Some modern media have portrayed the hardworking leader as a sleep-deprived, stubborn, borderline manic individual obsessed with the bottom line and neglectful of self care. While some people do fit this category, most do not. This stereotype can be harmful even if it’s meant to lampoon and discourage this behavior.
In reality, the best leaders make time to take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being able to balance the challenges of work with the importance of self care is one of the most important leadership qualities. Failing to achieve this balance is a strategic error and bleeds out into the rest of the business.
Ignoring the needs of one’s mind and body hurts one’s ability to think, focus, and help others in need. Conversely, engaging in self care boosts the mind, body, and spirit, which lifts those in proximity up as well. Here’s a deeper dive into how self care can improve your performance as a leader.
- Proper Sleep: Alertness and Ability to React
The science of sleep still largely remains a mystery, but researchers have found a critical link between good sleep and improved work performance. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 29% of workers regularly feel sleepy while at work. Missing out on a good night’s sleep can consistently lead to a loss of focus and increased irritability.
When work piles up and deadlines loom, people often put sleep on the back burner. This is a big mistake. The importance of proper sleep can’t be overstated, especially for leaders. Effective leadership depends on maximum alertness. By sacrificing these precious hours of slumber, leaders are less equipped to react to challenges, prioritize tasks, and help other employees deal with stress of their own. Conversely, getting proper sleep allows one’s mind to refresh, retain important information, and handle new problems as they come.
- Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
While improper sleep plagues a large chunk of the population, so does poor nutrition and exercise. So many workers and leaders are always rushing from one place or task to the next. To keep things moving, people may skip meals or grab the nearest, fastest option from the vending machine, fast food line, or microwave. While these choices may be convenient, they can do serious harm to one’s work performance.
Foods low in nutritional value can result in more trips to the bathroom, sure. But beyond this, they can also negatively impact brain function. Nutritional science is ever evolving, but most studies have shown that a diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and minimal sugar contribute to improved mental health. Additionally, regular exercise doesn’t just improve metabolic function and burn calories, it also produces endorphins which increases alertness, reduces tension, and improves mood. In this way, eating well and exercising are two of the best ways of managing leadership stress.
- Setting an Example: Helping Others with Self Care
Self care does not equate to selfishness. Quite the opposite. By practicing self care, leaders can do more for employees. How can managers help employees deal with stress? First, they can share their own experiences of dealing with stress with employees. By giving advice on sleep patterns, diet, exercise, and other methods of stress reduction, leaders can set a great example for the workplace.
Additionally, leaders who practice self care will have more energy to help employees. With enough rest and restoration, leaders can prioritize their workload to set aside time for helping others, honing these crucial leadership skills. With a workforce committed to self care, everyone benefits – and so does productivity.
Leadership in times of stress and change truly tests one’s abilities. Self care should remain at the forefront during these times, for the sake of leaders, employees, and the business itself. At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. For more information, contact us here.