Self Care – Leadership U Podcast with Betsy Jackson

Episode #4

Intro: Welcome to the Leadership U Podcast.

Christina: Hi, everyone! Christina here and today, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the smartest people I know: Betsy Jackson. Not only is Betsy a great personal friend, but she is an incredible mental health professional, and has this wonderful way of breaking down big ideas into small, practical steps. Grab a pad and pen because in this episode you’re going to want to take detailed notes. Betsy shares so many great tips from her work in the Mental Health field. We hope to have her as a regular contributor on the show. In the past, mental health was viewed with a bit of a stigma. Now, leaders realize the value of taking the time to focus on not only their physical health but also their mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Each aspect is essential to a leader’s overall well being. In this episode of Leadership U, Betsy talks us through the importance of Self-Care and how leaders can develop a healthy lifestyle that allows them to be at their very best. Enjoy the show.

Betsy: Okay, my background I started…I am from Springfield, Missouri. So I’m a Missouri Midwestern girl. Lived in St Louis before that and I went to Southwest Missouri State University which is now Missouri State University I graduated there with my undergraduate and then I went to Palm Beach Atlantic University here in Florida from a master’s degree in Counseling. So, I finished. I had a big gap in between there because I got married and had a family…sort of. I had my stepdaughter and paid attention to family and worked as a teacher. And then as an admin and then so then once I finish my master’s degree, I was able to do Counseling in the community.  

Christina: That’s awesome, and what do you specialize in Counseling? Or do you do everything?

Betsy: I do a little bit of everything right now, but I specialize in play therapy working with kids and parenting that’s my favorite. I love to work with the kids and do play therapy. Their innocence is my favorite. Just being able to connect with them and they don’t have as much as many defenses, so it’s easier to teach children some of the self coping skills and to be aware their emotions than as adults because they’ve built up defenses over the years. Through circumstances and it just seems to be a little easier to get them early. 

Christina: That’s interesting. Okay, so we want to talk about self-care, especially for leaders. So can you describe what self-care is…just a general overview?

Betsy: So my opinion self-care is really organizing your life according to what your limits are. Knowing your limits and organizing your life around that. A lot of times leaders take on too much, and they just will say yes to everything and end up being exhausted and burning out so, self-care, we can look at it as “I get to go have a massage” but ultimately it can be much harder than that because it is saying “no” it is setting limits…setting time limits, and it’s often doing the things that are difficult, the consistency and taking in information that builds your minds and connecting with people, having relationships that are important to you, and if you don’t set parameters and limits in your life then you will become all work, and that is a dangerous place to get to. That is where we see people, especially in leadership, losing connection with their families, losing connection with their children, with their spouses, and we really see a lot of the problems that result years down the line because limits aren’t set for self-care — making sure that you’re resting, making sure that you have good nutrition, making sure that you are getting activity and your growing. Just an interest in play, creativity and definitely spiritually that you are taking in information in spiritual things and not just giving out. And so, to me, self-care is really looking at all these areas of your life and making sure that you’re investing in what God has given you. He’s given you a temple; He’s given you- given us one thing: and that is our body and then that time that goes with that. And if we’re not investing in that we’re just squandering the resources, He’s given us.  

Christina: I love that, and you said a lot of times we think that practicing self-care means like maybe going to get a massage. And I think a lot of people kind of have that viewpoint now, that that’s what self-care is… Treating yourself. Do you think self-care is regulated to maybe just like gender or background, or is it for everyone? Everyone should be invested in self-care? 

Betsy: I really think everyone needs to understand what self-care is and to take time to invest in their own self-care. And it doesn’t matter where you are in life it doesn’t matter whether you have many resources or few resources. Resources you have to set up your life and organize your life to protect what you have. Your talents, your gifts, your energy. And if you don’t do that, you never will get to the place of success that you desire. To get out of maybe poverty, or get out of those things. Those areas that people struggle with.  

Christina: Right. That’s good. So what are some red flags for leaders? Maybe I’m a leader, and I’m going about my daily life. What are some red flags to look out for, that say I desperately need I need to start taking care of myself a little bit better?

Betsy: When your days go on and on, and you don’t have set hours, that’s definitely a red flag. When you’re taking calls, returning emails, you’re constantly responding to people’s needs at times that you should be off the clock. Those are definitely red flags. When your kids (if you have them) are asking for time with you if they are wanting you to help with their homework, if they are wanting you to play with them and you’re repeatedly saying “no.” Or if you’re missing out on family events. Missing out on time with friends those are things that are definitely red flags.  

