The concept of “self-care” is definitely a cornerstone of wellness discussions. It also appears to have become something of a generational battleground. Staying at work for a week and eating poorly and not seeing the light of day is no longer considered the badge of honor it might have been. Nevertheless, we all have these pesky adult and professional commitments that preclude us from focusing on ourselves all day, every day. Surely there’s a happy medium in there somewhere?
A lesson I learned about 10 years ago is that I need to have a list of the things away from work that bring me joy, and that it also helps me to recognize how often I need for them to be part of my life. Examples?
- Walks with Olivia– daily, at a minimum. This is important head clearing time for me.
- Running– the benefits for me are myriad. It keeps my head on straight, it gives me time to think, and I just feel better for completing a good run.
- Yoga– I know that going to a weekly group practice is best, and it makes a difference when I keep this in my schedule
- Live music– A couple of times a month. The rules match my OR music rules: No rap, no metal, no Britney Spears. I love Americana and “alt-country” (again, as many of you know) and also have a great fondness for outings to the symphony and the opera.
- Reading, particularly literary fiction- I still remember getting halfway through my intern year and realizing that I hadn’t read a novel all year (and that I really missed it). The moment our in-training exam was done in January, I dug back into good novels and haven’t stopped since.
I put my own list out there not with the goal of making it your list, although I’m always happy to share ideas in any of these areas. I put it out there so that you can see that none of these are majorly time-consuming unless I choose to make them a Big Deal in my schedule. In fact, it’s pretty easy with some practice to prioritize all of them in a way that I get to push the reset button for an hour or two AND still manage my grown-up responsibilities. And even though I fight it sometimes, I know that these things really do contribute to helping me be my most effective self.
So, what about making sure we’re our most effective on a day-to-day basis, even in the midst of a chaotic day? I loved this piece in last month’s HBR, probably because all of the ideas they raise are things that I’ve espoused or embraced in one place or another.
- Cut yourself a break: I’ve previously summarized this blog post from Karen Walrond as “Try your best, cut yourself some slack at the end of the day, rinse, repeat.” Why is it so much easier to be kind to those around us than we are to ourselves?
- Value time, money, and resources: No is a complete sentence if something doesn’t align with what you want or need to get done. Truly. Practice it often.
- Take a victory lap: How often do we celebrate our “wins”, either individually or collectively? This week I started something new to me on Twitter with #Wednesdaywins. If you’re on Twitter, I hope you’ll join in there. If you’re not, I hope you’ll develop your own practice.
- Surround yourself with good people: Maybe it’s a product of being in my 40s, but I simply no longer choose to have time for people who drain my energy (see “value time, money, resources” above). I definitely view friendships as a mutually supportive enterprise, and have chosen to surround myself with spectacular people whom I LOVE having as part of my life. Some of you have heard me say, “Find your tribe. Love them hard.” It’s key when things get challenging.
- Update your workspace: Okay, I really don’t have much to add here. I am better than I used to be controlling my desk piles. Mostly.
- Recharge and reboot: Those walks with Olivia? That’s part of it when I get out of the hospital. At work, sometimes I’ll just go for a walk between the Burn Unit and my “real” office. I’ll pause and fix myself a cup of tea. I’ll walk through our therapy gym so I have an excuse to stop and visit with one of our rehabbing patients. Or I’ll sit down and simply chat with someone I find interesting; this person can be a co-worker, a patient, or a family member. Sometimes just getting your head out of what it’s stuck in can make a HUGE difference. If you want to be Zen about it, it helps you detach from whatever is troubling you.
So, what can you do this weekend to be more effective for next week? It doesn’t have to be onerous, and ideally it will be fun. Most importantly, I hope it brings you some joy.