July 16, 2020
It can seem selfish, in light of all that is happening in our nation and around the world, to talk about self-care. Yet without building a strong foundation on a daily basis, we would be adrift.
All of us, but most particularly those of us who lead others, need to invest the time in ourselves so we can more fully give to those around us.
Before moving any further, I need to acknowledge something that has become abundantly clear during these past few months, and especially during these past few weeks: I enjoy extraordinary privilege. I am fortunate beyond measure. I have work that pays me well, a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a loving spouse, and health insurance.
I am deeply aware that this is not true for so many of my fellow Americans and my fellow humans. Yet this is my truth and my experience, and I can only speak from what I know. More on this at the end of the blog.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve begun my day focused on four areas:
- Physical health
- Spiritual health
- Relational health
- Financial health
I’ve experienced the positive changes that a routine brings firsthand, and I’ve also experienced what happens when I forego my routine, even for a day. As I stated above, the foundation has to be built on a daily basis. To be completely honest, this time of pandemic, and now racial unrest, has challenged me to adhere to a regime.
Let’s take a look at these areas one by one.
It used to be simple. Get up every day, drink a glass of water, and go to the gym. I set out my gym clothes the night before, so there was literally nothing for me to do except dress and drive. Meals were planned out, and designed for nutrition. Then the gyms closed and my desire for “comfort food” set in. The easy answer was to skip exercising and enjoy takeout burgers and fries. But I knew better. Last year, through only nutrition and exercise, I saw several indicators on my blood labs return to normal.
I got creative. I borrowed some weights. I asked a friend if I could use the treadmill in their guest house. I gave myself one day a week for “comfort food” and maintained my healthy habits.
Again, this used to be easy. Returning from the gym, I would shower, dress, and then take time to pray and meditate. Those things came easily when all was going well. At the beginning of the pandemic I had no idea whether or not my clients would continue to use my services as a consultant. Prayer become much more real. Meditation focused on the blessings that I had. I looked to ways that I could be a blessing to others and contribute to their lives. I had to get real with myself about how I had relied on beautiful liturgy, music, and architecture not to enhance worship, but to substitute for it. I decided to treat virtual worship like I would physical worship. I dressed for church and engaged it without distraction, and it made a difference. I also began praying Compline with my father who lives in another state every night without fail, to contribute to him.
My husband of 26 years and I have been sharing a cup of coffee together every morning since our relationship began. No phones, no TV, no newspapers. Nothing. Just quiet time. Sometimes we chat a bit. Sometimes not so much. But we always connect, and it has made us stronger. Continuing this practice was seamless.
Each morning I strive to learn something new that I can then share with my clients. Something that will contribute not only to my knowledge, but to their business as well. It is one of the simplest things I’ve ever done, and one of the most appreciated. The benefits have come back to me 10-fold.
I stated at the outset that my life is one of privilege. Not Bill Gates level privilege, but certainly one of comfort. As I wrote this blog, I thought that it was all the more important for me to continue to take care of myself, and for others who are able, to do the same. Though my initial focus during the day is on me, once my self-care routine is complete, my focus turns towards others. How can I be a servant leader? How can I contribute to others? What charitable organizations are doing work that needs financial support? Who needs a phone call to be uplifted? Do what you can to build your foundation daily. Those whom you lead need you at your best.