World Wellbeing Week
“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. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch’’
Parker J. Palmer
Things are more than a little crazy right now. With changing guidelines re Covid-19 and an understandable desire to get back to some kind of normal, there are just not enough hours in the day. Now take a look at your ‘to -do list’. How many of you have actually got anything written on it that it is to with taking care of yourself?
I suspect that the answer is painfully few. I’m not being critical here. For many years I was actually the same. Looking after myself was never very high up my list of priorities. I was for ten years running an exceptionally large primary school and my priority was looking after my pupils and staff. That amounted to around 900 people. That’s a lot of people to try and take care of. I had many failings as a leader I am sure, but I hope that my kids and staff would say that I cared and I still believe it is better to be that way than not to give a dam! Regardless, it took up a lot of physical and emotional energy. I took up my first senior leadership role at 27, which in those days, was certainly considered young, but successive headteachers saw potential in me that was matched with boundless enthusiasm and energy. I drank lots of coffee, stayed up late, sometimes skipped meals and ate the wrong things and drank a lot of beer at the weekends. It was not a problem, but it was not sustainable; not in the long term.
By my mid-forties, my lack of self-care, mixed in with increasing pressures at work made for a toxic combination. I struggled on in a state of wilful blindness, ignoring the building symptoms of migraines, back pain, panic attacks and a stammer. (This is all charted in my first book, ‘Leading From the Edge’ – Don’t be put off – it is an uplifting read with a happy ending!) The notion of taking care of myself and investing in my own well-being, perversely, seemed rather…. well selfish! I ended up off work for several months increasing significantly the workload of my colleagues who had to cover for me.
The moral of this story? Investing in your own wellbeing may seem selfish but actually not doing so, can prove rather more selfish in the long run.
Nobody in their right mind would expect to go into a lesson or meeting, without a plan of action and expect it to go well, and so it is with our wellbeing. Pause, just for a few minutes in this mad, mad world and ask yourself, ‘What can I do in the current climate to take care of myself right now?’
Remember, self-care can be one of the most selfless things you can do.See all James's blog posts