Nicole Fraley is a dynamic and accomplished marketing professional, currently serving as the VP of Marketing & Ecommerce at Soft Surroundings.
What does self-care mean to you?
It means finding balance and granting yourself grace as you move through your day.
- I have a very full and rich life. I am passionate about my career, and I work on a regular basis to find the balance between the demands of being an executive at Soft Surroundings, being present for my husband and two very active kids, and donating time to serve on a non-profit board for Junior Achievement.
- I am working to be kinder to myself when I need to shift priorities and distort time to one area of my life versus another; it’s not a practice that was familiar for me, but it is one that has allowed me to be more present in each area of my life.
- This is something that I find is complementary to the work we’re doing every day at Soft Surroundings, curating a space that empowers women to find their own unique comfort and style.
How do you know when you’re feeling stressed or burnt out?
It has taken me some time to identify what this feeling is. It’s taken practice, and I recognize this more since I have begun to take moments of pause during the day and take account of how I am feeling. This practice has allowed me to become more self aware and has helped me learn more about my mental wellbeing and feelings. When I feel burnt out, I feel it in a few ways:
- Physically, I see a change in my sleep patterns, my energy, and my motivation levels.
- Emotionally, I feel on edge and have a hard time focusing. Also, the things that bring me joy like work, volunteerism, and spending time with family, feel hard or become feeling heavy or hard to do.
Our company supports mental health through extended benefits, leadership training, and introducing the Calm app. The use of this app has really helped me honour my feelings while keeping pace with a busy routine.
Do you have a regular self-care routine? If so, what does it look like?
I do have a routine, but one that fits within a busy life. It can be hard to find consistency and structure when we juggle so many things (work, family, pets, life, ageing parents). I focus on what I can put into a routine, do my best to keep that pattern, and know that things will get off path. I grant myself grace when they do. A few things I have put in place that have been successful.
Boundaries – self-care for me starts with setting boundaries. This is a newer practice for me, but I have found it is really helping me keep on my routine. Boundaries for me include:
- Knowing the number of hours in a day I am most productive for work and maximising those hours.
- Consistency with my schedule, keeping consistent hours for sleep and wake times, and honouring times to unplug from electronics so I can take a mental break (sometimes turning off notifications during the day so I can fully focus on one thing).
- Being present is a boundary I work on daily. There is no such thing as multitasking effectively for me. When I am in a virtual meeting, I focus on that meeting, when I am meeting with a team member face-to-face I focus on that interaction, and when I am at dinner with my family I am at dinner with my family. Of course, this boundary has wiggle room, if needed, I can and will pivot to the more pressing matter, and those around me know how and when to escalate.
Support from others – Meet with a mental health care professional who specialises in executives and ADHD. Her educational approach has helped me unlock the “why” behind the “what” I am feeling, and it has been liberating.
Self-awareness – Taking time, even 5 minutes, at least every 3 hours to consciously breathe, check in with myself, and step away from my computer. This may mean I leave a virtual meeting a little early and join another a little late. I also unplug. Knowing when to unplug helps me wind down mentally, and I no longer use electronics in bed (i.e. working on my laptop late at night or reading email while waking up in the morning).
What bumps you off your self-care routine and how do you get back on course?
There are many factors that can cause this. Some are planned and some simply happen. business is softer than planned and priorities need to adjust, that call from school when your kiddo has a fever, or your dog eats something they shouldn’t, and they need more care than normal. I am a big fan of keeping things simple:
- Grant grace when these things happen. I can’t control what pulled me off track, but I can control my response to it.
- Realise that not EVERYTHING went off track. I focus on what stayed on track and how I can reclaim what went askew.
- Have confidence. I have the tools and know-how to stay balanced and in a good spot.
Where do you go for inspiration, ideas or tools for self-care?
I leverage my mental health care professional and use the Calm app to help with snackable support. I have also begun to share more about my journey with friends, colleagues and family members. At first, I was uncomfortable doing this – I have discovered so many others who are feeling the same way and find strength in hearing their stories.
What do you think you need to improve in terms of your self-care practice?
That is a hard one. The internal critic immediately came up with 15 things that I could do better. As a recovering perfectionist I will leave it with this thought. I am on a journey and am committed to doing my best at each point on that path, and I could hold my breath a little less. I think the thing that helps most with this, is living into my power and understanding how to own my work and my space. That’s what creates the opportunity for self-care.