According to a recent Oracle and Workplace Intelligence study of more than 12,000 employees, managers, HR leaders and C-Suite executive across 11 countries, found that C-suite executives struggled to adapt more than their employees, younger generations experienced the most burnout, and that India, UAE, China and the U.S. had the most workers reporting the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
To many this is not a surprise, yet given all that is on leaders’ plates these days, it’s difficult to find time and allow space for physical and mental wellness. Here are some practices we share with our clients’ C-Teams that help them balance work performance with personal health.
Self-care is no longer an indulgence or luxury; it’s essential to being a thriving and resourced human being and critical to your leadership success. Everyone around you, your family/partner, kids, team, boss and direct reports can tell how well you take care of yourself. It’s demonstrated by how you ‘show up,’ and how resourced you are to meet the challenges in the present moment. All the verbal and non-verbal cues you telegraph your level of calm, perspective, anxiety, and stress; they show up in your voice, pace of movement, interest in asking questions, or degree or depth of listening. The quality of the interactions that occur are a reflection of how you show, which in turn is a reflection of how well you’re taking care of yourself.
So if self-care is at the center of being a balanced, healthy, self-aware, resourced leader, how can you practice better self-care?
Take Care of your Body: Physical Health = Mental Health
It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you just move your body! Dance, walking, hiking, jumping rope…hula hooping! Exercise increases blood flow, oxygen utilization, releases endorphins, elevates attitude, brain power, and your sense of well-being. Exercising outdoors in nature brings an added healing benefit of contact with natural elements.
A balanced diet full of plant-based foods is especially important so our digestion actually fuels brain power instead of zapping it. Eat regularly and avoid going long periods without food. Minimize alcohol and sugar, especially at night as these things tend to interrupt sleep. Consider stopping food intake past 9 pm so that your body has time to begin digestion before sleep. Also take appropriate vitamin supplements that support your energy and vitality.
A 2019 study found that Americans are now averaging less than 6 hours of sleep per night, sleeping 47 minutes less than they did in 2018. The CDC and The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of consistent sleep per night as the body’s ability to function declines if sleep isn’t in the 7-9 hour per night range. While schedules balancing work and home can often cut into sleep time, it’s important to develop healthy habits and get to bed earlier. It’s also helpful to avoid screens at least 1 hour before bed.
Take Care of your Mind: Stop the Chatter
- Establish a Morning Routine
The first 30 minutes of your day affects your ENTIRE day. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier in order to have an extra 30 minutes just to yourself in the morning. Make this your quiet time to meditate, journal, do yoga, exercise…all without looking at your phone.
Quieting our minds and sitting still is one of the best ways to decompress our nervous systems and be able to listen to our inner voice. This is essential in helping us see the big picture and find deeper understanding of whatever is challenging us or growth areas we are working on. Sitting still and getting comfortable with the stillness is helpful; sometimes, it will activate chatter and self-critical narratives, but we must push beyond this point, by staying connected to the rhythm of our breath, and allow ourselves to land in a place where our minds can rest. Try using meditations apps like Calm, Insight Timer, Aura, or research a meditation practice that sounds good to you.
- Take JOY Breaks
Schedule 15 minute breaks in your day where you get up and walk outside, enjoy a cup of coffee/tea, drink water, listen to music, or call a family member or friend. These small, yet important breaks give our minds and hearts the ability to restore and then return to the job at hand more fully equipped. Model this practice and encourage your team to follow this as well. Major team meetings following JOY breaks will be more productive in less time.