Whether it’s an army general, a stalwart politician, or the CEO of a major corporation, we often get the sense that those at the top of the food chain are bulletproof — hardened people who always have the right answer and never doubt themselves.
But sometimes being an effective leader means taking a step back and taking time for yourself. The reality is that self-care is vital for an entrepreneur whose financial fate is in their own hands or an executive who has to answer to a board of directors.
“You can’t pour from an empty glass,” insists Jill Raddysh, a certified Executive Coach based in Regina. “Sometimes there’s nothing left to give, and we’ve all been there at various points in our life and it doesn’t feel good.”
She cites Presidents and Prime Ministers as examples, noting that beginning and end of term photographs show that an intense workload can accelerate the aging process.
“As a society we feel guilty about feeling ‘selfish.’ Like as a mom, if I take an hour for myself I’m taking an hour away from my kids. But, long term, if you continue depleting yourself to a breaking point it’s more reckless, versus looking after myself first to make sure I have the capacity to care for them.
“The impetus for change comes when our current way of being just becomes so uncomfortable. For some its as serious as a health check, for some it’s just admitting that they’re so exhausted and have nothing left to give.”
She notes people often get to this point because self-care is the first thing to go when people get busy, trading much-needed breaks in the day for meeting after meeting. But she insists that something as simple as a 15-minute break to stretch or take a quick walk outside can be extremely restorative.
“We carry our brain from meeting to meeting, but we can’t forget that we have a body that needs its needs met. It’s the diminishing return thing, people start to get agitated and stop listening when they have to go to the bathroom or haven’t had any free time all day.”
She recommends being more mindful in the workplace and ensuring that you set boundaries with yourself and your employees. For example, ensuring you have a clear sense of your role and your objectives in each meeting can help reduce your stress level and ensure others stay focused. The sedentary aspect of the office environment can exacerbate these issues as well, which is why Raddysh tells clients to remember to use their bodies as a tool.
“We live so much of our work life at a desk. We need to think about how you build that kind of physicality back into your life. You need to figure out your own self-care regiment, and there’s so many options out there you may need to experiment. You can go ax throwing, pistol shooting, bowling, touch your toes…”
There is a mental aspect in play as well.
“Silence the inner critic,” Raddysh says. “If you have a lot of resistance, anxiety, and self doubt then that’s how your day will play out. Be kind in how you talk about yourself to yourself; even if something goes wrong, everybody makes mistakes.”