Self Care and Professional Development

Self care is not just massages and lavender baths. The deeper work may even serve as a form of professional development.

As a society, we have been taught to be there for others to the point that if we take time to do something for ourselves, for our mental or physical health, it often comes with a large helping of guilt.

This is hundreds if not thousands of years in the making. So, how do we shake it off in a way that allows us to fully accept and value the benefits of taking care of ourselves? One possible way is to study and understand the benefits of doing just that.

Being the best possible version of ourselves begins with taking some time to consider why we want to be our best self. The possibilities include modeling the way for our children, moving to the next level in our careers, and a desire to have more energy and enthusiasm to share with the world.

We’re here to talk business, so the first belief we have to embrace is that self-care shows up in our professional life. Proper self-care reduces stress, puts things in perspective, keeps you awake, helps you accomplish more, and helps you learn about yourself as well. Is there anything in that list that won’t serve to help us in achieving career goals and enjoying our daily work more?

The second belief is that we decide that self-care is not selfish. We give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, treat ourselves the way you would treat a dear friend, and ensure our well-being is a priority.

Doing this often comes with accepting some hard truths. One of those truths is that many of us are invested in rescuing others as part of our identity. Wearing our martyrdom and exhaustion as a badge of honor is actually a huge disservice to everyone involved. But we’re conditioned to do just that.

As we become more self-aware, we examine how our rescuing tendencies are impacting others and ourselves. In our rescuing, are we doing it for them, or are we doing it for ourselves?

The third belief we must embrace is that we teach people how to treat us. How we treat ourselves sends a message to the world—and the workplace—as to what we will accept or let others get away with. Imagine someone in your life that you respect, someone who is a strong and effective leader. I will bet that she makes time to take care of herself, and she is treated with respect as a result.

Self-Care Strategies

Know your worth. When we are undervalued or unappreciated, resentments build up. Take steps to help ensure those around you recognize your worth. That may mean asking for a raise, an additional week of vacation, or not feeling the need to discount your services. Recognize that you deserve to be “paid” what you are worth. 

Build your circle. The value of a strong support system cannot be overstated. Historically, women worked as a team in raising children and accomplishing work. Today, we have isolated ourselves. We are busy crafting a “Facebook worthy” existence instead of an authentic one. The reality of our existence is one that typically includes needing people. Needing help. Needing friendships.

A 2006 breast cancer study found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. Surround yourself with close friends that can shoulder burdens and make you laugh.

This is true in your work world as well. Surround yourself with likeminded people in your professional life. People that support you. People that can coach you through difficult situations or just offer a safe place to vent. Building this work circle can be accomplished in the workplace itself or by attending conferences, retreats, or other professional development opportunities. Online professional communities can also offer a great deal of support and camaraderie. 

Cut the guilt loose. Many of us are guilty of overcommitting. We say yes to everything. This often results in overextended schedules, and busywork that doesn’t really support our big vision. Doing too much can result in scattered focus and doing nothing well.

Sometimes saying no is the more generous thing to do. This is particularly true when your heart is no longer in it.

Think of a committee or board you have been on forever and now imagine giving up that commitment. What would happen if you opened up the space to someone new? Someone who is excited and brings new passion to the project. What would that open for you? Just say “no,” and say “no” to the guilt that comes along with saying no.

Do it for you. Make time for medical appointments, creativity, professional development, and time doing what feeds your heart and soul. Maybe a regular workout will give you the added energy to get through your day with strength and verve. Fitting in time for a hobby or a creative pursuit might be just the inspiration you need. Maybe downtime with a book will provide you with the peace you are seeking in an abnormally hectic day.

Whatever it is, identify what you need and then find the supporting activity or practice. Non-negotiables should be anything to do with your medical care. 

Make a commitment. Make self-care a priority. You must make time. Often, this is time in a schedule that’s already overloaded, and this means prioritizing and claiming space for self-care. One of the supporting beliefs in valuing self-care is that there is a substantial return on the investment. While our never-ending to-do list is calling, it’s vital to make the time for you. Yes, finding an hour to exercise is difficult. But the energy you gain from that workout will far outweigh the consequences of not taking care of yourself. 

By scheduling time for you, it’s easier to prioritize everything and achieve a better balance. Schedule time for self-care and hold yourself—and maybe a partner—accountable for seeing it through.

Celebrate your successes. Establishing a self-care routine can be tricky. Sometimes you will fall short. Allow yourself the gift of imperfection, another form of self-care. Embrace the limitations of your system and do what you can. Celebrate as it becomes a habit and then a routine and you are feeling better and stronger as a result.

Enjoy the ROI. Finally, enjoy the fruits of your labor. Relish in being more motivated, falling back in love with your work and leveraging the competitive edge this mindset and practice is offering you.

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish, you must buy in to self-care in order for it to become a priority, and when you apply any of these strategies for engaging self-care, you’re off to a great start to reclaim your life, both personally and professionally.

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