By Nikia Owens, Ph.D.
A special thank you to everyone who read and commented on the lessons in my first year. So much has happened in the last few weeks with prominent women in leadership positions that circle back on self-care issues. As the President and CEO of Campaign for Working Families, self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. The weight of leadership, especially in the non-profit sector, can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Add to that the societal pressures and expectations, such as the Glass Cliff syndrome affecting women in leadership, and the need for a self-care regime becomes not just a personal but a professional survival strategy.
My self-care regime is a carefully curated blend of the physical, emotional, and intellectual, designed to sustain me and, by extension, the organization I lead.
Physically, I prioritize exercise as a scheduled part of my day, starting at 4 AM. A healthy body is the vessel that carries the mind, and in the high-stakes world of non-profit leadership, a clear mind is your greatest asset.
Emotionally, I have learned the art of saying no. The desire to be everywhere and do everything is a common pitfall in leadership roles. The reality is that spreading oneself too thin is a disservice to you and the organization. Therefore, I have become judicious in what I commit to, ensuring each ‘yes’ aligns with both my personal well-being and the organization’s goals. This selective commitment is not a sign of disengagement but my sense of focus.
Intellectually, I engage in what I call ‘purposeful disconnection.’ This involves stepping back from the daily grind to engage in activities that nourish the mind. It could be reading a book unrelated to work, attending a cultural event, or even engaging in a stimulating conversation that has nothing to do with budgets or grants. This intellectual escapism serves as a reset button, reinvigorating me with fresh perspectives I can bring back to my role.
Finally, I lean into my support network. Leadership can be a lonely journey, and the importance of having a trusted circle cannot be overstated. Whether it is family, friends, or mentors, these are the people who provide emotional sustenance, offering a listening ear, constructive criticism, or even a much-needed reality check.
In a world that often equates leadership with relentless hustle, especially for women navigating the complexities of societal expectations, self-care is my silent yet powerful form of rebellion. It is my way of saying that to lead others effectively, you must first know how to lead yourself. And leading oneself starts with the acknowledgment that you are a finite resource. This is the essence of my 3-pronged self-care regime, a holistic approach that serves as both my personal sanctuary and my professional fuel.
I welcome comments on your self-care steps…
Remember, you can support the Campaign for Working Families’ mission by signing up as a volunteer or checking our website (cwfphilly.org) for ways to collaborate.
Watch out for the chief of staff vacancy announcement.