I was on a coaching call with a client the other day. He was telling me how depleted he had been feeling. Well, actually, first he was telling me how he didn’t seem to have the necessary brain power for the strategic conversations he needed to have and how he also didn’t have the patience for his colleagues that he was used to having. Then he started telling me how depleted and worn out he had been feeling since he’d stepped into his new, bigger role.

Of course, we talked about the strategic conversations and how best to engage, as well as his colleagues for whom he had no patience and how not to engage. But then, we talked about him. His body. His mind. His spirit. His health.

Given how much we all are dealing with these days, I find that nearly all of my coaching engagements include some conversations about self-care.

It sometimes seems that there’s a near epidemic of leaders (and people) driving themselves too hard and running themselves into the ground. Of being always on or feeling like they need to know and understand everything fully and completely. Of sacrificing their body and health – too little sleep, too much caffeine, too little movement, too much work, etc.

I have learned over the decades – in my own life and in my work with hundreds of clients – that caring for ourselves (and loving ourselves for that matter, but we’ll get to that later) is not only essential, but it also helps us become better leaders…and people. It helps us show up as our best selves.

When we don’t care for ourselves, when we sacrifice our physical, mental, and emotional health, our brains and bodies don’t have the energy and resources they need to be effective. Or perceptive. Or empathetic and caring. We are actually running on empty.

In addition, when we don’t care for ourselves and we let ourselves get depleted, our body experiences more stress. Stress causes our brain to direct blood away from the networks that help us think and learn in order to support the networks that help us breathe and calm down. Our blood pressure and pulse rate go up. We’re more in our sympathetic nervous system, and cortisol surges throughout our body, which turns off our immune system and stops our brain from creating new nerve cells. Which causes us to feel defensive and to perceive things as threatening that may not be.

In other words, it’s not very good for us.

But when we stop and care for ourselves – in big and small ways – we can lower our stress levels. We can be more engaged, more empathetic, more resilient, and less anxious and nervous.

In other words, it’s very good for us. And for the people we lead and work (and live) with.

There are myriad ways to care for ourselves. Caring for ourselves is a way of loving ourselves. Loving ourselves at least enough to care for ourselves. In fact, I would say, we should love ourselves first, most, and always. I believe it so much that I often suggest it to clients, I have blogged about it here, and I have First Most Always tattooed on my arm.

Loving and caring for ourselves enough to make sleep a priority. To eat well. To move. To practice mindfulness or meditation or yoga. To laugh and play. To connect with and care for others. To walk in nature or play music or sing.

All of these can help us refuel, and finding the one(s) that work for you (and that you’ll actually do) is most important.

We’ve somehow convinced ourselves that working harder and working more is a priority, especially as a leader, but there is a reason why so many of my coaching sessions include conversations on self-care.

Because it’s life-saving and important.

How have you learned to care for yourself and how has it helped you?
Please leave a comment to share.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in increasing your self-care practice, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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