Self Care Sunday Series
With Guest Blogger and Business Woman, Penny from Eximia
I spent a long time considering what I wanted to write when I was asked to write an article about self-care. As professionals we all want to write something inspiring and articulate, always writing in a type of professional speak. It's also so important to be honest with the reader and recognise whether the writing really reflects what we ourselves actually do. When I strip back what self-care means to me, it’s about going back to basics. It’s all very simple. If we look after ourselves we refuel our energy and so therefore our capacity to succeed in whichever path, project or career we have chosen.
So let me be frank. There is no such thing as superwoman. She doesn’t exist. It was a great character created and conceptually imagined by someone who was great at telling stories. Too often we are shifting ourselves into a position where we take care of everyone important in our lives with the very real exception of ourselves. Too often we make comparisons with those who magnify their lives for the purposes of social media. My biggest piece of advice - don't! One of the first steps to self-care is to realise that you are you. You have no need to compare yourself to others, nor are you in competition. It's a big wide world out there and you will find your way. It may take some time but you will find what you are looking for.
If you are guilty of attempting to be our superhero in the gold hotpants, how often have you been running on empty? How often have you sat with your head in your hands and thought ‘I can’t do this’? How often are you frantically writing to do lists to wake up in the night thinking about the one task you forgot to write on said to do list? How often do you find yourself juggling several theoretical spinning plates only to feel that they will come crashing down around you? Again, stop, take a minute. Measure what you have achieved right now in this moment in time. Think about yourself and what you need in order to move forward. Deep breaths, brain dump those negative feelings, nice hot bath. Whatever it takes, remember Superwoman doesn't exist.
As a leader of people and with a specialism in HR, all too often I’ve witnessed the very sad breakdown of someone who has pure brilliance and determination, who can’t quite seem to realise that they are vitally important in this equation of brilliance. I’ve given and received numerous strategies and nuggets of advice to encourage the act of self-care only to discover that there is no right answer. There is no one size fits all. As leaders we can only empower others to think about taking that step back, role model what it looks like to carve out those magical sessions of time where our number one focus is on ‘me’. However, all too often leaders are so focused on the perfect outcome, they too forget to practice the art of self- care.
I’ve worked full time since the day I left school. I’ve always been relentless in my pursuit of excellence. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve completed a law degree with two children under two. I completed a diploma in HR at the very same time that I was going through a difficult and unexpected life changing event, and I remember vividly that 2005 was a horrendous year. Yes I got through it, but two years later I was rushed into hospital very poorly - it appeared that my lack of self awareness and self-care had meant my body had displaced the stress only for it to reappear and manifest itself years later.
Did I learn? Perhaps no, not initially, but I do now recognise that I am important. Having worked for the last fifteen years in education my focus has been on improving the outcomes for young people no matter what it takes. Drive, determination and never quite managing to turn off has made the act of self- care ever more difficult, yet somehow you have to find the moments to do so. Empower yourself and naturally you’ll empower others. Role model your behaviour and others will follow. I’m honest with my teams, we talk about how we are feeling, and we support each other if one is feeling more overwhelmed than others. You have to recognise that your greatest assets are your people. Look at the small details, listen to them and offer simple solutions which will mean the world to them. Find out what makes them tick and follow it up. Don't listen then choose to do nothing with the findings. Make sure you are allowing them to look after themselves - there is nothing heroic in pushing them to the point of exhaustion. Yet there is something very powerful about making sure they feel valued (and I’m not talking about increasing their salaries).
It is difficult to write without considering the impact that Covid-19 has had on us all as individuals. It has been traumatic, it has created great sadness and for some, tragedy and bereavement. It’s created a loneliness for many and a huge uncertainty for others. The lack of connection with your colleagues, best friends and family has hit us all hard. Never again will I take a hug for granted. Yet this new sense of normal will change many of us forever. However, this new sense of normal will need to be navigated carefully and with real emotional intelligence from leaders. For every emotional story I have read I have also been struck with admiration for the differences being felt within communities, the work that is taking place to protect and support those that are vulnerable and lonely.
Although my working from home has been even more full on than my ‘normal’ working day, I have made more of a commitment to caring for me. I’ve rediscovered my love of walking, I’ve read numerous books and swapped books with others. I’ve baked cakes and enjoyed discovering new recipes including my joy of using the slow cooker that was buried deep in the kitchen cupboard. Ultimately many of us have been forced to find our way without the relentless pressures of keeping pace with our previous lifestyles. We need to take this forward and rediscover what has made us the happiest. My challenge to you is to write down what makes your happiest moments just that; happy.
For me I've reassessed everything. I am not and will never be afraid of working hard, giving opportunities and creating spaces for the young people to become the very best they can be but now after 15 years of dreaming, I am making the leap into launching my own business. I am combining all of my experiences, skills, talents and leadership qualities and will be helping organisations to make a difference in their world. Eximia is about being exceptional. We will be exceptional by being honest, acting with integrity and being responsive to your needs, we will also be champions of self-care because without it people can't grow.
Never be afraid to ask for help, and most importantly never be afraid to put yourself first. Fuelling your energy will not only make you feel amazing, but believe me it will most definitely help you grow and develop as a professional.
Over the next few weeks Abundance TEC will be featuring guest bloggers on our website and social media platforms to support Self-Care Sunday.
The aim is to raise awareness as to why self-care is so important and to highlight a variety of ways you can implement self-care into your everyday routine to support positive mental health and well-being. These inspiring business owners and bloggers will be providing their own version of what self-care means to them and why they do what they do to look after themselves.
Thank you to the wonderful Penny for sharing her self-care tips, journey and passion this week. Please check out Eximia's social media pages and website.