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Actions speak louder than words. During this time of continuous stress and trauma, it is not enough for us to speak about the importance of self-care. We need to show the importance of self-care. Granted, this is easier said than done. Yet I believe those in positions of leadership need to be the first to say, take a break and don’t feel guilty about it. Take a break and breathe so that you can be more present at work. This morning, I came across a post, Memo to Managers: The Importance of Putting Our Masks on First which presented the importance of exemplifying the importance of self-care through the metaphor of putting on one’s oxygen mask first during and emergency on an airplane. As an aside, I have always wondered about the ethics behind deciding on putting one’s mask on before assisting someone else, but I leave that to the philosophers among you.

The post’s author Micol Zimmerman Burkeman, suggests that we refocus our energies to get better at caring for ourselves as an outgrowth of how well we tend to care for our communities.

In my time both serving as a Jewish educator and in my role as a coach and consultant, there are two incontrovertible facts I have learned about Jewish professionals. 

1. We care deeply for our communities

2. We do a lousy job of caring deeply about ourselves.

In order to overcome this, she suggests:

There is, however, an absolute truth about employee self-care in the workplace: when a manager prioritizes self-care, both for their team and for themselves, employees are more likely to participate in it and prioritize it. This will in turn result in a more productive, more invested and more motivated team. 

If a leader can show the importance of caring for oneself as a way of caring for others, people follow right behind and will feel permitted to do the same. Of the suggestions offered in this piece, I just want to highlight one as a focus for those in positions of leadership or for those seen as examplars:

This is an extremely trying time for everyone. No one has escaped the impact of the pandemic, whether the effect has been large or small. Staff need compassion now more than ever. They need to be reminded that their organization cares about them and not just their work. Leading with compassion and empathy could not be more important. When leaders at Disney are asked about the secret behind their exceptional customer service, their answer is simple: “One thing we know at Disney is that the extent to which you genuinely care for your people is the extent to which they will care for your customers – and each other.” Sometimes the most simple truths are the most profound. The more you care for your employees, the more they will care for their community. Schedule time for regular check-ins. Ask staff how they are doing before asking about their work, and actively listen. Follow up on anything they’ve shared. Model compassion and empathy and your team will follow, and they will thrive. 

As we continue through this marathon of chaotic times, may each of us find a place to be compassionate to ourselves and by extension to all whom we serve and work with.