Pause & Reset: The 5 Bes of Leadership Self-Care for Eyecare Professionals
By Gerard Johnson, M.S. November 09, 2021
For most of us, 2020 was a tough year. We had great hopes that 2021 would be our return to normalcy. Unfortunately, the Delta Strain had a different plan for us. The situation brings to mind a great line from the Clint Eastwood blockbuster movie Heartbreak Ridge, “Marine’s Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”. We may not be Marines, but practice leaders can learn a lot from this Marine motto. We need to adapt to our new reality and develop new solutions to overcome our new problems. For example, mental health resilience is a problem and how we’re managing psychological and emotional wellness in the healthcare industry. A systematic review of healthcare workers' mental health during the pandemic found that the lowest reported prevalence of anxiety, depression, and stress was 24.1%, 12.1%, and 29.8%, respectively, and reached as high as 67.55%, 55.89%, and 62.99% respectively.
Ian Maclaren, a Scottish author, has written, “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a battle”. It’s true. Sometimes we forget the person fighting that battle is ourselves. The best way to help your team improve their mental resilience is to start with yourself. Once you have found your center, you can teach others. A good place to start is by turning the 5 Be’s of Employee Engagement inward and converting them into the 5 Be’s of Leadership Self Care.
Be Positive with yourself
Positive thinking is related to positive states and emotions such as optimism, hope, joy, and wellbeing. McGrath defined positive thinking as a generic term referring to an overall attitude that is reflected in thinking, behavior, feeling and speaking. By practicing positive thinking, your positive mental state influences your actions so that thoughts, words and images present as actions conducive to growth, expansion, and success. Keeping intrusive negative thoughts at bay is critical. These thoughts can exacerbate daily stressors causing them to develop into psychological and physical health problems. I have found that reminding myself that these are not in my control helps me tremendously. It’s not up to me when they come. I don’t try to push them away, rather I accept them for what they are. I just give myself some time, focus on my breathing, and focus on being present in the moment. You can find helpful suggestions for handling intrusive negative thoughts on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website.
Be Present in the moment
Being present in the moment is a common stress-relieving technique where you focus your attention on what each of your five senses are taking in. As a leader, we are often focused on the next task, the next objective, the next thing, and we lose track of ourselves. Try to take 5 minutes multiple times a day to focus on being present in the moment.
Breathing techniques are great tools to help you slow down and be present. There are a number of different breathing techniques that range from very basic techniques like straw breathing to the more complex box breathing technique used by the Navy Seals.
I personally use pace breathing. Pace breathing is slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing. You should only take only 5 to 7 breaths a minute. Your breaths should be slow, smooth, and deep enough to move your diaphragm. Pace breathing can reduce the stress chemicals your brain produces and facilitate a relaxation response. You can find apps and YouTube videos to help you master this and other breathing techniques.
Be Aware of when it’s time to call it a day
A morning huddle can help you and your team get in the proper mindset to move forward through the day you should prepare yourself for the end of your workday. I learned early in my career that I had to learn how to leave work. That’s often easier said than done. I save 10-15 minutes at the end of each day for a Wrap-up session with myself. I review my successes, my obstacles, what has been completed, what needs an answer, and what will need attention first thing tomorrow. This Daily Wrap-Up gives me time to get in the mindset of walking away from the workday and into your home life.
Be Awesome to yourself
Some of the best advice I ever received came from my older brother, Rico. We were talking about how stressed I was when I was in graduate school and working full-time. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. I knew what the end game meant, but that felt miles away. He told me his secret. He bought himself a small gift every time he got paid. He was very specific about his gift. It had to be less than $20.00 and could not be food or any other perishable, temporary good. It had to be tangible. It had to be something that he could look back at and appreciate it later. He handed me a small pocket knife he had in his pocket. Then, he proceeded to tell me which paycheck he used to buy it. Ever since that day, whenever I get paid, I buy a small tangible gift for myself. Over the years I amassed a unique collection of CDs, really cool comic books, t-shirts, a small library of books, and now I have moved on to vinyl records. The coolest thing is that every time I put on my silver surfer t-shirt or share a book with my daughter, I feel a huge surge of gratitude and positive emotion; my hard work hasn’t been wasted.
Be Honest with yourself
Lastly, be honest with yourself. Take your own mental health struggles seriously. Take time to assess where you are mentally. Do you need to pause and be present in the moment? Do you need to practice your breathing exercises? Is it time to be awesome with yourself and take a mental health day off at work? It’s OK to need a moment to yourself. It’s OK to ask for help. You are worth it.