I had just asked a leader about his “self-care.”
Whether humor or unfamiliarity with the term, his response highlights a common leader challenge: Self-care is sometimes pushed to the bottom of our priority list.
Even more so in crisis.
Urgent demands, changing schedules and high stakes soak up our attention. The drive to succeed or the desire to serve others can make self-care seem unimportant or even selfish. Neither is true.
At the start of a 15-month deployment to Iraq, I remember a general officer encouraging us to set aside time for reflection and reading. Forms of self-care. In my arrogance, I thought “must be nice, at your level and with your staff.” In hindsight, his words were spot-on, for each of us. 100mph-until-you-burnout is no way to execute combat. Or a global crisis.
Your work and your people need you at your best.
Now that the initial dust has settled, how are you assessing and organizing your self-care? How are you preparing for the long game? Take time to list out the obstacles to your usual options, as well as unique ways the crisis is impacting you. Be candid with other leaders and get ideas from them or online resources.
Remember that you are not alone in this. One leader described how “mentally exhausting” this has been – and he’s no stranger to crisis. Another put “self-care” among the top 3 leader challenges he’s observing right now, and is finding it hard to do it well. One of the most resilient leaders I know had a moment of COVID-19 reality hit “like a body blow.”
Acknowledge the new reality. Be creative. Schedule your self-care activities. And guard that time. Your work and your people will benefit.
And you’ll be leading well by example.