S.O.S.

Land, ho! Views from a pre-Recession solo spa week in the Baltics, circa 2007.

A popular team building exercise, developed for the U.S. Coast Guard and used in many other workplace settings, is called “Lost at Sea“. The exercise asks participants to imagine themselves adrift together on a raft (you guessed it, lost at sea). Of fifteen items–including useful tools like “compass” and “fishing kit” and seemingly superfluous items like “rum”–the team must cooperate to rank the items that will save their lives.

The official recommended list from the Coast Guard lists number six as: “two boxes of chocolate bars”. That’s right–chocolate ranks above a fishing kit and shark repellent for saving your life. Turns out that a little mood-lifting indulgence (and the related calories) are vitally important. I will never, ever feel guilty eating chocolate again.

Indeed, self-care is a survival skill.  That’s what I told myself last week, anyway, as I slipped into in a local hot spring. Hot springs and spas are my obsession, probably attributable to Scandinavian blood. That the springs bubble from the earth–sometimes gently, sometimes deliriously–is a phenomenon. That they provide some of the most effective natural medicine on the planet is gravy. My limbs turn to spaghetti just thinking about it… cook me up al dente.

Any discussion of work and career would be incomplete without  an exploration of its opposite: leisure and reward. Knowing what we are working for helps shape the very job at hand. A moment of repose refines our action. We all do better after a nap… you get the drift.

Yet self-care is a beast of a challenge–the stuff Oprah’s empire was built on. Most of us either deny ourselves or overindulge. Some weird matrix of guilt and entitlement and plain old need utterly maims our ability to make good decisions for ourselves, especially in crises. So, it pays to consider:

What’s your lifesaver? …and in an emergency, would you hesitate to reach for it?

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