What is self-care? It’s one of those terms that’s used a lot but what does it actually mean?
At its simplest level, we can take self-care to mean straightforward things like getting enough sleep, eating foods which give you energy and vitality, investing in your relationships (with your partner, children or friends) in such a way that they are life- or energy-giving, as opposed to energy-draining.
It can mean having other interests that are life-enhancing – e.g. if you’re someone who needs time on your own, managing your time so that you can achieve some time alone or, if you’re someone who gets energy by being with people, do you make time and space for that?
And none of these things need to be big or onerous, its more about pausing, reflecting and choosing. It’s about thinking about which things support and nourish you: what ‘fills your well’. For instance, if your work demands a lot of your time because of different time zones, or perhaps you have small children, you may need to actually mark out or schedule specific times for you. And it’s not about seeking or expecting the perfect conditions, it’s about acknowledging the conditions you’re operating in and balancing out your various demands.
So these aspects form the standard, foundational conversation about self-care. But you can take the concept to a more sophisticated level: which is leaning more into the actualisation of self. Are you growing or becoming that which you want to grow and become? This is more about how you develop insight and self-awareness; how you grow into the fullness of who you are and who you want to be. One way to materialize that is by setting aside time for learning new skills such as meditation, martial arts, yoga, cycling or artistic and self- expressive pursuits.
And there’s another bonus to this from a leader’s perspective: if you put yourself into a situation where you’re learning something new it can bring humility to your dealings with somebody you’re mentoring or developing. It reminds you what it takes to learn – the fumbling and not getting it right – and increases your compassion to someone learning something new from you. So placing yourself in new experiences which you not only find nourishing, enriching and expanding will also keep you connected to your humanity.
In these times of Covid, many people are finding that being at home places extra demands on them e.g. schooling their children etc. However, how can you take a perspective that set those things up so that they’re enriching and enjoyable? And whilst you may need to set some boundaries around certain things – for example you might need to negotiate time and space and teach your children this because the circumstances require you to – how can you do that, not from a frustrated and angry place, but from a centered grounded place? How do we make this about our development as a family, learning how to co-operate with each other, to have boundaries of respect for each other and being role models for our kids?
Don’t expect to get it perfect. Have a go, find what works, what doesn’t, and then explore whether can you go and sit quietly and reflect on anything that’s not working and consider how you can handle it in a way which is nourishing and developmental – for you, for the family, for the children. That’s self-care and personal development at the same time.