Christina: Okay, are there any mental red flags we should be looking for? Say, you think you’re pretty balanced in life, but then stuff starts popping up that you can be on the lookout for?  

Betsy: Yeah, mentally, probably if your thoughts are hard to stop. If you don’t rest, when you go to bed if your thoughts are just swirling and you can’t fall asleep, that’s definitely a red flag. If you wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about your responsibilities. If you wake up in the morning and feel like you have to be on the go, those are all the signs that you’re probably going to end up with some burnout. And sleep is definitely an important one. A lot of successful people sleep very little. And they always say, “Well, I don’t need sleep.” and some people need less than others however they have to get rest. Your brain requires sleep to process information. So if people are not sleeping or if they feel like their brains are just constantly on-the-go, they really need to pay attention to that. And take some time to organize their lives to organize their schedules and maybe let go of some things. 

Christina: That’s hard for a lot of people. 

Betsy: Right? That’s hard for most leaders. Because in our society that says you’re not successful if you don’t do everything. And if you don’t do everything you won’t succeed. So it is really hard for leaders. 

Christina: That’s hard. So, what are some practical tips that you can give leaders to maybe let go of things or to practice self-care? What are just some easy steps and we can take right away?  

Betsy: Just some quick and easy? Ooh, that’s hard. It’s a hard thing. Because we usually are there when we’ve already said “yes” to so many things. That it’s really hard to figure out what to start saying “no” to and that fear of disappointing people, so I think you really have to sit down and map it out. Like Dave Ramsey always says, “Put it on paper on purpose.” for your finances, but it’s also your time. You really have to sit down and map out your time. And see what is taking too much time and be realistic about where your time is going, so it’s almost like an accounting of your calendar. Just see what is taking so long to do and how much time you’re investing in different tasks. So at first, you’re just tracking. Just track your calendar for a week.  

Christina: So maybe do a journal entry of each item that you do? 

Betsy: Right. And then just see you know based on that…maybe you have to talk to somebody that can evaluate that. And a boss or a mentor that they can help you assess. “Okay, you’re spending too much time in this area. What can you do? Can you let go of this? Or, can you delegate this?” Just that accounting of your time is pretty critical. 

Christina: Okay. I love that. That is easy and impractical we can jump in on that. I love it because one time when I was stuck, I came and you gave me some awesome advice. It was basically to focus on the five senses. And to focus in on one thing, you enjoy from each one. Can you give our listeners a quick break-down on how we did that? 

Christina: So maybe do a journal entry of each item that you do? 

Betsy: Right. And then just see you know based on that…maybe you have to talk to somebody that can evaluate that. And a boss or a mentor that they can help you assess. “Okay, you’re spending too much time in this area. What can you do? Can you let go of this? Or, can you delegate this?” Just that accounting of your time is pretty critical. 

Christina: Okay. I love that. That is easy and impractical we can jump in on that. I love it because one time when I was stuck, I came and you gave me some awesome advice. It was basically to focus on the five senses. And to focus in on one thing, you enjoy from each one. Can you give our listeners a quick break-down on how we did that? 

Betsy: Yeah, and that’s called “Anchoring” in the Mental Health field. So you use your five senses, and people do it different ways. But just focusing on each sense and what you can take in through that sense. So you use your sight, and you look around, your hearing, your taste, the touch, and smell. And you take time to really focus in on those senses what you’re experiencing in that moment. And some people will say to find three things in each area. It’s not how many, but making sure that you’re taking time to be grounded in the moment. It kind of lets your brain focus in on those sensors, and it creates a connection with reality. So you’re not drifting away into the next moment. And hopefully, it helps you to relax a little bit. And part of that, you can create a little first aid kit, if you will of their senses. So they have a picture of something that you enjoy looking at… a sunset or your dog, and something that you can taste like a piece of candy or some gum in there — and really taking the time to notice the flavor or what’s going on in the flavor. It’s mindfulness too. You know just being mindful of what you’re smelling a candle in that little kit — listening to a song. Have a song that you always go to or a podcast that you always go to…

Christina: Thanks for the plug!

Betsy: Yeah, and just being attentive to those things. To help you be grounded.

Christina: I love that. That was very helpful for me. I liked it. So as Leaders, once we get ourselves taken care of and grounded, how do we look for those red flags in our followers and help them create their self-care plans?

