Around this time last year, we were moved to tears by the powerful riffs of Metallica in a sold out concert at King Baudouin stadium. Since 1982, this band has not only sold more than 115 million albums but also 22 million tickets for their shows. This puts them in the same category as U2 and the Rolling Stones, groups that we can hardly describe as ‘niche’. Unfortunately, the band members of Metallica fare less well when it comes to this week's theme of self-care. Dave Mustaine, their lead guitarist, had to leave the band because of an unsuccessful fight against his addictions. After the tragic death of their first bass player, the other band members also lost themselves in drugs and alcohol, earning them the nickname "Alcohollica". Even today, to the great regret of his fans and intimates, frontman James Hetfield has had to exchange his tour bus for a detox.


And that brings us to harsh reality. Just as you cannot lead a band without leading yourself, you cannot nurture others without nurturing yourself. The theme of self-care will become increasingly important. Our society cannot fully meet the increasing demand for care; we must take our own self-care in hand. The same goes for professional organisations; they would do well to focus on care in the broadest sense. At the same time, the responsibility to take care of oneself also lies with the employee. Unfortunately, we are not very good at that. On the one hand, we often reduce self-care to a run during the afternoon or to annoying hashtags such as #metime or #worklife. On the other, we only start with self-care when it is too late, instead of being proactive earlier on.

Now, the attentive followers of this section will have understood that self-care is not one of my more pronounced talents. Due to Corona I still have an excuse for my unkempt head of hair and growing neck carpet. Moreover, it gives me the look of a hard rocker in the making. But there are many bad habits that I don't really have a rational excuse for, like smoking. So I could also use some inspiration. I found it with Luis, a former gang member who lives the essence of self-care and does not write about it. Luis chose to change his environment and leave the gang. He did this from a growing awareness that his addiction, the tangle in his head, had to be unraveled first. And he succeeded in that by working with his strengths, to become a clown. We also see the same three components recur in reading material. I will shorten them to CARE (Conditions, Awareness and REaction).

First of all, in order to effectively self-care it is best to work together, not alone, to shape the right conditions (Conditions). As an organization or society, we can create the right conditions by literally creating an environment in which everyone is able to care for themselves. Think of the mobile school that children regularly visit and the construction of parks in densely urbanized areas. We can look for a support network, people or organizations that stimulate us positively. Interacting with the surroundings can have a huge effect. Dog owners will agree that a four-legged friend encourages more exercise.          

Secondly, self-care also requires a strong dose of awareness (Awareness). Too often we let ourselves be influenced by available yet bad advice. Actively looking for substantiated sources and acquiring reliable information is a necessary step in building self-care. Hence, doctors often ask whether, and what, a patient has already read about pathology. It goes without saying that a government and an organization must also contribute to building more awareness about important themes. Just think of campaigns around alcohol or exercise at work. It is important that we communicate these insights in an understandable manner. In other words, it doesn't have to be a detailed powerpoint.

©In De Gloria - Vermaelen's Project

Finally, we would do well to respond correctly to the information we receive (Reaction). Change is not only in thinking, but also in doing. And here science teaches us that small (re) actions make a big difference. It's the little things like taking ten thousand steps or starting each morning  with a healthy routine that can have a big impact in the long run. To say it as in Vermaelen's project (In De Gloria): "a little effort makes a world of difference". Here too, a government can lend a hand by prescribing concrete behavioural tips for its population. Keeping a distance of one and a half meters is a good example of this, relaxing visiting arrangement is less so. The more confusing the description of desired behavior, the more people will stick with their old behavior. This applies unabated to organizations where complex terminology often takes the place of clear communication. Or do you understand exactly what behavior is expected as a "young, dynamic team player who always gives the best of himself in a flexible manner in a challenging learning environment"?         

Excuse me now, I'm off to do some headbanging.

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