Self-care is not a luxury
Now more than ever it feels like we are hearing – and more importantly caring – about personal wellbeing and in particular trying to get this ‘life/work balance’ right. Since Coronavirus swept the world in a Global pandemic in early 2020, organisations have had to become more agile in the way they run their business.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
It was quite incredible to see how quickly we were able to adapt to new ways of working, with lots of people starting to prioritise more self care, often linked to the fact they were spending less time travelling so they could use those precious commuter minutes (or hours) focused elsewhere. But that isn’t true of everybody. Some people, whilst initially appreciating the new flexibility in their working day, went on to blur the boundaries between work and home, and might now be feeling under more pressure than ever to perform whilst being/feeling less productive, and end up working more hours – I have been guilty of this at times for sure! There are of course still those people (and organisations) who haven’t changed at all, with their unrealistic expectations on themselves (or their employees) and where burnout is just around the corner.
Recently we are seeing social posts of these seemingly self aware humans who have ‘quit their job to take time off so they can reset and prioritise their well-being’. Kudos to you if you have been able to make that decision for yourself but we know that social media is only one version of reality, and for some this isn’t actually a choice, but a necessity.
Your health and well-being absolutely should be your number one priority, and I imagine there are many people who are not at breaking point and feel as though quitting their job could perhaps add to their anxiety rather than reduce it. It got me to thinking (and also inspired by Paul Brewerton’s habit tracking thought piece), what are the small, yet mighty, things that anyone can do to prioritise their well-being?
Here are my top five:
Breathing slowly reduces the demand for oxygen, slows our heart rate, and the brain will receive a message that we can relax. As humans of course we instinctively breathe, but to get the most from this simple unconscious action we must bring awareness to our breath. I suggest setting a reminder in your calendar a couple of times a day to drop your shoulders, and for just 90 seconds, focus on your breathing. 3 second inhale through the nostrils, 6 second exhale out your mouth. Do it 10 times. I bet you just did one – and feel better already!
Get some fresh air
Working alone has been known to lead to fewer breaks, less opportunities to stand up and have a natter round the kettle, or just take a walk round the block. Being indoors can lead to fatigue because of the lack of air circulation and studies by Rochester University have shown that just 20 minutes outside in nature a day is enough to significantly boost vitality levels, so block out your lunch break and get outside.
Talk to someone
Talk to a friend or loved one, a colleague or manager. Sharing your challenges can not only ease the load but also bring fresh ideas on how to tackle them. Your friend might not realise that you really need someone to check in on you every now and again, or your manager might recognise that you would benefit from some additional support – it’s not weak to ask for help!
Brené Brown says ““Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” Self- care and wellbeing start with YOU. So what are those unhealthy habits that you can set boundaries for (and stick to)? One work related example might be:
‘Stop work at 5.30pm by shutting down device, and set quiet time on work apps so I am not ‘pinged’ outside my working hours’
Spend more time on the things you love
I know I know – you don’t have any more time! Well for a few that might be true, in which case I would suggest you look at point 4 and see if setting some boundaries can address this, and for everyone else perhaps you reduce the doom scrolling social media and focus your energy elsewhere – audio books, cooking, painting, exercise, meditation… ask yourself the question, what makes you feel good, just for you? How can you do more of it? For more on this topic take a look at our Find your joy thought piece.
To those who are already prioritising self care, well done! Keep it up, and share more of what you are doing so others can be inspired. Many of you might already be doing some / all of these things, and hopefully this serves as a helpful reminder to check in that you are still making time for yourself.