Busy Gal's Guide to Self-Care
Updated: Jun 1, 2018
As the owner of an association management company, I have not only studied leadership strategies and practices, I have organized sessions, found topics and helped clients identify speakers who can talk about the various aspects of leadership. Topics range from rules, resilience, and maintaining a “tough skin”, to the softer side like acknowledging feelings, celebrating little victories, parties and team building. Add to that trends like diversity and inclusion, corporate culture, and generational leadership, and you quickly realize there are all types of leaders for all types of companies. Even in my own company, I have had to change practices when staff has grown from 1 to 17.
Being a leader can be an incredibly rewarding experience. I love to see staff discover new things, get excited about life and work, and support each other. As our work changes, technology advances and culture shifts, it is incumbent upon us to not just maintain our skills, but learn how to improve them and adapt to the changing environment. As leaders, we keep an eye on our own skills, as well as those of our team. Books, speakers, retreats and conferences, YouTube videos and mentors to speak with are just a few resources available to help us along. But you need the energy to do it!
One thing my yoga practice has brought to my “leader” table is the acknowledgement of how important self-care can be. One of my instructors has said many times that we won’t be successful giving to others if our own cup is not full. And that’s so true in leadership – for a company, as a yoga instructor, and even as a parent, it’s tough to wake up excited, or walk in to the office or studio each day energetic and ready to take on the day’s challenges if we are depleted. I’m starting a podcast series where I interview leaders who practice yoga. (It will be launching next month) One of the questions I ask is why it’s important to get to your mat regularly. For me, it’s to refill that cup. As I sit here writing this, I feel scattered and my mind is going in a million different directions, which means I’m a probably a bit depleted. I want protein, I want to meditate. What should I make when I have friends over Saturday? Isn’t there dark chocolate in my desk drawer somewhere????
Listen, I have two boys – 12 and 16. They are all over the place. I have a business to run, teach twice a week and maintain my own practice, and let’s not forget a husband who requires my attention (and I like his too). I’ve had to take a shower while on a conference call (thank God for mute), exercised while brushing my teeth, and days when I'm barely making it to everything on the calendar because the schedule is so tight – I understand what it feels like when every moment counts, and the notion of filling my cup seems like an impossible dream. So, when I talk self-care, believe me, I don’t have time for weekly manicures and monthly facials. I believe strongly in biting what I can chew and working toward bigger bites.
So let’s start with the basics. Here’s my Life. Lead. Yoga. Self-Care Starter List:
Food – make sure there are more fruits and veges in your day than anything else, even when traveling or dealing with kids activities. Apples travel well – so do bags of carrots and boxes of raisins, and raisins are quick carbs.
Water – while not the cheapest way to go, I grab a 1-litre bottle of SmartWater as I leave the house each day, and I make sure I finish it by dinner.
Other beverages - Tea is better than wine, and is typically what I grab after the water is done. I’m a huge fan of sun tea, which can be made with any kind of tea, and perfect for warmer weather. Realistically though, I like my wine too, especially bubbly :)
Appearance – I have clients who appreciate when staff is well-dressed, and I teach yoga. That means I need a pedicure to avoid ugly instructor feet, and I make sure the “old ladies” a.k.a. gray hairs, are covered as needed and before an important meeting or conference. Clothing is neat – mom always said it doesn’t have to be Chanel to look good. Just make it looks like you care and build from the classic pieces.
Yoga/meditation/exercise – gotta do it. Try to reach a point where it’s not work to get on the mat – it’s just something you do. When I travel, I make sure I get in 10 Sun A sequences each morning, slowly and mindfully. It sets the tone for the day, brings me to my breath (cheater’s meditation), and gets my muscles moving (yes, I’m calling it exercise). If that’s all I can do, at least I did something for my mind/body/spirit connection that day. If I can sneak in something before dinner I will. If I can walk around the hotel block, I do that too – it’s nice to actually see the city I am in that day!
Sleep – I’m currently getting eight hours at night. Crazy, right? I’ve done three hours, and spent many years averaging 5-6. Ideas come more easily when I get closer to eight, and I’m definitely more patient. To me the real test is at 2:30pm. Am I dozing off? If the answer is yes, go to bed a little earlier tonight. A study released this week tells us that sleeping in on the weekends can help you live longer because it makes up for the lack of sleep during the week.
Necessary Luxuries - figure out what makes you chill and how often you need to do it. Does a bath take you to a different world – a world you need to visit once every two weeks for others to think you are a likeable person? Schedule it, even if it means saying goodnight to the kids through the bathroom door. I throw on my clay mask before I hop in and if I feel like reading a few pages of an inspiring book, I do, but I refuse to read anything serious and I don’t touch my phone.
Getting Frisky – whether you view it as a necessary evil or absolute pleasure, it does miracles in maintaining a connection with your spouse or loved one and probably helps you to relax a bit too. It’s an important part of self-care as it pertains to your relationships. It also helps balance the sacral chakra.
There are other things I do too, like scrape my tongue, and I’m more consistent with ayurvedic abhyanga (self massage). I love to get outside, ensure there is time for family, and I feel completely grounded when I’m driving my Vespa (with helmet of course). For me, self-care for the busy yogi is all about doing what makes you feel better so you can improve your self and your leadership skills. Fill your cup and it will be easier to be of service to others.
What do YOU do to fill your cup? I’d love to hear your tips and will share the compiled list on my website.