July 24 is International Self-care Day, and while it may not be a “Hallmark holiday” that’s marked in your calendar, it’s a great reminder for people (like me) who could benefit from a “put yourself first” nudge every now and then.
At its core, International Self-care Day is a moment to raise awareness that each of us is responsible for taking an active role in our own health, wellness, and commitment to living a balanced life. We often think of self-care after we’ve hit our limit, are at capacity, or are burned out… essentially, later than we should.
But what would happen if we front-loaded self-care?
Those of us rooted in the world of project planning know that all projects start with a kick-off, followed by planning, execution, monitoring, and closure. During the closure our team includes a retrospective so we can improve how we work going forward. In addition to this important step and in the spirit of continuous improvement, I also check-in with the team as the project progresses.
What if we approached self-care in the same way – by incorporating it at the beginning and throughout, rather than just at the end, after we’ve already hit our limit? What if we kicked-off with self-care?
If you are someone who tends to practice self-care at the “retrospective,” here are some practical ideas for incorporating it at the “kick-off”:
Don’t wait for later, start now.
We often put self-care on the back-burner – until work slows down, until the weekend, until vacation – which ultimately leads to a culture of retrospective self-care and perpetual burnout. Start small and start now. Some ways to do this are: starting your morning with a short meditation, standing up to stretch between meetings, or preparing yourself a healthy homecooked meal.
Let small actions add up.
Yes, a spa day or beach vacation is always welcome; however, self-care doesn’t need to be such a “grand gesture.” Micro-actions matter: stay hydrated, go for a walk in nature, choose a healthy snack over an unhealthy one, go to bed early. Accumulated, these seemingly small actions can prevent the need to scream an SOS.
Focus on what’s in your control.
If you have competing personal and professional priorities and have a hard time putting yourself over others, or over your to-do list, focus on the things you CAN control. Because self-care is often portrayed as a grand gesture for yourself, it can feel unattainable. You may not be able to control that upcoming work deadline, but you can control how you approach your day and the time (quality > quantity) you spend on your health and wellness.
Lead by example.
As a leader, your team’s actions often reflect your own. If you struggle to balance work and rest, you may find that your team works overtime with you and stands by your side to get the job done. While this shows a great sense of camaraderie and loyalty, it could also serve to normalize burnout and tip the scales toward work-care and away from self-care. It’s important to put on your own (self-care) oxygen mask before attempting to help others. If you lead by example and prioritize your own health and wellness, you are helping to create a culture for your team where “the self” comes first.
I feel fortunate to work for a company that offers each employee a quarterly self-care day to take when and how they want. In Q2, I used mine for a grand gesture – an afternoon yoga class. However, writing this piece was a good reminder that I am not limited to quarterly self-care days, weekends, vacation days, or grand gestures. Self-care day can be everyday if I choose it to be.
We’d love to hear how you’re taking care of your health and wellness today. You can reach out to us and learn more about what we do at Notion by clicking here.