Betsy: That’s a really good question checking in with them. Clearly making sure that value their time and that they are managing their time and their calendar instead of their calendar managing them. And maybe even sitting down with them. Like choosing a few that you literally sit down with and ask, “hey let’s break down your week tell me what you’re doing with family, tell me what you’re reading, tell me when you’re worshiping, and really break that down in these areas like play and creativity, physical exercise and nutrition. And people may feel like that’s pretty intrusive, but it’s pretty important. And if you do know as a leader if you just have four or five people that you can select to do that from time to time. If you ask somebody, “Hey, are you taking care of yourself?” What is their answer always going to be? 

Christina: “Yeah! Of course!”

Betsy: Right! Because we’re not going to accept that we’re not. But when you really see it defined where you have to stop and analyze it and admit, “Yeah, I haven’t actually been to church in three weeks because I’ve been serving.” or “Yeah, I haven’t read anything lately because I’m just too busy with this project.” Or, “I haven’t taken a day to just spend with my family because work is overwhelming and I’m exhausted.” so until we really look at each of those areas somebody might be doing great in a couple of those areas, and taking some time but all of our areas of ourselves need to be cared for, and I think that as a leader, we can check-in and be really specific with people. 

Christina: I love that. That’s really good. Are there any resources that you would recommend to leaders to start reading to learn more about self-care or to get some ideas on how to set boundaries in their life?

Betsy: Well, my go-to book is always Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. That’s a good book; it deals probably more with families, I’m not really sure. As far as self-care, there are a lot of books out there on self-care. I’m not even sure I’ve read them. But, I am writing a book on self-care, and we’ll get to that one day. 

Christina: I am SO excited about that!

Betsy: But there is another good book that I really liked, and it’s in relationships, and that is, Gifts from the Heart. I cannot recall the author’s name, but it’s a book on building strong relationships, and you have to have healthy relationships to be a healthy leader and to have good self-care. If you don’t have those relationships, you don’t have anyone that’s going to say, “Hey, I think you’re exhausting yourself.” Right? Or “I haven’t noticed you have been involved in our group lately what’s going on?” so building relationships is an important part of self-care and that book is pretty helpful. 

Christina: I know your book is not out yet, but would you tell us a little bit about it and you had five or six areas you were focusing in on the book. Can you talk a little bit about that because I think it is a good overlay for self-care and how as are leaders we can compartmentalize each area? 

Betsy: Okay. So spiritually I found, okay, I’ve been doing Mental Health for over seven years I would say. And a lot of times, spirituality was pushed out of mental health, but even the APA is accepting that spirituality is a big part of humanity. So they’re encouraging therapist now to include spirituality, which you’ve always been allowed to if a client brings spirituality in. Then, ethically, you’re supposed to acknowledge that and work with that. But seeing the benefit of spirituality and understanding God is really a critical part of self-care. And so I’m hoping to expound on that a little more. That time with God in prayer and praise that daily time and I feel like, a “duh” moment. In the Christian world. It’s like “yeah, duh.” But, very few people actually spend time just with God, it’s mostly in a rush asking for things. And it’s great to ask him for things, and the word clearly shows us how to ask Him for things. But there’s also examples of going away and just being with God. Just letting him speak right and an awesome not being the one that’s doing all the speaking, so there’s some rest involved in that. And then definitely taking in information the word of God. Cognitive-behavioral therapy shows us that we have to analyze our thoughts and emotions and then our behaviors. And if we don’t have a healthy thought to replace a negative thought with then, it’s so much easier for that negative thought to continue. In secular psychology focus on positive thinking. Like you take out negative thinking you find what is good to think about and you shift your thinking. If we have the word of God in spite of in place of that and we use our thinking, and we add the word and every day and build our lives on the word that is a huge part of self-care. Because we are changing our thoughts, and how that is done is personal. You know, whether you want to read the entire Bible through in a year or you want to memorize scriptures and just read a little I think everybody has to figure out what works for them. But definitely taking in a positive message and meditating on those scriptures that stand out to you. The things that God really speaks to you. Taking the time to repeat that, rehearse that, really think about that. Meditate on that. Because that helps replace all of those negative thoughts, we so easily learn as children, teenagers, Etc. And so those are actually the first to which again, are just spiritual disciplines. And they’re hard. Right? They are hard things. Going back to self-care. Self-care is not easy. It’s not just going and getting a massage or having some chocolate. Those can be part of self-care. Taking a break and treating yourself, but it’s those consistent hard things and then organizing your time, and something that I found is that grieving and recognizing grief. A lot of people do not understand that when they’re feeling big emotions of sadness, frustration, anger, a lot of that is a grief process. Maybe they don’t have the marriage that they’d always hope for maybe they don’t have the career they’d always hoped for, and you know maybe they’ve lost their house and there is this grieving process that many times we just dismiss it and think it’s were moody or you know depressed or some other mental health issue but it can really be grief. So stopping and addressing that sadness and honoring what you lost an important thing to do. Grieving is a part of everything. Even good things, you know? You’re moving, and you’re getting a new home, but you are grieving the years that you were in that Other home. You’re saying goodbye to that season; I should say — that time spent in wherever you lived. 

