You can be a superhero without sacrificing everything for the job. Know when to step back and attend to your own needs.
Leaders spend so much time taking care of others that they often neglect their own needs until they get sick or experience burnout. Don’t underestimate the value of self-care or shrug it off as a “touchy-feely” trend. Instead, understand these simple rules to keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy in a stress-filled world.
- High expectations of yourself are good (within reason). You’ve heard the expression, “No one is perfect.” But you may think that it applies to others, not you. It’s admirable to have high personal and professional standards, but give yourself a break. Take sick days when you need them, get enough sleep, take vacations (or at least long weekends), shut off the phone when possible, delegate some tasks to others.
- Connecting with/relating to employees, patients, clients, and others is good (up to a point). Resist the urge to attempt to mold others in your image or into the person you wish you were. Help others grow, thrive, and advance, but accept them for who they are as individuals. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of others or impose your own feelings or insecurities on them.
- Empathy is fine; toxic empathy is not. Watch for signs that you are absorbing the feelings, stress, or negativity of others. These include feeling sad, depressed, and/or anxious; dreading going to work; avoiding certain people or situations; and sleeping poorly and/or having nightmares. Seek help to regain an empathy balance.
- As good as you are, you can’t do it all. Remember that post-acute and long-term care is a team effort. Trying to do everything yourself not only is detrimental to your wellbeing; it also can hurt patients and other team members. A good leader involves others in accountability and decision-making and knows when to seek help, support, and/or advice.
- You may want to be alone, but you shouldn’t be. It can be tempting to withdraw from others when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, and/or unhappy. However, social aspects of self-care are important. Have lunch with colleagues, join the afternoon walking group, take a coffee break with coworkers, and/or find other ways to stay connected.
If you can’t (or won’t) take care of yourself, you can’t help others. Practicing self-care will make you a stronger, more positive leader, which is essential in a world where regulations are changing, challenges are growing, and there are numerous sources of stress and anxiety. You’ve got this—but you can’t do it without a little help.