Taking Care of Yourself First
APRIL 09, 2020
The world of work changed virtually overnight with the global spread of COVID-19. In this series, we'll share personal stories and perspectives from Cornerstone employees who—like so many of us—are doing their best to balance life, work and learning from their couches, kitchen tables and other makeshift office spaces.
When employees come to me worried about missing work for family commitments or because they are sick, I’ve always given the same advice: Take good care of yourself first because, frankly, you’re useless to me and the business if you are sick, anxious or unable to be fully present. It’s my tongue-in-cheek way of saying not only is it OK to prioritize your well-being—it’s expected.
That advice is especially important today. Getting through these uncertain and turbulent times will only be possible if we can all come together—as co-workers, as friends and families and as neighbors. And to truly be present for our communities, we must first take care of our own mental and physical health.
For so many of us, these past few weeks have been a struggle. I personally have been coming to terms with my "new normal," which includes a full-time job, homeschooling a first-grader, keeping a 4-year-old entertained and supporting a husband who still has to work outside of the home. And amid all of that, I’m still finding ways to focus on my own health and well-being.
1. Find Three Things
I discovered this practice when I brought my first baby home from the hospital, an event that feels oddly similar to this current situation, given the disruption in schedule and consistency, the isolation and the worry over the health and safety of others. During that time, I realized I had to massively simplify my expectations of the day and focus on three things I could control. Now I’m returning to the same ones I chose seven years ago.
Each day counts as a success if I can:
1) Make my bed
2) Make my coffee
3) Get fresh air (ideally, get out for a walk)
Each of these activities carries meaning for me because of the ritual or sense of control they provide. But they can really be any three things, as long as they are simple and achievable.
2. Strengthen Your Virtual Connections
I self-identify as an extreme extrovert, so one of the biggest challenges for me has been missing things like the five-minute connection I get with other parents at drop-off or looking forward to soccer games. Heck, I would sit in any amount of traffic just to be able to see my co-workers face-to-face again!
Even though several of us had worked remotely a few days a week prior to COVID-19 and were used to not seeing one another on a daily basis, we all wanted to connect more regularly as a result. So, we set up a daily 15-20-minute virtual check-in. One day we might scale it back, but for now, we all look forward to that time to see one other and laugh together. I’ve scheduled similar check-ins with my friends and family, and so has my daughter. And this weekend, I will be hosting my first virtual game night with a group of other parents.
3. Practice Simple Self-Care
Early this year, I set a goal of establishing self-care practices, which forced me to evolve my thinking: It’s not just about pampering yourself; it’s about sticking to routines that keep you grounded and healthy. But with my gym closed, my appetite on the fritz and my stress levels seemingly spiking on the hour, how would it be possible to manage self-care?
According to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, an expert in the field of toxic stress, "What research tells us is that sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and a nurturing environment can reduce stress hormones and enhance the ability of the brain to recover from stress." These past couple of weeks, I’ve focused on getting quality sleep, drinking water and eating protein (not the brownies I really want), and doing some exercise every day—even if it’s joining my kids for unicorn yoga. I’m trying to fit some mindfulness into the mix, but it’s difficult when small humans are crawling on you.
The bottom line is that everyone will deal with this uncertain time in different ways. And every day will bring new challenges as we strive to understand and organize our new normal. But the best way I know to be the person my community needs is to focus on the things that keep me grounded and healthy. Hopefully, you can do the same.
Brenna Lenoir is the Director of Field Marketing at Cornerstone.
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