Real Self-Care Tips for Leaders

We all know that we have to avoid burnout, or deal with the eventual consequences. And, we all know as well, these consequences don’t just affect us, they affect everyone around us: our team, our personal relationships, our quality of life, our health, and so much more.

When I was burning the candle on both ends, I could do it for a few weeks and then I’d inevitably get sick and be laid up for a week. Then the cycle would repeat itself. And believe me, I was trying to live a healthy life by working out regularly, learning how to eat better, and sleeping well. Doing those things probably helped keep me from getting sicker than I already was, but they weren’t enough to help me avoid the inevitable burnout.

We all know the right things to do to take care of ourselves. So it isn’t so much about finding time for self-care, it’s more about making time for self-care. But how do we do that when there’s always something else to do, something else vying for our time?

Real self-care for leaders involves 1-part mindset and 1-part leadership skills because let’s face it, what we really need to do is make time for self-care.

If you believe, like I do, that everyone has inherent worth, value, gifts, and a destiny, and you’re still dealing with burnout, then likely one of two things are at play: 1) your mindset needs to shift or 2) your leadership skills need to be up-leveled.

The greatest limiting belief leader’s have is believing that we have to do everything ourselves if it’s going to be done well. Here’s the honest truth: if we genuinely believe that we must do everything ourselves, we cannot simultaneously be an effective leader. To lead effectively is to empower those around us to use their gifts, skills, experiences, and knowledge to help our teams achieve our goals together. Leading is never about doing it ourselves by ourselves.

When we do everything ourselves and make everything come through us, then we are very likely acting from the belief that “I am the only one capable of doing it the right way.” Stop and think about that for a moment. Is that what you believe deep down in your heart? Now is as good of time as any to identify this belief and start to figure out where it comes from. It’s only when we can identify the root of our limiting beliefs that we can start to change them and work from a different mindset.

Recently, I was beyond overwhelmed. Between a barrage of events beyond my control and my weekly to do lists, my stress was starting to come out sideways and impact the people I love most. A wise friend shared with me that she was learning to “put down things she was never asked to carry.” It made me pause, look at my calendar, and ask myself if I needed to do that too. The instant I made the decision to take something off of my plate, my stress vanished.

So, are you carrying things you were never asked to carry?

Beyond checking in and making sure that we’re not carrying anything extra, I also personally believe that I’m more effective when I prioritize one day a week for rest. Our whole family rests for one day each week so that we can rest our minds, our souls, and our bodies. Studies show the numerous benefits of rest, from increased creativity to improved health to better sleep, etc. Because a day of rest is a priority, we plan the rest of the week around it. Whatever can’t get done during the other 6 days of the week gets put off for another week. If we consistently feel like we just can’t get everything done in 6 days, then we look at what’s on our calendar and evaluate what we’ve said yes to and figure out what we need to let go of.

Are you able to genuinely rest during your week? We’ll never find time for it, but we can make time for it.

If on the other hand you find yourself muttering under your breath “I do ask others to do it, but I should just do it myself, nobody does this right, I always have to come in and ‘save the day’ at the last minute,” it might be your leadership skills that need your attention.

When people’s work doesn’t meet our expectations, 99% of the time it’s because of us, not them. There are a number of reasons our expectations don’t get met, especially when we:

·      Aren’t clear with our expectations,

·      Don’t model the way for others,

·      Don’t check for understanding,

·      Don’t help set priorities, or

·      Don’t check in with people along the way.

These are all gaps that come back to our leadership skills and setting others up to succeed.

If you believe you genuinely have empowered others to take ownership and responsibility, and everything still lands on your desk, then there are three reasons this is happening:

1.     It’s likely that no one else knows you’ve delegated the responsibilities;

2.     They don’t trust the people you’ve delegated them to; and/or

3.     You’ve simply loaned your power and not actually given it away.

If any of these are true, then yes, everything will come back to you because people ultimately know that at the end of the day only your opinions, ideas, or approval actually matters. As leaders, we create the culture around us. So, if people only come to you, even if you have delegated responsibilities away, then that is the culture you’ve created. So again, it comes back to leadership skills.

We all know what it takes to take care of ourselves. As leaders, the greatest challenge is making the time for it. Doing so means you:

1.     Ensure that you haven’t taken on more than you were meant to carry;

2.     Set your people up for success every time; and

3.     Empower everyone around you with real responsibilities and authority.

The best news is that our limiting beliefs can always change and so can our leadership skills! Here’s to self-care and making time for it!