Putting the “Self” back into “Self-Care”





The Challenge.

Earlier in the year our team came together to develop Left Field Consulting Services’ values. During this session, we all strongly agreed that Resilience, or Self-Care, was of paramount importance to our business. Not only do we value the psychological well-being of our team, but in practice we also assist our clients in changing their behaviours to build and maintain resilience.

It was at this point that Kelly proposed a challenge:

“Jess, I challenge you to take a 30 minute lunch break away from your desk for a fortnight and observe your productivity and how you feel.”


Easy as pie…or so I thought. After only a couple of days I had resumed my poor habits of eating on the run, at my desk or not at all! So I justified this by telling Kelly that I was simply monitoring my ‘normal’ behaviours as a baseline measure prior to the experiment. Well, that baseline measure ended up stretching out to several weeks and I am yet to properly commit to my challenge.

What went wrong?

Reflecting on this experience I have identified the key barriers to achieving my goals: 

My expectations

I am the first to admit that I can be hypocritical! I encourage others to take lunch breaks away from the office, however I measure myself against a different set of expectations. Despite understanding the psychological benefits of taking time out during the day, I still expect myself to be seen as being “productive” at all times. 

Fear of being judged

Taking a break looks lazy. This is an assumption that I believe many people struggle with. I work in an open-minded and supportive culture, and still I hold onto an assumption that contradicts our organisational values!

Assumed parameters

Are we talking about a 30minute period of time in the middle of the day, or simply a replenishing psychological break?

During this challenge I felt restricted by the idea of breaking for set period of time. When I reconsidered the concept of a “break”, I started to ask myself questions about the underlying intention of this challenge and how I could still achieve the same outcome using different approaches. I was more likely to take time out, when I adapted to my schedule and work priorities (e.g., taking more regular short breaks throughout the day).


In essence the number one barrier is me.

Where to from here?

After reflecting on ‘what went wrong’ I have come up with four simple questions to guide me in changing my behaviour and reaching my goal.

1. What is the goal (really) and why is it meaningful to me?

I need to clarify what I am trying to achieve and why it is important to me. Being told to do something is so much more difficult to achieve if 1) you do not set clear parameters and 2) you cannot see the value in working towards it. Research indicates that there are five goal setting principles that can improve our chances of success: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback and complexity (Locke & Latham, 1990).

 2. How can I make sure that my goal is realistic?

I struggled with the lunch break challenge because I work in an unpredictable and fast-paced role. Going forward I need to be more flexible – adapting my method for achieving this goal to my current situation to accommodate both. Research shows that positive emotions contribute to psychological and physical well-being through the application of effective coping strategies (Tugade, Fredrickson & Barrett, 2004). Therefore, regular exposure to change provides us with opportunities to learn and apply coping strategies.

 3. What motivates me?

Or more specifically, what has motivated me in achieving challenging goals in the past? I need to find out what I can do during this challenge that will motivate me to improve! See mindtools.com for a self-motivation quiz and to learn more about taking charge of your goals and achievements: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_57.htm

4. “Knock off” assumptions

Identify and remove assumptions. This may involve looking at the situation from a different perspective or simply reframing the assumptions to be more constructive and solution-focused (Hughes, Gourley, Madson & Le Blanc, 2011).

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to hit the reset button, answer the questions listed above and achieve my goal.

Watch this space!