Jack had been working 15-hour days for many weeks. He was dealing with difficult client issues and although his staff were trying their best, they were not getting the necessary results or meeting their deadlines. He was averaging five hours of sleep per night and was sustained by coffee and chocolate. His only exercise was scurrying to catch the train (or a taxi if the trains had stopped).
It sounds terrible. It is also a true story and unfortunately, not that unusual.
In the short-term any of us can survive long hours and a poor lifestyle. Adrenaline kicks in and it can even be briefly energizing; but keep it up and there are consequences. Jack was so stressed and anxious that he started yelling, becoming verbally abusive at work and probably at home as well. Luckily his company recognized the problem and supported him with good leadership and coaching. That helped reduce the stress and he got his professional and personal life back on track.
Taking care of yourself is more than a nice-to-do: it is your inherent responsibility to all who rely on you whether family, co-workers, employees, customers, sports partners, or community members.
There are many avenues to effective self-care. If you feel that you are on Jack’s road, stop and consider these elements.
Seven Elements for Proper Self-Care
- Listen to your body. Know when too much is too much. Reach out for help. Stop doing some things. Say “No” to taking on more.
- Eat properly. Good nutrition sustains the body and helps combat stress so make a point to eat healthy meals.
- Rest well. Take short breaks during the workday to decompress and get enough sleep at night.
- Have fun. Ensure there is time every day to enjoy what you like doing. Ultimately, if you really don’t like your work, consider changing jobs.
- Exercise. Regular activity makes a huge difference mentally and physically. Build it into your day. Pick something you like – going to the gym, running, swimming or walking.
- Nurture your inner being or spiritual self. Understand what triggers your stress or anxiety. Use meditation, prayer, quiet reflection, reading, painting or any activity that fosters inner peace.
- Love yourself. Strive to be the person that you want to be rather than imitating someone else. Become authentically you.
Wherever you are in your cycle of life, take time to reflect. Ask yourself:
- Am I happy the way I am currently living?
- Is this a short-term or a long-term way of life?
- Am I okay to continue this way?
If you are happy and want to continue this way – you are on the right path. If not then it is time to make some changes.
Neglect yourself and I guarantee you will be neglecting others: take care of yourself and you will be helping others and achieving much better results.