- in Self-Care
Nancy was a typical client.
Before we started our sessions, she worked constantly and never took time for herself. She always had her computer on and was doing something on it.
Morning…afternoon…evening… often well into the wee hours of the night. Six days a week, sometimes seven.
She stayed hyped up on caffeine, drinking more cups of coffee than she could count on one hand.
All her food came out of boxes or cans or restaurants. Her brain was always going a mile a minute.
One day, she had a huge proposal presentation to deliver to the C-suite of a major player in town.
If she could land it, this account would be her cash cow for the next two years. She already had a lot on her plate and always seemed to address those other items first...until the day before that big presentation, she realized, “Holy cow! I need to get this together!”
She’d been up late every night that week as usual, trying to catch up on everything.
This night, she stayed up until 2 am to finish that proposal and was up at 6 am to get ready. She was confident that she’d just developed the most awesome presentation slides ever created on this earth, and with her people-friendly personality, she knew she’d nail it.
Unfortunately, she did not nail it.
Her brain was so exhausted from the lack of sleep and so blown out by caffeine that she didn’t rock the presentation. She was all over the place and didn’t exactly make sense at times. She lost the account — and her credibility with that company.
My friend Cary Corbin runs her own PR business, Corbin & Associates.
In July 2014, for the first time in 10 years, she decided to get her family together for a two-week vacation in Florida.
She notified all her clients about what she was doing and tied off all loose ends before leaving. She knew she could check email on her phone in case of emergency, so she felt confident as she and her family headed off on their family vacation.
On the first Monday into the trip, she thought she’d sneak a peek at her email just to make sure that everything was still fine.
She couldn’t get her email to come up on her phone! She panicked. She took the phone to her sons so that they could figure out what was wrong. They couldn’t. She could not check email!
She walked around, took a deep breath, and decided, “I’m on vacation. I let everyone know ahead of time. I’m going to enjoy myself.”
And she did exactly that.
When we met up after her return, she told me,
“I went away for two weeks. I never checked email, never checked voicemail — and my business is still running. You know what I realized? I don’t need to work 24/7. It’s okay to slow down. My business will still be there. Not only that, but this is the most rejuvenated I’ve felt since I don’t know when!”
Vacation time is your chance to experience special moments in your life.
Plus, allowing your brain to rest from work revitalizes you and allows you to make better decisions about how to use your time.
Make your health and well-being a priority by implementing all the following tactics. Add on one at a time, at your own pace.
1. Whenever you are asked to take on a new project or task, pause for a few deep breaths while looking at your calendar before making a decision about that action.
2. Whenever you are feeling stressed, pause for a few deep breaths before making a decision about that action.
3. When you get out of bed in the morning, pause for a few deep breaths, and tell yourself that today is going to be great.
4. When you slide into bed in the evening, pause for a few deep breaths, and reflect on at least one thing that happened during the day for which you’re grateful.
5. When in doubt, breathe deeply!
1. Turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Even mindless internet searches and texting activate subconscious brain sensors and keep us awake.
2. Use a real alarm clock instead of your phone.
3. Go to bed at least seven to eight hours before you need to be awake. Eventually, you’ll figure out your sweet spot — the number of hours you need to function well.
4. Eat or drink nothing but water within two hours before going to bed. This helps with both weight loss and deeper sleep throughout the night.
1. Yo mama was right. Eat fruits and veggies daily.
2. Increase the percentage of your from-home meals.
1. Drink water.
2. Eat foods like fruits and vegetables that contain water.
1. Go on a walk whenever you catch yourself procrastinating.
2. Schedule a daily walk, during which time you can decompress from the day.
3. Whenever you feel stressed, go on a walk instead of reaching for food or drinks or social media.
4. When you need to make a big decision, take a deep breath, and go for a walk.
1. Take a break to celebrate whenever you complete a task. Do a happy dance around the room.
2. Whenever you feel like procrastinating, take a break by getting up to refill your water glass.
3. When your derriere starts feeling numb from sitting too long or your wrists start aching from too much typing, take a break by going on a five-minute walk.
Go on Vacation
The next time you are faced with deciding whether to keep working and possibly catch a new opportunity that might come your way, or taking a break from work and focusing on one of your personal priorities or targets, try out the latter — even just a half-day staycation next weekend.
Make plans for some kind of getaway within the next year. Minimum: two days. Maximum: your choice!
Karoshi. It’s a Japanese term that means “death from overwork.”
For decades, Americans have poked fun at the Japanese work ethic, but when you look at our rising numbers of heart attacks and strokes due to work-related stress, you'll soon realize that overwork and lack of self-care are a serious matter.
