Myth of Self-Care for Busy Leaders

In the middle of busy lives and busy leadership coupled with the reality of pandemic fatigue it would be pretty natural to preach a sermon for self-care challenging you to step back from “the busy” and intentionally choose activities that nurture spiritual, physical, relational and emotional health. 

Yet, for many busy leaders it’s a goal that is elusive and maybe even unrealistic. While there are choices within our control, executing on those choices is often difficult or even impossible when left to “self.” I love to get up early in the morning in the quiet of my house to pray, plan out my day and anchor my soul. Some days I am interrupted by others and sometimes even for good reasons. But, for me to do this consistently I need cooperation from other members in my house. That self-care act cannot be done in isolation or without the support of others.

Self-Care requires more than “self”

If you step back from work, it means that someone on the team is going to need to pick up the slack. Maybe a group of people must now step-up and work together even more intentionally to reset priorities to create space for personal self-care. If you want to get away from the pressures of keeping home life together with a little personal “T-L-C”, someone at home will need to watch kids or prepare meals or pick up a few added chores. If you want to introduce new habits that nurture self-care you may need to make changes in your lifestyle that affect the whole family and/or your work group. The question is: How do you make any of these self-care strategies work all on your own? Is that really possible?

The myth of self-care is that we can simply make a choice, in a vacuum, to care for ourselves. The reality, however, is we will need support to achieve our self-care goal. Others will be affected and thus will need to be involved in our plans. Note: We also have an equal responsibility to be involved in nurturing the self-care of others. 

So, how can you get started on overcoming the myth of “self-care” and involve other people:

  1. Ask for help. We tend not to ask for help when we need it. But research shows that our success is directly linked to developing the skill to ask for help. Great things come from asking.
  2. Reflection is needed for change. When trying to make changes, different people need different things. Navigating these differences can be rather complex when you are trying to create space for self as well as give space to others. Take time to consider what you need and how you can integrate that with what others need. 
  3. Make it a regular routine. Whatever it is that you do to care for yourself needs to be a regular habit. Use simple steps to sticky habits and start with ONE small thing that is achievable and easy.

Dispel the myth of going it alone and connect to a tribe of people who will help you to get the self-care you need and return the favor. Try out the three ideas shared here and see how they might fortify your self-care approach. What other thoughts would you share about engaging others in your self-care?

P. S. Check out a few more ideas in this interview on our Side by Side Podcast with Lainey Younkin on Boost Your Energy with Healthy Habits on Apple, Spotify or Google.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center of Coaching Excellence.

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