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Supporting Leader Mental Health: Self-Care Is Not Selfish

leadership mental health self-care Aug 08, 2023
Supporting Leader Mental Health: Self-Care Is Not Selfish


Like any other employee, managers and leaders often find themselves navigating through challenging times. Being a manager or leader means handling numerous responsibilities and making tough decisions regularly, with the constant pressure to meet targets, support team members, and ensure the success of the organization. The weight of responsibilities at work and home can leave you feeling exhausted and emotionally drained. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed can also manifest as decreased compassion and empathy and an inability to find solutions to problems.

It's easy to get caught up in the needs of your team and organization, especially when employees need support in practicing self-care and taking care of their mental health. Yet many leaders may find it challenging to acknowledge their struggles and admit that they, too, need support. Amidst the many demands and uncertainties that come with leadership roles, it's essential not to overlook the impact mental health challenges can have on your ability to lead.

By prioritizing their own self-care, leaders can lead more effectively, make sound decisions, and create a positive and supportive work environment. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it is an investment in your ability to handle challenges, compassionately support your team, and achieve long-term success as a leader.


Self-Care Strategies for Leaders

Incorporating self-care into your daily routine is essential to building resilience and preventing burnout. Here are some practical self-care strategies for leaders and managers to help maintain your mental health:


Set boundaries 

Being “on” all the time is not healthy. When you are experiencing stress, your body goes into overdrive “fight, flight or freeze” mode. It is crucial to have some time to let your body relax or activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Set times in your day to decompress, relax, and spend time on things that allow you to rejuvenate. As a manager, you could determine that between 5:00pm and 7:00pm is your me time or family time. You may go back to clean up some emails or work later but preserve some time for you and your family. This is also important to show your team that it is alright to shut down the computer and to spend time for yourself. If you send emails after hours, consider setting the delayed delivery to the next day so that your team does not feel that you need a response after hours.


Learn to ask for help

Delegate at work and at home. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things for many managers to do when they know their team is stressed as well. Using Covey’s prioritization matrix can help you to do important things first and ask for help by delegating to those who can help. Even at home, asking a spouse or children to help temporarily can lighten the load.


Consider setting goals that are manageable

Have you ever created a to do list that seems to never end? Experts in the field of behaviour management have found that setting small manageable SMART goals can help you to get the right things done. Consider chunking your to-do list into goals to ensure that your time is spent wisely. Clarify your priorities – what are the must-dos instead of the busy-dos. Focus on goal-directed to-dos.


Give up perfection

Do you feel like you have to be perfect? Remember that perfection is just a distorted goal that keeps us from being who we are. Being a perfectionist can lead to overwork and disappointment and can also reduce your success as a manager. Consider the concept of GETMO (Good Enough To Move On). When you are working on product and service delivery to 100%, you may miss the opportunity. 80% done is good enough to move on, and work on the 20% once the work is being delivered.


Engage in human-to-human contact

Social connection is vital to every person’s mental health. Who is your support group? How often do you connect? Communicate with your support system and your team often, not just about work, but also to connect on social things. Engage, laugh, and connect with others.


Be open, transparent, and vulnerable

Being a leader means allowing others to really be with you and know you for who you are. Being yourself, open, and vulnerable about the changes and how they are affecting you can help your team to do the same. Leaders do not have all the answers – ask your team for help and be transparent about the challenges and successes so that they too can be open and transparent and vulnerable with you.


Watch for the signs of all work and no play

If you are a leader or entrepreneur, working towards your passion is amazing, but sometimes that can lead to workaholic behaviour. Sleep is one of the most important components for managing your stress, emotions, and mental health. Take time for rest and relaxation. If your sleep is disrupted, try some sleep hygiene strategies.


Don’t personalize the work

Everyone around you is facing challenges, and as a manager, you might inadvertently bear the weight of the stress your employees are experiencing. However, it's important to remember that the difficulties and emotions expressed by your team are not a reflection of your worth as a leader. Instead of internalizing their struggles, focus on listening openly and non-judgmentally. Understand that you cannot control every aspect of the work environment, and tough decisions may need to be made for the success of the business.


Nurture your self-compassion and resilience

Embrace self-love and compassion, understanding that experiencing challenges does not diminish your capabilities as a leader. Practice openness to feedback, viewing it as an opportunity for growth rather than a personal attack. Utilize constructive criticism to enhance your leadership skills and make a positive impact on your team. Remember, you are not alone in facing these challenges, and fostering self-compassion is essential for leading with strength.


Contact your resources

Talk to your organization about what resources you have for caring for your mental health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your employee assistance program or mental health professionals such as Occupational Therapists.


How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

Our team can provide you with the tools that you need to improve your mental health and productivity. If you or an employee are struggling, our Occupational Therapists can provide individualized mental health support to help your team stay healthy and at work. Make a referral today or contact us to learn more.

We also provide mental health training to both managers and employees on a variety of topics, including building resiliency, managing anxiety, reducing burnout, and more. Contact us to learn more about customized group training. Or visit our store for our current public training programs, such as Inclusive Leadership Training.