Taking some time from our busy lives to rest, relax and rejuvenate is essential for our mental health and wellbeing.
In many cases, due to demands and work complexities, leaders often get sucked into
workaholism which could eventually lead to stress and a mental breakdown.
As an entrepreneur and a mom of 5 children who usually works long days and weekends,
self-care is not a word that I was fond of. But this changed in 2019. During the Rise and Lead
Summit, one of my keynote speakers mentioned that being ill forced her to embrace self-care.
She shared a quote by Katie Reed that I can’t forget: “Give the world the best of you and not what is left of you”.
For this reason, I always ask the executive leaders and role models who join my conversation on the Rise to Leadership Podcast to tell me and my audience what self-care means to them and to share some self-care routines or tips that they have used to manage work-life integration.
From my conversations with these leaders, below are some of the ways that they focus on
Hanneke Faber, the President of Global Foods and Refreshment at Unilever.
“Exercise, setting boundaries and finding individual coping mechanisms in work life. One of the things that has helped me is that every day around 5:30 – 6:00 PM, I grab whoever is willing in my household, and we do an exercise video. Then, if the weather is good and it’s daylight, we go out to the backyard. And it’s great because, after that, my head clears, and it’s a bit of self-care as well”.
Cristina Falcone, Vice-President of Public Affairs at UPS.
“I have been more selective in what I do and use a calendar to distinguish which meetings and activities I accept to participate in. I have been working long hours during COVID, but. I
have family time consistent, especially with dinners. Being grateful has also helped me mentally, It has helped me keep the lockdown situation manageable, putting things into perspective.
Bob Rog, the Managing Director Benelux of The Kraft Heinz Company.
“Meeting and interacting with people creates order and energy mentally. Acknowledging foremostly that this [the pandemic] is temporary and that it makes sense that you are not as strong mentally and physically is a good starting point. Working on that root cause is next”. Theirs is a need to socially interact with the limited people you can and create a
structure in your days. I suggest that everyone treats their day as a fluid stream of activities
and draw limits on when it is time to work and when it is time to focus on health or social
Marisa Daly, the Head of HR at Africa at American Tower Corporation.
“I have been taking up hobbies not related to work or family, something to focus on and to disconnect. I have taken up creative writing courses, tennis, and sewing, which forces me to prioritize myself…this is my commitment”.
Seun Awolowo, the Executive Director and Vice President at Goldman Sachs UK.
“African women culturally are expected to suffer in silence and do this behind closed doors…we are expected to be a good wife and mother…our ability to prioritize self-care is unhelpful if you help others and not yourself. With the glass being half full metaphor, in your overflow, you can help yourself. Being kind to yourself, focusing on your strengths…and asking for help and finding a good community is important; no one can do this alone”.
Marguerite Soeteman-Reijnen, Marguerite Soeteman-Reijnen, Chairman of the Executive
Board of Aon Holdings and CMO of Aon Inpoint.
Prioritizing your wellbeing and keeping physically fit can lead to living a productive life. “Make sure you have balance in place for your physical wellbeing and your mental wellbeing, as that will further enable financial wellbeing”, she stresses. Living a balanced life will help you avoid burnouts and help you improve your income.
Marian Spier, CEO of Fem-Start.
“Life is not all about proving yourself to people. During the weekend, I turn off my phone, have a walk, spend quality time with friends talking about something completely different from work, and relax in my best possible way. It is crucial to carve out the time to make yourself a priority”.
Aylin Arslantas Bumin, District Marketing Manager/West Europe at UPS.
“As a woman, it is important to understand your priorities and the essential things that make you feel a sense of completeness”. “It would be best if you were very intentional about your self-care routine…It is important to have your non-negotiables — ‘me’ time — for each day. It can be to have a cup of coffee, chat with a friend, go for exercise, or create some time for some of your hobbies”, she continued.
Irine Gaasbeek, Dutch Country Managing Director of Accenture.
“Blocking out time for yourself can enable you to ensure that you always make time for yourself. I plan time for myself in my agenda in the weekends but also sometimes in the week.
When I have a very busy week, both during the day and in the evening, I make sure that I
have an hour to do some sports. We live close by the sea so I go for a walk with the dog.
Sometimes, half an hour or an hour is enough to take a step back and relax”.
Self-care means different things to different people. For me, self-care involves focusing only on things linked to my strategic priorities and making time for occasional breaks.
Recently, I had to switch off my phone notifications which were driving me crazy, and schedule time for social interactions. I also found that watching an exciting movie every
evening before I go to bed calms me down in the winter, and I run twice a day in summer.
There is no one way or activity that qualifies as self-care as different people have diverse ways of indulging in self-care. But one underlying fact is that we all deserve self-care – every day if possible – not just as a reward for all the work that we have done, but as the starting point for facing the different challenges that make up our lives.
Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.