In the world of high-performers, the concept of “slow” can be a foreign one. When we’re used to simply getting things done, it can be difficult to think about taking a break.
In fact, it might be objectively harder to take a break. When we’re known for being able to handle it all—and do it well—we’re often asked to handle even more.
Before we know it, we have more than our share of responsibilities, obligations, and people relying on us.
And this works for us, for a while. We sustain ourselves on adrenaline and the satisfaction of a job well done.
As a high-performer, you’re familiar with the idea of self-care. Maybe you’ve identified a few things you like to do to relax or treat yourself.
Maybe, though, performing regular and real self-care is still low on your list of priorities and every-day action items.
Consider this: it should be a lot higher.
The Hard Truth About Self-Care for High-Performers
Many high-performing people look at self-care as an indulgence. And it’s not entirely their fault—in the United States, we live in a culture that champions busyness and powering through fatigue as signs of fortitude, leadership, and even heroism.
We don’t see many popular examples of high-achieving people prioritizing rest and relaxation. Instead, we worship productivity and Google things like “how to need less sleep.”
But a well-rested body will have the time it needs to recover properly from that last workout or performance, and a well-rested mind will see enhanced cognitive ability. Your body and mind will work more efficiently and effectively, for a much longer time than if you never engaged in self-care at all.
Self-care is an important part of productivity, and it’s an important part of success. Starving our bodies and minds of the care they truly need isn’t a recipe for happiness—instead, it’s a surefire way to drop the ball in all areas of our lives!
So if self-care is so important, how do you do it—and do it right?
What Is Self-Care—Really?
It might seem strange to think of there being a “right” way to do self-care.
In reality, there are many “right” ways to do self-care… But there are wrong ways, too.
Anyone unfamiliar with the idea of self-care before it exploded into popularity via social media might understandably have the view that, to engage in self-care, you need to spend a lot of money.
And if caring for yourself means spending a lot of money, then it stands to reason that self-care is a practice reserved only for those who can afford it.
The commodification of self-care has resulted in the widespread misconception that you aren’t doing it right if you aren’t cruising the Caribbean or spending long weekends at the spa.
But real self-care doesn’t involve doling out dollars—it doesn’t even really mean “treating” ourselves.
Genuine self-care, in fact, actually means coming back to ourselves.
What Self-Care Looks Like for High-Performance People
Genuine self-care is the practice of caring for the self… Just what it sounds like! And that means regularly doing the things we know are good for us: getting enough sleep, eating whole and nutritious foods, and moving our bodies.
It also means not pushing our bodies and mind too hard or too far—and this, in particular, can be really difficult for high-performance people used to doing both of these things often.
So while a lavish vacation or day at the spa can be great treats, the majority of our self-care should be much simpler—and much more regular.
1. Prioritize Your Wellness: Body and Mind
It can be tempting to pull a late night or early morning trying to get a project done or fit in just one more practice… While this is okay once in a while, your body will respond best to regular, full nights of sleep. If you’re an adult, this means more than seven hours1.
Stick to sleep hygiene guidelines like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding large meals before bed, and putting electronics away2 for the best snooze.
Sleep serves as your foundation. On top of it, add a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and mindfulness practices for high performers.
And if you’re in a high-level role—a C-suite executive, for example—consider working with an executive coach who’s also a clinical psychologist to stay on top of your stress.
2. Schedule Your Self-Care Like You Schedule Your Meetings
You wouldn’t back out on an important meeting with a colleague or client or fail to show up for your teammates. After all, you’re a high-performing person—you’ve made a commitment, and you try your best to always keep them.
This promise often falls through, however, when it comes to the commitments we’ve made to ourselves. It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll stick to that bedtime, for example… And maybe we’ll even do it once or twice. But it’s even easier to let it fall to the wayside as soon as a conflict arises.
Schedule your self-care in advance, and don’t cancel on yourself!
3. Identify Your Boundaries—and Keep Them
High-performing people are often perfectionists. We appreciate a job well done, and we don’t like to let others down.
But a big part of self-care is not pushing ourselves past our physical and mental limitations. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves—but it does mean we need to listen to what our bodies are telling us and act accordingly.
If, for example, we have our best days when we get a calm start in the morning, then we might consider setting a boundary around early-morning meetings. Or, perhaps, we’ve blocked one weekend day every week to spend with our families—maybe our boundary is that we don’t check emails or answer business calls on that day.
Your boundary can be as simple as saying no to lunch meetings so you can prioritize healthy food and proper digestion. Whatever your boundaries are, try your best to stick to them.
And remember the saying, “No is a complete sentence!” You don’t owe anyone an explanation for taking time to yourself.
If you struggle to identify and maintain boundaries for yourself, a clinical psychologist can help.
4. Use Your Time Off
No one’s handing out badges of honor for rolling over that vacation time—we promise! Failing to use your earned time off is a surefire way to hit burnout sooner rather than later.
Be sure to take time away from your work and from your professional obligations. And if big vacations usually wind up stressing you out even more, try a staycation or long weekends, instead.
The goal is simply to unplug, slow down, and recharge.
5. Reacquaint Yourself With Play
Pick up a hobby, something you do just for fun. Popular culture loves to tell us we should be monetizing our non-work hours and actions—but we don’t always need a side hustle.
Creative thinking is one of the best ways to stay sharp and become a great problem-solver3. Regularly engaging in hobbies or games that let our minds switch gears and even wander can enhance our creativity in every area of our lives.
So take up dancing, painting, singing, knitting, fishing—anything just for fun!
6. Identify Your Personal Core Values
We’re often familiar with our employer’s core values. The list is usually trotted out at staff meetings or company retreats!
We spend less time thinking about our own core values. When we do, we’re likely to think in rote terms, like “family” or “friends.” We don’t spend a ton of time thinking about what these values actually consist of, however—and doing this can be really helpful.
Here’s an exercise that might help.
Start with a list of common core value words. Try this one, for example, from researcher and author Brene Brown. Select anywhere from ten to fifteen, and write each one down on its own index card.
Set aside two cards that feel less important to you than the others. Do this again, and then again, until you’re left with three to five cards that are your top core values.
Maybe those cards do include family and friends—or maybe they’re more like “humor,” “wisdom,” or “adventure.” Whatever your selections, they can act as a framework for your decision-making as you move forward.
How does each potential decision line up with the values you’ve identified as most important to you?
Self-Care Is Unique to You
Remember that rest and self-care will make you more successful and productive in the long run, as well as give you time to enjoy yourself and your loved ones.
Your self-care plan might look very different than someone else’s—and that’s okay! Taking good care of ourselves means making the time and space for the things that make us unique.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to stay happy, healthy, and high-performing, consider reaching out to the team at Amplify Wellness + Performance.