As busy leaders, the demands of our professional lives often take precedence, leaving little time for self-care. However, prioritizing our well-being is essential to avoid burnout and achieve sustainable success.
The typical reactive self-care suggestions (take a long bath, meditate, practice mindfulness, buy a candle, etc. ALL of which I’ve recommended countless times; they do have their place) can feel overwhelming and add to the pressure of not doing enough. As in, “Do I have time to add a workout? How can I meditate when I can’t even pause my racing thoughts for a second?” The goal of these recommendations isn’t to make you feel like there’s yet another thing on your plate that you can’t do well enough.
On the other hand, a deeper model of self-care offers a longer-term, proactive approach. In this article, I’ll explore research-backed strategies for a new, hybrid approach to self-care that goes beyond surface-level practices, helping busy and overwhelmed executives to thrive in their personal and professional lives.
Let’s Begin with Setting Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries is essential in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Learn to identify your limits and communicate them effectively. Note that I said “limits” and not “limitations.” Oftentimes we talk about limits as if they’re the same as limitations and they’re simply not the same thing. Limitations are about what you are capable of (and what you’re not). Limits are about setting boundaries and building an awareness that you can’t say yes to everything. Delegate tasks where possible and practice saying no when necessary. By creating and respecting your own boundaries, you allow yourself the space and time to prioritize self-care and ensure work does not consume every aspect of your life.
Overcoming Guilt and Perfectionism
Many executives suffer from guilt and perfectionism, constantly feeling the need to perform at an unrealistic level. As I tell my clients, “Perfectionism is where high standards and self-worth collide.” Perfectionism, generally, is when you try to meet impossibly high standards because you believe that being perfect is what makes you worthy. Except…perfection is impossible. It’s something you’re chasing that you’ll never be able to catch.
To cultivate deep self-care, it is important to learn how to let go of guilt and embrace self-compassion. You must learn that it is okay to make mistakes and that your self-worth is not tied to external achievements. Practice self-forgiveness and be kind to yourself, allowing room for growth and learning.
The inner critic can be a constant voice undermining our confidence and self-worth. To foster deep self-care, challenge and reframe negative self-talk. Ask yourself, “Is this thing I’m hearing in my head really true?” Develop a compassionate inner dialogue that recognizes your accomplishments, strengths, and efforts. Seek support from mentors, coaches, or therapists to gain perspective and guidance in dealing with imposter syndrome and building a healthy sense of self-worth.
Attending to Your Mental Well-Being
Prioritize your mental well-being as a cornerstone of deep self-care. You can engage in regular self-reflection through practices like journaling, mindfulness, or therapy, but don’t feel limited to things that take the kind of time that journaling and therapy do. You can cultivate a great deal of self-awareness by paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and triggers. Actively address any underlying issues or unresolved emotions that may hinder your overall well-being.
Connecting with Your Physical Body
To achieve a holistic approach to self-care, it is important to connect with your physical body. When you can, engage in physical activities that promote both physical and mental well-being, such as yoga and tai chi. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep are critical components of deep self-care, providing the energy, resilience, and clarity needed for your demanding role. Plus, when you become more connected to your body, you’ll be better equipped to attend to the notifications your body sends you in times of stress.
Giving Yourself Permission to Rest
In our fast-paced world, rest is often undervalued or deemed unproductive. However, rest is integral to deep self-care. Permit yourself to rest without guilt or hesitation. Schedule downtime to relax, recharge, and engage in activities that bring you joy and peace. Create a beautiful space in which you take your rest. Embrace the power of taking breaks throughout the day as well, allowing your mind to reset and rejuvenate.
Living According to Your Values
Living according to your values is fundamental to deep self-care. Clarify your core values and align your actions with them, both at work and in your personal life. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes to live fully in integrity with your values. Prioritize activities and commitments that resonate with your values, cultivating a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and authenticity. By staying aligned with your values, you nurture a strong sense of well-being and happiness.
Championing a Culture of Work-Life Balance
As a leader and executive, you possess the power to influence and shape your workplace culture. Take a proactive stance in advocating for work-life balance and well-being within your organization. Promote policies and practices that encourage and support a healthy work-life integration for yourself and your colleagues. Lead by example, showcasing how prioritizing self-care leads to increased productivity, creativity, and overall job satisfaction. The change starts with you. The only way that we combat “hustle culture” and the glorification of overwork is by being proactive and honest about the harm these notions cause.
Deep self-care goes beyond quick fixes and reactive practices. It entails a holistic, proactive approach to personal well-being that requires intention and commitment. By following these recommendations, you can pave the way for sustainable success and fulfillment. Embrace deep self-care as an essential part of your leadership journey.