Working Long Hours? Here are some Self-care Tips.
Amorphophallus titanum takes a decade to bloom. The smell of its 48-hour bloom makes it a spectacle, with people crowding nurseries and conservatories worldwide to view it.
Instead of a sweet or earthy fragrance, the aptly nicknamed corpse flower provides an alternative scent. Think of a combination of feces, rotting meat, and three-day-old dirty socks. Then multiply that by 1,000. Bingo. Hey, it isn't a perfume that will sell out at Bergdorf Goodman. But it does attract dung beetles and flies, who pollinate the plant.
What do you have in common with a corpse flower? Glad you asked.
The corpse flower needs long-term planning and care to thrive – an environment that includes a consistent temperature of upwards of 75 degrees and 80 to 90 percent humidity. It’s a bit tricky, and some of the most famous blooming plants have a contingency of experts minding them.
Businesses require this same level (if not more) of attention and dedication. It takes a lot of effort to get one going and keep it going. Passionate leaders and employees may put in long hours, forgoing vacation time, sleep, or regular meals to make their companies great. In short bursts, it’s sustainable. But a long-term pattern like this can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, lack of creativity and motivation, and even depression.
A business can’t thrive if its caretakers aren’t helping themselves. Enter the idea of self-care. Self-care is a simple notion. It asks that throughout the hoopla of daily life, people maintain habits that protect their mental and physical health. It can be a grand gesture such as taking a six-month sabbatical or an action as small as taking a short walk outside during the day or finding the time for 5 minutes of meditation. Whatever it is, it works well when applied consistently, regularly, and in small doses.
Signs that it’s time to think about self-care
One of the trickiest parts of self-care is knowing when you need it. When you’re in a pattern of behavior, it can be difficult to notice its effect. For example, you’re working long hours to keep your company flourishing. Maybe it’s a couple of late nights. Then it encroaches on your weekends. Soon, you’re missing family events or vacations. Perhaps you haven’t seen your close friends in a while. Your work priorities override all other preferences.
By asking yourself a few questions, you can identify if you need to course correct with self-care.
- Am I getting enough sleep? Sleep is a basic need. It lets you erase the day and replenish your energy. Plus, dreams are your brain’s mechanism for processing emotions and experiences. Not only do they help you work them out, they provide inspiration and creativity.
- Am I more irritable? Look, we all have bad days. We all lose our tempers. We’re human. But are you more irritable than usual? Do small things that wouldn’t bother you before now set you off?
- Do I have work-life balance? You may have the work part down. It’s thrilling to grow a company and succeed. Ignoring or consistently deprioritizing other parts of your life – family, friends, time for yourself apart from business – may signal a need for rebalancing.
- Am I having fun? I’m not talking about all fun, all the time. Life isn’t a consistent water park slide. BUT adulting needs its counterpart – some good old-fashioned fun. Are you enjoying hobbies? Vacations? New experiences?
- If you could do anything at all right now, what would it be? If you have trouble articulating an answer outside of work-related activities or are drawing a blank, that could indicate a need for (or for more) self-care.
How to practice self-care
The first step to embracing self-care is to prioritize it. Remember – you don’t have to quit your job and move to Tuscany to accomplish it (although I wouldn’t say no to that!). You can invite small habits into your routines as a start.
Put yourself ahead of others
When you’re going 1,000 miles an hour, you find yourself in situations where you have to put your wants and needs in the back seat.
However, prioritizing or delegating smaller responsibilities can provide relief. You may need to create a go-to-market plan, but do you need to enter data into the CRM? There’s a chance you can ask someone else to handle tasks like that in your stead (interns, virtual assistants, etc.). Likewise, prioritizing provides relief. When someone asks you to handle something immediately, ask them about deadlines (or make reasonable deadlines for your own tasks). Ever heard of the Eisenhower Matrix (or Box) for prioritizing tasks? Check it out here.
You aren’t ignoring work. You’re just avoiding the knee-jerk reaction to do it all. You’re making sure activities are weighted and handled so that you can enjoy weekends or get off in time for your daughter’s soccer game. Remember what the flight attendants say when the air masks fall from overhead: Put yours on first before you assist others.
Who can sit still for 30 minutes? It seems like a tall order.
But it’s at times like this – when you’re going non-stop – that meditation is most important. It allows you to slow down and refocus. Download an app and spend three minutes a day on it before work or bedtime. Build up bit by bit. You won’t be sorry. Meditation not your thing? Sit quietly and take several deep breaths - it’s amazing what that will do!
A brief nap (15 to 30 minutes) in the middle of the day gives you more pep than a couple of cups of coffee. Consider taking some quiet time for yourself during the day.
You-time is the ultimate indulgence for a busy person. Whether it’s a quiet moment with a cup of tea or spending an hour reading a great book, these moments of rejuvenation will go a long way to restoring your vigor.
Like the corpse flower, we all need a little help to get by – even if it’s helping ourselves. Beyond the tips above, there are even more ideas listed here. Stay healthy, productive, and successful!