Michael Keogh   Mar 9, 2023   -   min read

As a woman, you have undoubtedly faced challenges in your journey towards professional success. While progress has been made in the fight for equality, there is still heaps of work to be done.

In a world that demands so much of our time and energy, taking care of ourselves can easily fall by the wayside. But the truth is, when we prioritise our wellbeing, we can achieve far more than we ever thought possible.

That's why this International Women's Day 2023, with the theme of "Embrace Equity", it's crucial to remember that equity also means having time for self-care so you can function at your best in all aspects of your life. 

Busy female talking on smartphone and checking messages during work in contemporary office

Why self-care is essential for professional success

Yes the is a generalisation, but how much can you relate to this? Women often put everyone else's needs before their own. Whether it's their families, careers, or communities, they give their all to everything but themselves. Society views this as 'selfless', that women are superhuman or multitaskers. But neglecting yourself like this comes at a cost, leading to stress, anxiety, physical illness, and ultimately burnout.

Prioritising self-care is not selfish, it's essential for your overall health and happiness. By dedicating regular time and effort to your your mental and physical health, you'll boost your productivity, creativity and energy levels. By creating your best health, you're giving yourself access to your best life. When you feel your best, you can give your best to everything you do.

The impact of self-care on performance

The idea that we need to push ourselves to the limit to achieve success is a myth. In reality, self-care is an essential ingredient to maximise performance in all aspects of your life. When you are healthy in mind and body your ability to handle stress, make decisions, and focus on goals (and MUCH more) are all improved.

Self-care practises help to recharge your batteries and give you space to decompress from a hectic life. Imagine running a marathon, in the scorching heat, with no energy, in shoes that don't fit – a recipe for disaster right? This is what many women in business do everyday – juggling the kids, keeping the home well kept, running a team at work, AND managing the usual last minute tasks and emergencies that crop up. Often without time set aside to recharge before doing it all again tomorrow, next week, and next month.

Instead, reframe self-care as a first priority that offers you the best chance at achieving all the other things you want and need to deliver on, as you work towards long-term success.

Strategies for prioritising self-care

Yes it can be challenging to prioritise self-care, especially with the non-stop pace of life these days. But here are some strategies that have helped even the most time-poor directors, senior leaders and entrepreneurs:

  • Schedule your self-care:
    Schedule self-care activities into your calendar, just as you would any other appointment. This could be anything from a yoga class to a food prep session, even a bubble bath.

    If you notice that you're regularly skipping these 'meetings', realise that you're not respecting yourself as much as your other appointments. Reframe the calendar item in your mind to be as important as a meeting with your boss or most important client, someone who you'd never miss their meeting.

  • Start small:
    You don't need to overhaul your entire life in order to prioritise self-care. Start with small manageable changes that you can stick to and build momentum gradually.

    A great way to start small is identifying the areas of your life where you feel the most stress or burnout, and focus on improving these first. For example, if you're feeling overwhelmed at work, make a point of refreshing yourself throughout the day. This could be a a five-minute stretch break every hour, or walking around the block a few times each day. 

  • Set boundaries:
    Learn to say no to things that don't serve you, whether it's a work project or a social event. Protect your time and energy, and start sharing these limited resources intentionally.

    It can be difficult to say no, but knowing what drains you and doing it anyway is counter productive. If you feel you CAN'T say no, check if this is just your perception – maybe you CAN say no. Also delegate these tasks and events – maybe the job needs to be done, but it doesn't need to be you who does it.

  • Improve your sleep:
    Sleep is essential for your physical and mental health, and often makes the most noticeable difference. Just imagine waking up without brain fog! You're hunger hormones will also improve, reducing your cravings for the wrong sorts of food.

    Firstly, make sure you're getting ENOUGH sleep each night - you might need to go to bed earlier to achieve this. The second step is making sure the QUALITY of your sleep is good enough, which I talk more about that in this article.

  • Upgrade your diet:
    I'm sure you know that eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential to have enough energy so you can achieve all you want. Ideally this means eating more nutrient-dense foods, limiting the processed and sugary foods, and managing your portion sizes (and more..).

    Just starting on the biggest issue in your diet and addressing this will start to change the story on your diet as a whole. For example, you might use wine as a reward for having dealt with the many demands on your time, and more demands leads to more wine. Find another way to reward yourself and slowly transition away from the excessive wine intake.

Women Meditating in the Park with Yoga Mats

Enlisting others in your self-care routine

Self-care is often viewed as a solitary activity, but it doesn't have to be. Enlisting others in your self-care routine can be incredibly powerful and can help build stronger relationships. Sometimes, the presence of someone who is supportive and understanding can be the difference between doing something or not.

This works because having someone else involved in your self-care routine provides a sense of accountability and support. When you have someone else to share your goals and progress with, you'll be more motivated to stick to your routine and make self-care a priority.

So find a workout buddy who joins you for your yoga class, run, or gym sessions and make exercise more enjoyable and motivate you to stick to your routine. In a work setting, having a colleague who encourages you to take breaks during the workday can help you avoid burnout and maintain focus. This could involve going for a walk together during lunchtime or setting up a system where you remind each other to take short breaks throughout the day.

Ultimately, self-care is about taking care of yourself and prioritising your needs. Whether you choose to do it alone or with others, the most important thing is that you find a routine that works for you and helps you to feel your best.

Two Women Using on Black Laptop Computer

What happens next is up to you!

As we celebrate International Women's Day this year, just remember that by prioritising self-care and really taking care of yourself you'll maximise your ongoing professional and personal success. Plus, taking care of yourself also allows you to make a positive impact on those around you and the world!

So, make a plan, start small, set boundaries, get enough sleep, upgrade your diet, and enlist the people around you in your self-care routine. Together, we can create a world where women thrive, both personally and professionally.

Remember, YOU are the most important person in your life. Embrace Equity by embracing your own wellbeing and success. You deserve it!

Want some help using this information to improve your health and life?

About the Author

Michael Keogh is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach with 8 years experience in clinical and corporate settings. He is also the co-author of upcoming book “Thrive: How to 10X your Health, Wealth and Happiness”.

He uses exercise as medicine to treat chronic disease and ensure healthy ageing, whilst guiding his clients towards sustainable health behaviours that result in improved performance and greater satisfaction in work and life.

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