How To Invest In Yourself: 2 Techniques And Simple Maths To Get You Started
As Johann Hari puts it, “If you’re depressed or anxious, you’re not weak and you're not crazy— you’re a human being with unmet needs.” This is a much-needed reframe and a reminder that being attentive to our own needs ultimately helps us cope better, if not thrive.
Since the pandemic, we all seem more conscious of those around us and of giving them our most empathetic and caring self when we interact with them. And as an employer or team leader, we also have a duty of care towards our staff members. However, given the number of people surrounding each one of us - from those directly under our care to those who we live with, work with or even share a neighborhood with, the stress of giving them our best might start taking its toll on our own health. Taking our self-care seriously will help us keep the entire human ecosystem around us as balanced and as supported as possible. We simply can't run on empty – at least not forever.
Illustration: Lena Yokoyama
Still, giving ourselves permission to self-care can be hard, and exercising our boundaries with others can be even harder. Few of us love to say no. And none of us is perfect. But nobody can be in self-care all the time either. Finding our own balance between productivity and self-care can be challenging. One of the simple strategies can be to schedule regular check-ins to reflect on how we really feel and what we have done to invest in ourselves, scanning key areas in our lives, and planning our needs around them. And if needed, even scheduling specific times and activities in our diaries to address those needs.
For a more holistic perspective, we can also leverage a four-quadrant approach to appreciate key areas that contribute to overall balance and to help us identify (and prioritise) opportunities for investment, so we can refuel and grow.
Looking at each quadrant individually and in relation to the other, we can assess what areas we have invested in and which ones could do with some more attention:
physical (e.g. exercise, massage, nutrition, dental care, rest),
cognitive (e.g. learning, reading, self-reflecting, critical thinking),
social (e.g. friends, family, colleagues, neighbours),
spiritual (e.g. meditation, mindfulness, self-actualization, connecting to purpose).
Appreciating the interconnectivity between areas can also help us drive systemic change, while adding our emotional health to the equation can be truly transformative. As emotions are behavioural drivers, their regulation has a direct impact on our capacity to invest in each of the quadrants effectively. Learning to deal with our emotions in a healthy way and finding what works best for us might take some trials too: for example, some of us may find physical activity, rather than creative self-expression, is a more effective strategy to manage stress or anger.
For a longer-term approach, we can also reflect on what we would like our self-care to look like and what areas and activities we want to invest in over a certain period of time. To leverage another creative tool to find our balance, we can draw three circles on a piece of paper: one representing life, one representing work, one representing self-care to start reflecting on where we are now and where we'd like to be.
Here is a guide to get started:
Draw each circle proportionally to the energy and time you currently allocate to them and put a percentage next to it to quantify out of 100% of your time
Pause and look at how big they are. What is your relationship with self-care? How do you practice it? How many little moments of self-care do you accumulate in a day?
Now reflect on what you would like the circles to be and when by. What does self-care look like for you? How do you want it to serve your work and life in the long-term?
Finally, reflect on how to help yourself achieve that. How can you enjoy your self-care? How can you give yourself permission to self-care?
This exercise is one of the many tools and techniques that can help us adopt a longer-term approach to managing our self-care, so we can sustain our resilience and wellbeing over time, and be better equipped to deal with stress. However, self-care isn't there to be another task or chore on our list. It’s our conscious commitment to it with a daily recognition that doing something in that direction helps us tip the balance in the right direction.
Start with today.
What could you do more of today to invest in yourself?
What can you give just another 1% more to increase your energy today?
Just a little bit of more commitment to yourself every day can yield huge results over time. Think about it, if you give it an extra 1% today, and another 1% tomorrow, and so on over 10 days, that's an extra 10% investment overall. Simple maths, a 10% boost.
Why not try to give it a shot over the next 10 days and see how you feel at the end of it? How do you feel energetically, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually?
Patricia is an exec at CB and Planty, and a Leadership & Personal Development Coach accredited at Practitioner level by the European Mentoring & Coaching Council. She helps individuals and business leaders achieve their personal and professional goals – and get greater life satisfaction – through tailored coaching programmes (amongst other neat things you can read about here).