How Practicing Self-Care Helps You Lead Better
Self-care is not optional or something to practice if you have a little spare time. Self-care is essential if you want to lead others well or operate at your best. That sounds like common sense, but yet so many run themselves ragged and cheat themselves out of the numerous benefits that come from regularly investing in self-care.
Speaking of common sense…
“NO HOT ASHES” – that’s what it says on the top of our garbage can lid. Every time I see those words, I chuckle because it seems like pure common sense to not put hot ashes into your trash can, right? Clearly there have been issues, or these words would not be molded into the lid.
The words on my trash remind me of the tag on my blow dryer urging me to not dry my hair while taking a bath, or the warning on plastic bags: This bag is not a toy. To avoid danger of suffocation, keep out of the reach of babies and children. Again…common sense, right?
While these examples might seem obvious, even a bit silly, too often, common sense goes right out the window when you are stressed, in a hurry, or have too much on your mind. Or when you have too much on your plate.
Seeing the value of self-care and even intellectually grasping how coming from a well-cared for place enables you to be more effective – it’s common sense! But, figuring out how to make it a priority and squeeze self-care in is another story.
When You Neglect Self-Care
Sadly, when you neglect taking care of yourself, not only does it leave you depleted with little energy to offer those you lead, it also sets a poor example. Part of being a leader, whether you lead at home, work, or in ministry, is being someone worth following! Someone who models an inspiring life!
Maybe you don’t view yourself as a leader. I promise, the same applies! No matter what you do, your effectiveness increases when you do life and work from a well-cared for place!
Benefits of Self-Care
There is no denying that life often pulls you and me in a dozen different directions simultaneously. Important calls, urgent situations, or competing deadlines vying for your attention. That’s just part of life. Yet, when you make taking care of yourself a consistent priority, there are some incredibly worthwhile benefits. You are in a far better position to deal with problems that come your way. And it forces you to prioritize more carefully and eliminate or delegate tasks that aren’t truly worthy of your attention.
Perhaps best of all, practicing self-care elevates your mood, elevates your creativity, and makes you a whole lot more fun to be around!
So, what qualifies as self-care? Well, it’s a little different for everyone, but it is consistently taking the time needed to care for YOU in these ways:
Getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and drinking plenty of water are a fantastic place to start!
Being active and regularly exercising – stretching, cardio, weights, and mobility exercises are all great ways to treat yourself right. And for you Type A personalities…yoga is a big plus! You might be surprised at how energized you feel when you move more!
Less stress, fewer sick days, a better mood, and a more positive outlook on life – those are just a few of the benefits you will experience when you care for your body!
Doctor, dentist, and other such visits that focus on your physical health – those qualify as self-care too.
Neglecting your emotions leads to anxiety, depression, reacting in destructive ways, and lowers your productivity. You don’t want that!
Tuning into your feelings requires you to slow down and to pay attention. When you ignore your emotions, unresolved feelings leak out and creating problems, especially with those closest to us. Cleaning up after the “leaks” costs you time and not to mention the potential damage it has on your relationships.
As a Christian leader, everything you do hinges on your relationship with God: when that suffers, so does your ability to lead well. You might be tempted to skimp on this critical relationship, offering up hurried prayers instead of lingering in His presence which not only refuels you, but also helps you avoid mistakes, and ultimately offers you insights that save time.
Time with God is self-care! Don’t underestimate how much you need Him.
You were created for relationship, yet leaders are often Lone Rangers. Relationships add richness to your life, provide you with the support you need, and they allow you to grow in ways that can’t be accomplished outside of community. Ignoring the people in your life results in strained relationships, bitterness, un-forgiveness, resentment, and decreases your compassion for others.
Carving out time for the people you hold dear is self-care. It connects you to others and provides fresh perspectives you might not have otherwise.
For the past couple of years, my husband and I have set aside an hour each evening to read. That wee investment has resulted in so much learning and growing! There’s something about learning and growing that just makes you feel alive.
Reading isn’t the only way to go about learning and growing. You might also take a class, participate in a webinar or spend time with experts or individuals who enjoy discussing topics that are interesting to you. You might also consider working a puzzle, trying Sudoku, or researching an area of interest.
As you acquire more knowledge and grow you are better able to solve problems and you become a more interesting individual.
Yes, learning has the potential to be self-care!
Little details, when overlooked, become big problems. Keeping your finances in order, staying on top of your health insurance, taxes, and all the many other practical aspects of your life might not be what you ordinarily think of when it comes to self-care. However, when you ignore these small aspect of your life, it creates stressful situations that take a toll on you! Consider it a gift to yourself when you stay on top of the practical aspects of your life!
What activity makes your heart happy? Are you filled with joy when you get to paint, hike, or get a massage?
Maybe you are in your element when you are woodworking, cooking, or gardening. Perhaps drawing or doodling, a bubble bath, or knitting is more your speed.
Whatever it is for you, be sure you are making space for that in your life! Those activities are inspiring and enable you to do what God’s called you to do better!
The Truth About Self-Care
In Christian circles, we often shy away from self-care because it seems selfish but it is a form of stewardship. The truth is that without self-care, you dramatically lessen your effectiveness and limit how God is able to use you.
If you are a leader, you set the tone. What you do trickles down. If you are running on empty, the likelihood of those below you running on empty increases. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.
If you only lead you, it’s worth the effort too!
Self-Care – A Habit
Incorporating new habits into your life isn’t easy. Start small. Pick one area to start caring for you, the area that might have the biggest impact. For example, if you decide to care for yourself physically, you might set a goal to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. What changes in your lifestyle would be necessary to make this possible? Who might hold you accountable? Practice making this a regular part of your life for a week or two – maybe four. Notice the how it benefits you.
When you feel like you have made the first habit a regular part of your life, you may wish to move on to adding an activity that makes your heart happy to your routine. Again, what changes in your lifestyle would need to be made? What do you need to cut out of your life to make this possible? Who might keep you on track? Observe the benefits!
Stop neglecting the leading of you! Want a healthy team? Be a healthy leader. When taking care of yourself is a priority, you are more prepared for what lies ahead.
We all have the same number of hours in our day, and each of those hours are more impactful when you approach them from a well-cared for place. That’s just common sense!
Try it out. You may fail, but success is the result of learning from your mistakes and getting back up and trying again.
How will you begin making self-care a priority and a regular part of your life?