Being a leader means you have to wear many hats, often catering to other people’s needs or juggling multiple projects at the same time. Leaders regularly feel pressured to put their team’s needs in front of their own, which can result in sacrificing their own wellbeing for the good of others.
While this kind of self-sacrifice may be fine on occasion, it has the potential to cause a lot of long-term damage.
As a leader, it is crucial to put time into your own care so you will be better equipped to help others and handle the pressures of your job. Actress Lucille Ball put it this way: “Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” I wholeheartedly agree. If you don’t take the time each and every day to care for yourself, how can you care for others?
Leaders who take the time to check in with themselves tend to be stronger, more resilient leaders. They manage stress better, are more productive, and more creative. A recent study co-directed by a management scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio demonstrates that leadership governed by self-care is both effective and sustainable.
Here are several ideas to get you started down a path to better leadership:
1. Find a healthy routine:
Many successful leaders have regular routines, especially in the morning. Kick off the day with a refreshing walk, a meditation session, or even checking some minor to-dos off that never-ending list.
2. Get out into nature:
Even if you don’t have time for a hike each day, try moving your work outdoors when possible, or take your lunch outside. Many of us find ourselves stuck in a concrete jungle, but there are ways to bring a little nature into your day-to-day work. If the weather is nice, consider scheduling lunch meetings on an outdoor patio or move a one-on-one meeting outside.
And if you can’t often escape the office? Try putting some plants at your desk. Many plants are natural air purifiers; here’s a list of the top seven.
3. Nourish the body:
Not only should we eat the rainbow and avoid junk food, we should also keep moving our bodies as much as possible. Just like our bodies are not meant to eat processed foods, they aren’t meant to sit at a desk all day either. Set a timer to make sure you adjust positions or go for a quick jaunt every fifteen minutes. This can help you clear your head and think through a problem you may be stuck on. Our bodies and our minds are constantly screaming for our attention with each ache. Give them some love with movement and foods that nourish.
4. Create a culture of wellness:
Demonstrate the importance of self-care by being a wellness proponent. Hold lunch meetings with healthy food options, invest in standing desks for your staff, or host fitness challenges. When wellness is encouraged and embraced by your co-workers, it is easier to practice your own self-care.
When we are stressed, we tend to take very shallow breaths from our upper diaphragm instead of deep belly breaths. In our busy culture, we often deny ourselves full breaths. Try this breathing exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil. It is a great tool to use right away in the morning, before going to bed, or during any high-stress situations, like before a big presentation.
6. Create space:
Oftentimes, leaders feel like they must take on every project or task that comes across their desk. Overloading yourself with work isn’t good for the company (you likely won’t produce your best work when you’re juggling a million things at once) and it isn’t good for you. Have faith in your team and delegate tasks. Not only will this create more space for you, it will demonstrate that you trust your team to perform without your constant guidance.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary and use it to get a good night’s sleep every night. It is easy to prop up your laptop and answer emails until your eyelids are heavy, but that may disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle. Try avoiding screen time and bright artificial lighting at least an hour before bed and keep devices out of the bedroom. Wind down with a relaxing bath and a good read (in the form of an actual book, not a device).
Become a better leader and a better YOU through self-care. What methods work for you? How will you improve your everyday wellness? If you would like help on starting a self-care routine and other tips on being a better leader, please contact me today.