During the holidays we hear a lot about “self-care.” It’s a very stressful time of year not only because we have a lot of external pressure for THE PERFECT HOLIDAYS. But also because we’re are constantly dealing with family, lots of events, changing weather, and still having to do normal day-to-day stuff like work, make dinner, and do the dishes.

When most people think of self-care, we get images of spa days, bubble bat, and snuggling on the couch with a cup of tea.

But what are we actually seeking when we talk about self-care? What is the point of self-care and what if you’re doing it wrong?

There are two kinds of self-care: The Dredging and The Clearing.

Dredging self-care is about cleaning wounds, finding the muck, getting to the root of things. This looks like journaling, therapy, or long talks with your best friend. The point of this is to find where you are wounded or having a hard time and to find the reason why this is happening. You dig deeper and deeper, going through dirt to find the bulb of the idea or the root of the weed. This kind of self-care starts with asking “why” or “how” something is the way it is.

Why did I react that way in that meeting?

How can I be a better person to my partner?

Why do I get worked up by Jim in accounting?

Then, you engage in activities to find out the whys and hows. Most people need a variety of these. I personally use a therapist and a journal as my means of dredging. I also have a personal blog where some of my less dirty laundry gets aired, but the truly stained stuff stays in my journal.

Clearing self-care is about washing away all the dirt. At the end of a dredging process (which sometimes is done involuntarily at you, more for another post) you need a good shower. These are the kinds of activities that require your whole brain to do them. There isn’t any room for extraneous thoughts and by forcing you to focus on a something in it’s entirety, you give your brain a little cleanse and clear away the stuff that got dredged.

These kinds of activities include exercise, sports, cooking, baking, meditation, writing, art. My personal favorites are skiing and singing in a chorus, both of which require my full attention or else I can literally face plant. When I can’t access those, I write here, or read a book, or move my body.

So those are the two parts of self-care and how they can show up on a personal level. But what about an organization? Does an organization need self-care?

I’m pretty sure you know the answer is yes.

Organizations are like living, breathing organisms, and like the living, breathing organism that you are, an organization needs self-care, too.

So given our guidelines, what does that look like?

Dredging self-care looks like strategic planning, mission check ins, creating vision, and end of year reviews.These are the processes by which we examine why or how we do something at work.

Why do we choose to engage with these customers or clients or with this idea?

How are we doing this and are we doing it well?

Clearing work looks like happy hour, company barbecues, and holiday parties. It also looks like brainstorming sessions or deliberate work space to power through and get shit done.

This is for blowing off steam or feeling a deep sense of accomplishment. Both of these intentions can lead to a clearing space, which allows workers and the organization to come back refreshed from dredging work.

The work I do with most of my clients has a component of both. Since we engage in how and why questions a lot, we do quite a bit of dredging. But, we also create a space for dreaming and for accomplishment, so we do clearing work as well. It’s one of the reasons why orgs and people emerge from the work both exhausted at times, but ultimately feel better. The wounds get cleaned and healed.

Without self-care in an org the same thing that happens to individuals can happen to them. There’s an overall feeling of burnout, resentment, exhaustion, and exasperation. By taking time to identify problems and the root of those problems and then to fix them, orgs can continue to grow healthily and stay engaged in the work they want to be doing.