If you’re a school leader you’re probably accustomed to hustling on the job and not having a lot of time for yourself. You’ve got more to do than time allows in a demanding job that requires hundreds of daily decisions and an incredible amount of attention spread in various directions.
In recent years, however, self-care is on the rise and powering through 60 plus-hour weeks doesn’t provoke the same bragging-rights it used to. And yet, hustle culture is still very much a thing, despite the momentum work-life balance has built. As you carve out time for the things in life that make you whole, it’s important to recognize self-care strategies that are actually beneficial.
With the wellness industry’s global market reaching $4.5 trillion in 2018 (Global Wellness Institute), there is no shortage of products or services for taking care of yourself. And if you’re a go-getter, type A, Enneagram 3, etc., taking up a self-care routine or new habit could be a major undertaking. Lofty goals include early morning routines, intense workouts, lengthy time blocks devoted to exercise, meditation, reading and more.
It’s easy to get excited when setting a self-care goal and an intention to make a change in your life to be better to yourself. But if taking care of yourself is leading to burnout, the result is counterproductive and unsustainable.
Here are three things you can do to support your self-care practices:
1. If you’re adding self-care into your daily routine, find something to take away.
You might think you can just do more, but in reality, adding in more to the day means you have to eliminate something. Sleep, caring for children, and basic needs are non-negotiable. What are the other non-negotiables? Now look at the things you do spend your time on and decide how you want to swap your time.
One good way to determine what you actually spend time doing is to track it for a week. Start with your wake up time, morning routine activities, commute time, work hours, and what you do between the end of the work day and bed. Weekends may be tougher if you have a variety of things you do on the weekend, so just start with M-F.
Once you have a clear picture of your time that you spend doing “must-do” activities versus “may do” activities, you can determine what you want to eliminate to make room for the new self-care practice you’re adding to your day or week. For example, I’m prone to look at my phone upon waking. If I want to ensure that I add stretching and meditation to my morning routine, I should probably plan to keep my phone somewhere other than my nightstand so when I wake up I’m more apt to get out of bed and start my day with a morning stretch and meditation, instead of spending time looking at email and social media.
2. Set self-care goals you can accomplish.
Depending on how you operate, goal setting may be a regular part of life. Or maybe you only reserve goals for the new year. We set a ton of goals in education at every level, but when it comes to personal life, goals without accountability fall flat.
To successfully accomplish a goal for your self-care, focus on one thing at a time. Having a focus will support you with fiercely prioritizing YOU in your day. Too many goals leads to excuses and inaction.
Set up an accountability system or partner. Making your goals public, like on social media, or in a group, and giving regular updates will help you stay committed to taking actions in order to get you to your goal.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Social media makes it nearly impossible to see other’s experiences in totality. Those we follow select the best photos to highlight the best moments, creating a story of a meaningful, complete and gloriously fun life they are leading.
And meanwhile, what are you doing? Well, you’re on your phone, scrolling your feed. Impossible not to compare! Of course you can beat this by giving yourself grace and loving exactly where you are and what you’ve accomplished.
Instead of wishing yourself to be more photogenic, sporty, crafty, social, a supermom or super dad, a powerhouse at work, crushing it in all aspects of life, you can be truly happy for others and what they are choosing to share (Another selfie on the beach?! You go girl!).
Know that your path is unique and you’re exactly where you are supposed to be. You can better understand how you want to show up for yourself and make adjustments to do just that.
School leaders have work to do and it’s not hustling that will get us there. It’s balancing the hard work of your job with what makes you happy, healthy, and whole. Taking care of ourselves and our personal needs, our health and our well-being helps us show up for work more refreshed and ready to handle anything.