Look after yourself

As winter draws in and the daylight hours get shorter there is a tendency to hunker down and hibernate a bit. Christmas can be a time of great joy and for some great difficulty. For those struggling to make ends meet or those who are living on the streets, Christmas is just another added pressure to deal with.

It’s at this time of year that my thoughts often turn to those working on the front line in our hospitals – the “Winter” that was once a seasonal variation in demand for care now seems to be a year-round impact. As leaders in this kind of stressful environment we often give time to everyone else to make sure that they are coping and often to the detriment of our own health needs.

As a coach I have lost count of the times I have raised awareness for clients who can’t seem to see the personal impact of change or the pace of living/working that they are dealing with. Yet despite that I often find I put myself last. I know that I am affected by the lack of sunlight (Seasonal Affected Disorder) and I have been trying to get out with the dogs more as the benefit of fresh and exercise is well documented. The doctor advised me recently that I was vitamin D deficient and that was down to where I live – we just don’t get enough sunshine! So a concerted effort plus a maximum dose of Vit D is now part of my everyday routine.

The one thing I need to do more of is paying attention. Noticing what is happening for me as well as those around me. As the air steward says put your own oxygen mask on before you put one on someone else and it’s so true for our own resilience and self-care. As a leader, if we fail to look after us first and foremost what will be the impact on our team, our objectives and most of all our own performance.

Building new habits and ditching old ones is the arena I coach in and yet I have been around the Change Cycle umpteen times. I am an absolute maestro at making a change; it’s maintaining the change that causes the most difficulty. Sustaining long term changes in relation to personal habits or leadership behaviour is always going to be the crux of the matter. We all have a choice to be different and act differently and we have to ask ourselves “What happens if I don’t change…?”

Cycle of Change diagram. Reference: Prochaska, James O, DiClemente, Carlo C. (2005). "The transtheoretical approach".

Reference: Prochaska, James O, DiClemente, Carlo C. (2005). “The transtheoretical approach”.

 

So my advice to myself for the rest of the year is threefold:

  1. Get out into the light each day – remember it’s good for you.
  2. Say no more often – the need to say yes to please other people will bite you back at some point.
  3. Do less and do it well – spreading yourself too thinly doesn’t cover the important stuff enough.

Wishing you a happy healthy and peaceful time at Christmas or however you celebrate.