I planned to write and post a blog every month. Then life happened. I have ideas ahead of time, but I don’t batch because I prefer to pour from a position of presence. I had a topic and got started for the month of August, but the post never happened. When life happened, I chose to release myself from the pressure to produce and instead be present with what my body and mind said I needed. For high achievers, presence with yourself can be one of the hardest things to do and an ongoing battle that requires intentionality and commitment.
Two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic and it finally got me. While some people have mild cases, even being vaccinated and boosted, my experience was medium to medium-hot. I tried to hold on to work at first and as I continued, COVID dug its heels in deeper. I was down for the count and with every day that passed, one symptom would start to ease, and another would appear. As I prepared to reset and jump back in, I decided to share my experience because I know so many people can relate to that initial response to keep pushing. I want to provide you with some presence strategies to help you take care of yourself as a leader and permit yourself to pause when needed.
Be Honest with Yourself
I spent the first three days increasingly coughing through meetings. I was testing negative but out of precaution, I switched to remote work. I was quick with the mute button so others did not have to hear me cough but my primary thought was, this isn’t bad enough not to work. By day three I had a choking cough when I tried to talk but since that was the only real symptom I had, I thought I could rest over the weekend and be ready for Monday. The next day I tested positive. In hindsight, I realized the energy I still had with a negative test was because my body was working hard trying to fight it off. I also wondered how much more my body would have been able to fight had I just stopped and listened; had I tended to my physical needs.
ACTION - Reflect Daily: We often don’t stop long enough to think it through. Instead, we consider what we need to keep going; thus my strategy to simply press mute. One strategy that would have helped me is one I had recently slacked with – daily reflection. This allows us to look back at what occurred, process and evaluate needs, and make an intentional action plan that considers our needs. When I’m on top of it, reflection is continual throughout my day in the form of a running daily electronic journal. Since I am a processor and spend a good deal of my day in my head, things resonate differently when I write them down. The process of writing forces me to slow down and have a metacognitive (thinking about what you’re thinking about) moment. Give yourself permission to have needs and make the necessary physical and mental shifts.
Let Your Body Lead
Our bodies are amazing communicators. They have ways of telling us when it needs something and will increase or change the strategy when we don’t listen. Many of us have been socialized to override physical symptoms and push through to get it done but that comes at a cost. Twice in my professional life my body gave out and shut down for an entire week. I was forced to face the fact that I needed rest. Pressing pause is such an unnatural thought for high achievers but very necessary. Post-COVID, every morning when I wanted to lay in longer, I reminded myself that my cough was my body’s way of telling me it was still recovering. I then allowed myself to have a slower morning.
ACTION – Increase Intentionality: Commit to listening to and honoring your body. When you wake up in the morning, before getting out of bed, take note of how you body feels. Do you feel rested? Do you have any aches and pains? Are you energized? Every night when you get into bed, ask yourself specifically, what did your body tell you today? What does it need? What can you do to meet its needs? When you attach these questions to the routines of being in bed waking up and going to sleep it increases the likelihood you will develop the healthy habit.
Allow Others to Support You
Saturday came around and COVID took over. It was full force in my body and I was miserable. I had no more energy or motivation to do any of the things necessary to take care of myself. I was tired, winded, without appetite, and just over being sick. Since I had already let my team know I tested positive, it was up to me to allow them and others to support me and that support took many forms. The great thing about having a work community and healthy work relationships is people genuinely want to show up for you. My team sent texts to check in and one brought me the items I was too out of it to retrieve myself. She also used information from her health certification skills to make recommendations on what might help. I would also need my assistant to take care of things since I ended up being out of the office the entire next week. Brain fog set in and I needed to rest not just my body but my brain. I have learned that when you are a giver, as many high achievers are, and have poured into the lives of others, they appreciate opportunities to give back and return the support.
ACTION – Accept Help: As a high achiever, your reflexive response might be to say no, but it is necessary for self-care and health to accept help. One strategy to get ahead of yourself, is to give certain people in your life and on your team permission to lead you at times. Sometimes my team will offer to help and if I reflexively say no, they will tell me they are going to help anyway. Then I pause and say yes and thank you. Just today a staff member initiated a conversation to coordinate loading my vehicle for an upcoming community event. When I was out ill, my staff member told me what she was going to drop off for me and when. It was a statement, not a question. She asked me if I needed or wanted anything additional. Decide who you can give permission to help you, tell them you are doing so, and allow them to lead in those moments. It feels good to be supported.
Every action item in this post requires presence – that space of being with yourself, understanding yourself, and increasing your self-awareness so you can get your needs met. Make changes in your thoughts and behaviors to support your physical health. Ensure your team and those around you are taking care of themselves as well. It makes consistency much easier, and accountability helps. Your body is important. You are important.
Call to Presence
Ask yourself the following questions to get started on your commitment to your health:
What areas of your health currently need your attention?
Who can I allow to lead and support me when I need it? Have a conversation with them.
Get an annual physical and know your heath baseline. It will be easier to spot when something changes. As with many serious health challenges, early detection is key.
Presence is a learned skill and the Presence Formula can help you get there. Download the free guide to learn this repeatable 4 step process to increase your presence. You'll receive new blog posts right in your inbox. Contact us for a personalized Presence experience.
Licensed Psychologist, Executive Coach, Speaker
Dr. Leatrice positions organizations to maximize productivity, master collaboration and teamwork,
and retain high achievers.
“Great Things Happen When You’re Present”
© 2022, Dr. Leatrice R. Brooks