Hong Kong has a predominantly workaholic culture where we praise and glorify being busy, staying at work well after regular work hours, and working on the weekends.
With all this work and little rest or play, how can we expect to lead our teams effectively when we fail to take care of our physical and mental health?
How burnout impacts our work performance?
Not enough sleep, exercise, or nutrition can severely damage our mental faculties. To expect our bodies and brains to make crucial decisions, lead with confidence, and connect with our teams when we are low or out of energy is a big ask.
We end up running on fumes, which leads to reacting rather than responding and being short on patience, among other things.
What is self care?
Self-care is caring for one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. It can involve getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and spending time with loved ones.
Self-care is essential for everyone, but it is crucial for leaders. Leaders are often under a lot of stress and must ensure they are taking care of themselves to be effective.
Let’s roll out two different scenarios to explain this idea better.
A life without self care
Imagine you went home late the night before, only had a quick bite of fast food for dinner because it was the most convenient fix, and managed to sleep about 4 hours.
You wake up tired and late. You rush back to work for an important meeting with the team. You’re in a bad mood due to a lack of sleep and lack of nutritious food, and healthy movement. Your neck and back are sore from sitting on the desk all day.
Someone made a mistake, and you feel the blood rushing. You react by shouting and being visibly angry. You regret reacting this way. The team grows resentful and scared.
A life with self care
In our second scenario, you leave work at 6. Hit the gym for your favorite class, then grab dinner with friends or family. You chose something delicious and full of nutrients. You eat the food slowly, enjoying the taste and the company.
You take time to unwind with a nice warm shower, a tea while you read a book and head to bed at a reasonable hour. The following day you wake up refreshed.
You prepare a quick breakfast: some eggs and toast with a piece of fruit. You do some light stretches, drink some water, do a gratitude practice and remember all the things that you are thankful for. You go to work and listen to your favorite playlist or podcast.
You arrive to work for your team meeting. You’re in a good mood, you have been taking care of yourself. Someone made a mistake. You step up and ask them questions about how it happened. With the team you find ways you can fix the error and avoid it in the future.
The team is happy they feel like they are supported and their respect for you grows. You’re proud of how you handled that situation.
Benefits of Self Care for Leaders
There is a perception that self care is about massages and spas, which could definitely be included in the list but are just two of many options you can practice to take care of yourself.
There is also the myth that self care is for women or housewives, when in reality everyone is in need for self care. It’s about finding what practices work for you and how you can make time for including these in your routine.
There are many benefits to self-care for leaders. Self-care can help leaders to:
* Reduce stress
* Improve their mood
* Increase their energy levels
* Improve their focus and concentration
* Make better decisions
* Be more productive
* Build resilience
Practicing Self Care
If you don’t know where to start, here we list many ways to practice self-care. Some everyday self-care activities include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating healthy foods
- Exercising regularly
- Spending time with loved ones
- Relaxation techniques (e.g., yoga, meditation, massage)
- Spending time in nature
- Listening to music
- Taking a vacation
Tips for making self-care a priority
We know that taking care of ourselves is important, but the real challenge arises when we need to put it into practice. Here are some tips about how to make self care a priority:
- Schedule time for self-care in your day.
- Make self-care a non-negotiable.
- Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
- Find a support system of people who encourage you to take care of yourself.
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time to develop healthy self-care habits.
Self-care is essential for leaders because it helps them to be more effective. When leaders care for themselves, they can better handle stress, make good decisions, and be productive. Self-care is also vital for setting an excellent example for others. Leaders who model healthy self-care habits encourage their employees to do the same.
Psychologist and Emotional Intelligence Coach