May 24 2024 04:18 AM

Every time we fly, we hear the safety briefing that in case of an emergency “put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.” This is an example illustrating the principle that we need to care for ourselves (self-care) so that we can better take care of others. Author Parker Palmer summarized by saying, “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” Intentionally pursuing self-care has many benefits to ourselves and those we are trying to serve including:

Enhanced Resilience. We face a myriad of challenges, from dealing with operational problems like equipment and technology issues to dealing with people conflicts to keeping our customers happy. Self-care helps build our resilience so we can successfully address these challenges.

Role Modeling. We can set a good example for our team members and model the things we would like them to do and benefit from.

Higher Productivity. When we are healthy and taking time to recharge and rejuvenate, our performance improves — and so will the performance of our teams.

Become Happier and More Positive. When we take care of ourselves well, we enjoy life more and are healthier, more positive, and better equipped to serve others.

Tips for Practicing Self-Care

Here are 10 tips to help us on our self-care journey:

1) Choose and Commit to Self-Care. I agree with Tony Robbins when he said, “Realize that the hardest step in achieving anything is making a true commitment.”

2) Set Boundaries. It is healthy for us to set clear boundaries between work and our personal life. This includes knowing our limits, and designating times for work-related activities versus personal times. Dr. Travis Bradberry recommends scheduling “me” time on our daily calendars to prevent burnout and support a healthy work-life balance.

3) Pursue Positivity. Numerous studies have shown that optimists and positive people are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists and negative thinkers. One way to become more positive is to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” by contemplating what we are thankful for. We can also remember the advice of Jim Rohn who suggests we become like the five people we spend the most time with – so we can choose to have our closest friends be positive thinkers.

4) Take Care of Our Physical Health. The basics for good physical health are well known — but not consistently practiced. Being physically healthy improves the quality and expected quantity (length) of our lives. When we are physically healthy, we are happier, have more energy, are more productive, and are stronger mentally (“the body feeds the mind”). Proven keys to being physically healthy including:

Eat healthily. We can benefit from reducing fat, sugar, refined flour, and salt intake; and increasing whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. By the way — one of the best things I have ever heard is that dark chocolate is good for us!

Exercise (move) regularly. Exercise revs our body's production of feel-good endorphins, can help regulate our sleep, lowers the symptoms associated with mild depression, boosts our energy, and helps us remain calmer and more focused, all of which can go a long way toward good health and stress management. For me, I especially enjoy walks with my wife.

Get enough sleep and rest. Experts say that most adults need at least seven hours of sleep to function optimally. It may be tempting to scrimp on sleep to get more work done, but there is a price to pay if we do. Numerous studies have found a link between insufficient sleep and serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

5) Take Care of Our Mental Health. Exercising our mind (brain) is one important key to good mental health. Here are a couple of important ways we can exercise and develop our minds:

Life-long learning. I am inspired by the example of Pablo Casals, who bore the nickname “Mr. Cellist.” A young reporter once asked, “Mr. Casals, you are ninety-five and the greatest cellist who ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” Casals smiled and said, “Because I think I’m making progress.”

Reading. The simplest and most straightforward way to expand our mind and keep our brain sharp is by reading. Joseph Addison was right when he said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

Puzzles and other mental activities. A recent study found that those who pursued various kinds of cognitive activity — including doing puzzles — were 47% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who undertook such activities infrequently.

6) Practice Self Awareness. Practicing Self Awareness is the starting point for being Emotionally Intelligent (EQ). And extensive research has shown that EQ is more important than IQ for our success and helps us and those that we serve and interact with. We can work to improve our self-awareness by analyzing our feelings and what they are teaching us. We can intentionally seek feedback from others like a mentor and/or one or two close friends on how others perceive us.

7) Give Ourselves Grace and Extend Grace to Others. We can sometimes feel like everything rests on our shoulders, creating unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Alternatively, we can partner with our team members and others, so we avoid beating ourselves up unfairly. We can also extend grace to others, realizing that life events (e.g., health issues, family crises) can throw people off.

8) Managing Stress Effectively. We know that stress is unavoidable, and in moderation can help us be more productive. But too much stress is unhealthy and inhibits our effectiveness. So, learning ways to manage stress is important. Ideas to consider include getting fresh air, listening to relaxing music, controlling our breathing, and taking time to play or do something fun.

9) Cultivate Hobbies and Interests. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to make time for activities that bring us joy and fulfillment outside of work. For me, I enjoy sports, reading, and listening to music. What nourishes your soul and adds joy to your life?

10) Nurture Meaningful Connections and Personal Relationships. A recent Surgeon General’s report found that the number one health issue we face is the lack of social connections. Harvard has conducted an 85-year monumental study on long-term happiness and health. The key? Having close, loving relationships! So, how do we develop meaningful, close, and loving relationships? Here are some ideas:

Build Emotional Bank Accounts. We have emotional bank accounts with people in our lives. We make “deposits” by our positive actions and words — including writing letters and notes, phone calls, texts, social media messages, small gifts, and favors and the like. We make withdrawals by our negative actions and words.

Practice the Magical 5:1 ratio. The Magical 5:1 ratio means we should have at least five positive statements or interactions with people for every negative/critical statement or interaction. Multiple independent studies have landed on the importance of the 5 to 1 ratio, including the landmark work by Dr. John Gottman. In one study using the 5:1 ratio as the standard, he and his colleagues predicted whether 700 newlywed couples would stay together or divorce by scoring their positive and negative interactions in one 15-minute conversation between each husband and wife. Ten years later, the follow-up revealed that they had predicted divorce with 94% accuracy!

Laugh, have fun and shed tears when proper. Laughter and having fun are good for our physical and mental health — and when done with others helps to build better relationships. Spending enjoyable time with others eating meals, playing games, and attending fun events all help build personal connections. There are also times to empathize and even shed tears when others are going through tough times.

Here is a closing quote from author Katie Reed, “Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” Let’s practice good self-care and give the world our best!

Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training. He serves as the Industry Co-Chair of the Greater Portland PCC. His book, Your Team Can Soar! has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you, and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from or (under Book) or an online retailer. Wes can be contacted at or at 971-806-0812.