangible results or other people’s agendas we quickly devalue our self and forget how to care for our self. This doesn’t just have an impact on us individually, it impacts everyone we are connected to in all parts of our life.

Research by Jeff Greenhaus and Stewart D Friendman for their book “Work and Family – Allies or Enemies”, found that the more time a working mother spent taking care of themselves, the better were the emotional and physical health of their children.

As a working mother myself I have wrestled with this, especially the feeling of guilt to take time to go for a run, get on my yoga mat or meditate. However I also know that when I take just 30 minutes for ‘me time’ everyone seems to benefit from it, at home, at work and me as an individual.

If you choose not to look after yourself and put yourself first (and yes, it really is your choice), eventually your ability to perform at your best, help others, achieve your goals or whatever is important to you, will diminish.

When we are motoring around “being busy and successful” we lose time and space to connect to ourselves which is also an essential part of being self aware and having increased emotional intelligence. Psychologist and leadership writer Daniel Goleman says emotional intelligence has 4 main core components:

  1. Self awareness
  2. Self regulation
  3. Empathy
  4. Social skills

My own experience of training myself to invest in self care is so closely linked to improved self awareness I would say it is definitely an enabler for improving emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman goes as far as saying it is the ‘keystone’ of emotional intelligence.

So are you ready to look over your shoulder and delve into your rucksack? If you’ve not invested in yourself for sometime, be prepared that it might feel like meeting a stranger. You might feel numb. You might not know what you need.

There are some ideas below that might help you gently explore reconnecting with yourself.

You will have seen these all before, but I’ve included this list of seemingly obvious things, as a reminder of how remarkably small steps can combine to have far reaching improvements. Each of these can take as little as 5 or 10 minutes a day. Just make sure you are doing it for you and no one else!

  • Downloading a meditation app and meditate
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Having a conversation with a friend
  • Take regular short breaks at work – get up and move
  • Getting home to read the children a bedtime story
  • Taking a bath or a long shower
  • Journalling
  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Thinking about what you’re grateful for
  • Reading a book (yes, a paper book!)
  • Taking an exercise class
  • Going to bed 10 minutes earlier

Let us know your thoughts on this post or you may choose to share your self care commitments or tips in the comments below.

I hope this post inspires you to bring some conscious choice to your daily habits for living a more successful, happy and healthy life.