An unlikely combo: Leadership, crackers, and compassion

Last week, I had the stomach flu. 

I haven't had a stomach bug in the longest time, and it laid me flat. 

I had forgotten how horrible the stomach flu feels. It's like childbirth - you forget how awful the pain is once it has passed. Same with the flu you know it stinks, but you forget how much until you are in the throws of it.

Of course, it happened when I had a full day planned on Thursday with projects, writing, proposals, and coaching to do. As I laid awake on Wednesday night holding a bucket and taking trips back and forth to the bathroom, all I could think was "How am I going to get everything done?"

But Thursday morning came, and it was clear that I was not going to be able to do much of anything. I slept as long as I could, and then I jumped on a couple of calls (just on audio, definitely not video!) that I didn't want to or couldn't reschedule. 

Most of the day, I was sleeping, trying to warm up in a bath, and eating chicken noodle soup and crackers while watching a little Netflix before heading back to bed. 

But my to-do list was on my mind, and I found myself saying "When are you going to get your work done?" "You're so behind." "You should be working, not sleeping."

At some point, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I'm human. And human beings get sick. And when we are sick, we need to rest, not push harder. 

Once I noticed how much I was shaming myself for getting sick, I was able to take a step back and remember my humanity. That I have a human body that is susceptible to illness. That doesn't make me wrong or lazy or broken; it just makes me like every other human out there.

So I put my out-of-office on so I wouldn't feel compelled to respond to every email. I left my video off and just explained that I was present and listening, but not in any shape to fully participate. I told a couple of clients that I would need to get them what they needed on Friday.

And you know what?

The world didn't end. 

When I asked for the grace I needed, people were so kind and understanding. 

I was able to rest and recover and get back to work on Friday.

And it felt great to be able to take care of myself in the way I knew I needed to.

I've been reading a lot of Kristin Neff's work on self-compassion, and I find it so linked to growth mindset, emotional intelligence, and well-being. Having the stomach flu last week was a reminder (unpleasant as it was) to have self-compassion for myself, emotionally and physically.

A stomach bug can be humbling, reminding us of our humanity and our human frailties. That doesn't mean we never, ever critique ourselves for being human. It means that we actually can take a moment to be compassionate with ourselves.

When you are compassionate with yourself, you can be more compassionate with others, both at home and at work. And compassionate leaders create compassionate organizations -- the research proves it. 

So don't wait until a stomach flu forces you to create compassion for yourself. You can do it at any time, and here are some strategies to help.

Hoping you stay healthy, well, and happy!