What the Tipping Point of COVID-19 Taught me about Self-Care and Balance
By Stacy Bates, RDN, CDE, Sr. Manager, Nutrition Services at H-E-B
I’m not going to lie, when I was asked to write this article, I honestly committed without being sure I would have the time to put words on paper. I wondered with the busyness of being a leader, wife, newly found home schoolteacher and working mom of two crazy boys, how would I make the time?
The reality is, especially in the current environment, most of us are feeling more overwhelmed than ever. For those of us working in the retail environment, the demands have been continual, consistently changing, and admittingly sometimes overwhelming. As a retail dietitian leader whose husband also happens to be in retail leadership, the COVID impacts on our family have been meaningful and very real. There have been long days, exhaustion, boredom, loneliness, frustration, fear and yes, even some tears shed.
Amidst the chaos, I have learned some great lessons over the past several months. Lessons in making time to be still, in practicing empathy, trying to think of others before myself and in extending more kindness than ever before. These times have been hard on so many and in different personal ways and it only takes looking outside yourself for a few seconds to see this. Personally, I find that when I am spending time in self-reflection and self-care, those are the moments that I find myself living out my purpose and values and feeling most fulfilled. If you are not currently taking time for this, let me remind you: You deserve to take care of yourself! You are important, you have a purpose and you can make an impact.
As part of my work to be a more intentional leader, wife, mother, and friend, I have been going through Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead series with my team. We thought it would be a helpful exercise, but had no real idea of how much impact this time and work would have on us as individuals and a collective group. This project has helped us more than ever to feel a sense of community, growth and progress in uncertain times. But the work has not been easy, and it has required independent study and self-reflection, often the most difficult part of any self-care process. I encourage you to ask yourself if you have been creating intentional time for you. Have you taken the time whether it’s related to work or life, to get hyper clear on your values? To ask yourself if you are living those values each day? And if you have realized you are not, have you created a plan of action to change course? If not, I would ask you, what are you waiting for?
As dietitians we often focus so much on the importance of food and nutrition in the overall aspect of health, but we neglect the mental health and self-care components of taking the best possible care of ourselves. And as nutrition counselors, we often spend our days coaching others and pouring into their cups, without enough time to ask if we are refilling our own. And as we always share with our patients, “you cannot take care of anyone around you, without first placing on your own oxygen mask.” However, with all the hats we wear, no matter our season or spot in life, it’s not always easy to practice what we preach. Setting boundaries to take time to think about your goals, to write them down, to get clear on your use of time as it compares to your values—these things seem like such menial tasks. But they are not, they are essential.
I used to poke fun at my husband whose motto about life was to live in such a way that he had “no regrets.” This motto always makes me smile as I think about the bad tattoo (you know the one – “No Ragrats!” lol!). What does that even mean I would think. Of course, I was simply too busy and too anxious about what was coming next to even be thinking about regrets. Was I making progress, what was I achieving, what do I need to worry about next?!?! Yet I was not stopping to take time to ask, was I growing, was I learning, was I enjoying life. Was I becoming a better version of myself than I was yesterday? How was I growing or being intentional about my own personal growth and investment? What was I doing to show up for myself, so that I could show up for my husband, my children, my family, my team at work, my friends, and all the others who needed me? As odd as it sounds, in hindsight, I am grateful for the added stress of COVID and the tipping point it created for me. It was at this peak that I fully understood the need to be more intentional with my time, and to care for myself and through that have a more meaningful impact on all aspects of my life.
Cheers to taking care of yourself, so we can best take care of one another!