Research tells us the following:
- We need to breathe deeply to clear our minds.
- We need six to eight hours of sleep.
- Our bodies and brains need a balance of nutrients in order to function.
- Our brains operate better when our bodies are hydrated.
- Walking clears the mind and leads to creativity.
- Both our brains and bodies need to take breaks.
- We live happier lives if we go on vacation.
You know what studies haven’t found? That working the longest hours and not having a life mean more money and happiness. Nope, not a bit.
No, you haven’t picked up the wrong book. You’re still reading a time management / productivity book. So why the heck are we talking about self-care in a bloody business book?
When we know that we’re good at what we do, it’s easy to feel invincible. After all, we need to have confidence, right? But there’s a difference between confidence and overstepping what we’re physically and mentally capable of completing when our brains aren’t getting the rest, nutrition, and care that they need.
Your vitality depends on your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
For most of my clients, this fact is often cast aside in their race to make everyone else in their lives happy — their kids, their spouse, their friends, the parents of their kids’ friends, their boss, their coworkers — you name it. Everyone else around them, everyone else in the world, but not them.
Let’s be frank and earnest. (Who are those guys, anyway?) If you don’t take care of yourhealth first and foremost, then productivity will not happen.
If you don’t take care of your health first and foremost, then productivity will not happen.
Why is that?
Because productivity and time management are all about mind management — a healthy brain that makes good choices. So if you’re not in good health, your brain won’t have clarity. If your brain doesn’t have clarity, it won’t make good decisions. And if your brain doesn’t make good decisions, you may as well flush all your calendars and apps down the toilet because they won’t dig you out of any holes that your brain creates. So it’s absolutely vital that you take care of yourself — and your brain!
Overall, the strategy is to increase your time management skills by creating brain clarity, which will happen when you care for your body and mind.
There are so many modern advances that are supposed to help us to do this, but they actually often cause us more problems. Examples:
Fast food is easy to grab on the go, but we end up with more health problems because of the lack of nutrients and the abundance of calories and nonnatural substances. We might save time in the short term because we’re getting our food in 10 minutes instead of spending 30 minutes cooking, but in the long run, we’ll need to spend more time working out to lose the weight and more time at the doctor to deal with health issues.
Smartphones are awesome tools that allow us to operate a mobile office, but they can become a tool of procrastination and distraction.
When we don’t want to do what’s in front of us, it becomes an easy habit to grab our phone and “play,” thereby putting us further behind in what we’re supposed to do.
Smartphones also interrupt sleep patterns and contribute to sleep issues when we leave them dinging, buzzing, and vibrating next to our bed — waking us up throughout the night and never letting our brains and bodies reach deep sleep. As you continue reading, you’ll discover better ways to use your smartphone as a tool instead of an avoidance crutch.
It’s cool to be able to have a mobile office in hip coffee shops, but using caffeinated drinks to hydrate can actually slow us down.
Gyms are tremendous tools, but just plain old walking will still provide plenty of health benefits.
Wanting to be “liked” by all beings in the physical and virtual worlds is a hindrance that affects daily life.
So many times we instantly say yes to someone’s request for our time — in fear of not being liked — before taking the time to assess if completing that action is going to benefit us, or if the time frame given to complete the action fits our availability. We tend to drag in past worries and emotions and maybe even guilt and respond with a quick “Yes!” instead of focusing on current conditions and determining if this is a good move for us.
In our haste to rush and squeeze in as much as possible, and in our fear that someone might not like us, we end up saying yes to way too many things, overtaxing our brains, and backing off from mental and physical time-outs.
Getting as much information as possible and pausing for some deep-breathing time will help you to make better decisions and will allow you to better harness your time.
Hurry up. Do more. “Gotta do more, gotta be more!” (Remember that line from the movie Dead Poets Society?) We might think we’re functioning just fine until we discover how much better we can be when we take our time, breathe deeply, get sleep, eat well, hydrate, go on walks, take breaks, and get away.
Our brains and bodies need recharge time.
You let your phone charge overnight, and that’s just a little machine. Your brain and body are vastly more complex and need at least that, if not more.
And to top it all off, fewer and fewer Americans go on vacation. No wonder we’re so stressed!
You have to take your time to save time.
We lose time when we run ragged and get sick. We think we don’t have time to cook healthy meals or exercise, yet we’re forced to create time to go to doctor appointments and miss work to sleep off whatever illness struck us down. Why not stay healthy instead, and use the “illness time” saved to have fun?
Let’s take time for self-care.
About the author
Helene has been the featured productivity expert in over 100 media interviews including publications such as Woman’s Day Magazine and Money Magazine, as well as on Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits.
Her website is www.HeleneSegura.com.