It is brilliant how much more openly we now talk about mental health and the challenges we all face each day compared to a few years ago. We are finding that our clients want wellbeing to be front and center of their development programs for leaders, managers, graduates and apprentices. It is only a few years ago when it was a token gesture made rather than a fundamental agenda point for organizations to consider.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on how hard I find it ’to take care of myself’ and often drift into thinking this wasn’t hard for me before I became a parent, but that simply isn’t true. I have less time for myself now than I did earlier in my life but I always struggled to put myself first.

If there is one thing that 2020 gave me, it was an opportunity to reset and connect with these 7 things that help me to look after myself that I had gradually abandoned in more recent years:

  1. Routine – probably my biggest winner from 2020! I’ve been a consultant for over ten years and LOVE the variety my work gives me although the variety is also the downside in that no week is the same. Since March 2020 I’ve established routines that have helped me to take care of myself and importantly stuck to them.
  2. Physical Exercise – I have a number of injuries which have got in the way of what I usually enjoy doing for exercise. Currently I walk the dog at 6.30am in the pitch black (rain hail or shine) but I LOVE the podcasts that accompany me on my route and I know that my day of home working will much easier if I have this ‘under my belt’.
  3. Gratitude – I write down 5 things I’m grateful for in the evening, sometimes they are the smallest things that have impacted me but acknowledging them is important as I derive meaning and purpose from them. It has helped me do them more and to be ‘in the moment’ when they occur again. e.g. having dinner with my daughter or seeing the sunrise in the forest in the morning.
  4. Walk & Talk – my team & I have been trying to do more one to ones on the phone since October when the days have got shorter. Mobile conversations are different to video, more informal and combining it with walking in the middle of the day allows us to get some daylight and time away from our desks.
  5. Energy – a critical component in understanding your strengths is knowing what energizes you. Last year I was able to bring in some different types of work that give me energy which had a big impact on my year despite plenty of challenges.
  6. Absorption – Father Christmas optimistically bought my 8 year old a 1000 piece jigsaw which I soon got stuck into on Boxing Day and despite the fact our dog knocked it on the floor when I was about 50 pieces away from completion, it made me realise how much I enjoyed the process of working on it (rather than completing it). Csikszentmihalyi calls this state ‘flow’ where time runs away from us as we are at the perfect intersection of challenge and our capability to perform the task.
  7. Social Connection – I recognize how much connection with others impacts my wellbeing and I’m lucky to work with a team who connect regularly and collaborates on a daily basis especially during this extended period where seeing friends is so hard.

My hope is that I stay committed to these things as we enter 2021 and that by sharing them it reminds me of what has worked in 2020 and perhaps sparks an idea for someone reading as we walk and talk our way through the Winter blues! I’m off now to block my friends in Sydney who are just enjoying summer a bit too much on social media for my liking!