Christina: I love the idea of healthy grieving. What are some tools… if we realize that we’re actually grieving something…what are some tools that we can do some self-care in that area?

Betsy: one that’s really helpful is journaling. And a lot of people see a huge benefit from it. It can be hard to sit down and take that time, and it can be very emotional. But writing your thoughts and feelings is very helpful. That is if you don’t have someone you can sit down and talk to. A lot of times we don’t have somebody we feel comfortable enough that we can just sit and boo-hoo with. And talk and ugly cry with. Talking it through is great, and sharing that with someone. But journaling is always available. You can pick up a journal at two in the morning. Just start writing. Diaries. They look at it that way, but it’s really just expressing your thoughts and your feelings and really digging into your feelings. Naming the emotions, and that is a really helpful way.  

Christina: A lot of times…eve me as a leader… I want to make sure that I’m okay and I want everyone to think I’m okay…you know, even when I’m not doing so okay. So what would you say to someone thinking of going to Counseling or getting professional help? What would you say to leaders who maybe are stuck and just encourage them that it is okay to talk with somebody?  

Betsy: Yeah, well in my field, I love Mental Health. And I do think that it is becoming more acceptable fortunately and it doesn’t mean that you’re insane if you go and seek Counseling. I do think historically, people have always sought Counseling. But they’ve just sought Council from a sage person. Somebody that was wise and they could sit down and talk to. Someone that would listen and give minimal advice. You know, you think about the grandparent that you could just go and sit on their porch and they would kind of just listen and go, “Yeah, yeah” and they might not always say too much, but they would always say one statement. And it’s like, “Whoa. I needed that.” so if people think of it that way, then it’s really just going and having somebody to where you can safely and confidentially share everything with and be transparent. The benefit, to me, of Counseling, is that you bring the subconscious to the conscious most of the time we bury so much that we aren’t even aware of what’s Happening inside and so sitting and talking through it it’s not always about what the counselor says, or what the counselor advises. It’s more about hearing yourself say the things you say. And then thinking a through after you leave. Like, “Man, do I really believe that?” “Should I believe that?” “Am I really letting that happen to me?” “what should I do with this?” so a lot of times people gain more insight just in opening up, by having somebody that’s safe isn’t going to criticize, judge, problem-solve for you, and so if people see Counseling as that…just that safe space to be able to process their thoughts in their feelings I think they’d be more willing to go. And with insurance you know I understand that a lot of people don’t want to go to a counselor with insurance because you do have to have a diagnosis, self-paying its good investment. Counseling can be expensive, to self-pay you don’t have to have a diagnosis. So that’s just a side note. 

Christina: but that’s helpful to know too because that’s something people think about. 

Betsy: And diagnosis doesn’t have to be something serious it can be an adjustment disorder. Insurance will take that if there’s been a change in someone’s life in the last six months, they can have a minor diagnosis. 

Christina: So there’s workarounds. 

Betsy: Yeah, there’s workarounds. But there’s a lot of stigma to Counseling for sure.  

Christina: Just personally, I have been through it, and a lot of my family’s been through it, and it’s been so helpful for me. So I really do encourage leaders to break that stigma. Go talk to somebody. It’s so healthy. It’s really healthy. 

Betsy: Yes. It really helps to breakthrough. 

Christina: Right. And to be able to help others too because you learn a lot of techniques and tools like the anchoring, that I was able to help other people with too. As a leader, that was good. Yeah well, thanks so much for being on the show, Betsy. I really appreciate you!

Betsy: Absolutely! Thank you for the honor. 

Christina: I appreciate all your wisdom. 

Betsy: Absolutely! Thank you for the honor. 

Christina: I appreciate all your wisdom. I think I can say for everyone listening we are excited for your new book to come out. So thanks so much. 

Betsy: Thank you, Christina. 

Outro: Thank you for listening to the Leadership U podcast for more resources for leaders visit our website at volunteeru.org.

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