This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.
Three weeks ago I published a list of three essential trust-building practices for challenging times (cringing now at the wildly overused phraseology). I followed it by lists of “Ninja tips” for the first two—personal reach-outs and generous offers—and today the spotlight is on the last essential practice, which is serious S-management.
Quick recap: The “S” refers to self-orientation in the trust equation, and serious “S”-management in our current context means you lead with the view that you are a role model for others—your clients, teams, colleagues, neighbors, family members, everyone. That translates into being rigorous about the rituals and practices that help you get and stay grounded. Specifically, you focus decidedly and unapologetically on self-care so that you are able to maintain your perspective, balance, and well-being.
This kind of self-management has never been a nice-to-have for trusted advisors and I suggest these days it’s a mandate. Do it well and you show up for others in your life as a true partner who’s able to be truly present and sustainably practicing the other two essentials.
While I am most certainly not a wellness expert, there are five things I’ve learned so far about serious S-management in a pandemic. Some of these are unique to current circumstances and some fall into the “back to basics” category:
- Being outside (safely) provides more than a breath of fresh air. To date I’ve led virtual conversations for several hundred past workshop participants and by far the most common answer to my question about what people are finding useful for serious S-management is exercising/moving outside—even if it’s raining and even if it’s 9pm. My own saving grace has been time in the garden, which helps me physically and emotionally (and dare I say, spiritually).
Turns out there’s some no-kidding evidence that exercising outdoors produces a greater sense of well-being. In one study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, volunteers went for two walks for the same time or distance—one inside (think treadmill or track) and the other outdoors—and virtually all the outdoor adventurers scored significantly higher on psychological tests measuring vitality and energy, and lower in anger and depression.
- Gratitude is important, right alongside feeling the crappier emotions. “Ambiguous loss” and “disaster fatigue” apply to everyone right now, and the negative impacts of avoiding negative emotions have long been studied. So, as one of my mentors repeatedly says, we need to “feel all the feels” and process them accordingly. That means I’m still making my daily gratitude list, but don’t be surprised if you walk by my front yard and see me shoveling or raking in a weirdly vigorous way as I release my anger, frustration, and anxiety.
- (Warning: this one might cause an eye roll.) Stay as present as you possibly can. The quote by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu has been rattling around in my head of late: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” And while it’s hard to imagine being at peace with the devastation so many are experiencing as I write this, it’s not impossible to find at least some equanimity by being as “in the moment” as we possibly can.
My garden helps me on this front, as does taking a time out to pet the purring cat, organize a messy drawer, do a quick guided meditation, and take a couple of deep belly breaths.
Don’t knock any of it until you’ve tried it.
- Routines and rituals help keep the crazy at bay. No surprise there’s long-known psychological benefit to be found with whatever certainty we can create for ourselves inside of ambiguity. Popular practices among my clients, colleagues, and friends include getting dressed for work (thank you, DK), Friday family movie nights, jigsaw puzzle challenges, and more.
- Seek out humor. Alan and I have been re-watching Parks and Recreation almost daily, and I’ve been enjoying the funny memes that friends have been texting me (my favorite from the weekend: “Man walks into a bar … lucky bastard.”) Does that make me shallow and disconnected? Not according to the Mayo clinic, which says the benefits of laughter are no joke: laughter stimulates organs, soothes the physical symptoms of stress, and improves our immune systems in the long run. I’ll have more of all that, please.
Here’s my super Ninja tip for the week: When it comes to self-care, once a day is not enough. At least it hasn’t been cutting it for me—especially after a series of virtual meetings when I’ve been glued to my desk chair and camera for hours and want nothing more than to lie down on the floor and curl up in a fetal position.
If you wish you could throw something at me right now because you’ve got work and small kids and aging parents and more and can’t possibly find the time for self-care once before your head hits the pillow, let alone multiple times … (1) go for it (see #2 above) and (2) remember a simple and quick belly breath or two can work wonders.
Call me an overachiever, I just took three.
Make It Real
This week, look for opportunities to apply the “Ninja tips” that speak to you the most, and as many times a day as you possibly can.
Sick of communications that speak to “these challenging times”? Check out a funny supercut of every commercial designed for them, along with a poem called “First lines of emails I’ve received while quarantining.”
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