Originally published on Leading Edge Global.
If you search for how to live a healthier life, you’ll find hours of video content from health and fitness influencers showcasing a ‘day in the life’, where they spend extensive time at the gym, hours preparing healthy meals, and take part in frequent meditation sessions. And while this may be a possibility for full-time content creators, it just isn’t an option for busy executives.
Many executives have to be in the office for long hours while juggling children and family commitments, while simultaneously trying to fit in a bit of ‘me time’ to exercise or de-stress. Finding balance can be challenging, but it is possible.
In this article, we explore how I balance my leadership responsibilities with my personal wellbeing. We will delve into key principles to prioritise mental and physical health while simultaneously driving success in your organisation.
As you read this article, keep in mind that healthy habits are formed over months, not days – and it’s easier to change one thing at a time, rather than changing your entire routine. So my hope is that this article will give you some inspiration to make a few positive changes in your life, and as you see improvements in your work and personal life, you can add more into the mix.
6 Principles of Balancing Leadership And Wellbeing:
- Stress Management
- Developing Healthy Habits
- Mental Health Awareness
- Fostering a Supportive Culture
- Leading by Example
A leader’s mindset acts as a guiding force in their journey. A growth mindset, based on the belief that abilities and understanding can evolve, differs from a fixed mindset that assumes capabilities are unchanging. The crucial distinction lies in perspective – how you approach challenges. Do you see them as opportunities for growth, or do you perceive them with negativity and defeatism? I firmly embrace an optimistic outlook, navigating life through the lens of a growth mindset. In my mind, everything is possible.
Now, consider your current mindset. If it’s a growth mindset, excellent. If it’s a fixed one, don’t worry – changing your perspective from fixed to growth is achievable. It requires self-awareness, self-belief, a willingness to face challenges, pursuing your passions, and consistent determination. Remember, growth takes time; Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I find inspiration in the science-based approach to health advocated by neuroscientist and tenured professor Andrew Huberman. While his daily routine is too intense for most of us, it is grounded in scientific research and includes: early rising, exposure to natural light, hydration, meditation, stretching, exercise, eating a healthy breakfast, cold exposure, journaling, and setting and reviewing daily goals. While I may not incorporate all ten elements daily, I embrace the mindset that adopting even some of these practices can lay the foundation for success.
In the fast-paced corporate world, we often find ourselves juggling numerous roles and responsibilities. Challenges and obstacles seem to lurk around every corner, and in the midst of constant change, mastering stress management is paramount.
Here are some effective strategies I personally rely on to maintain composure and make sound decisions during trying times:
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Engaging in mindfulness practices and meditation, including listening to guided meditations, gratitude journaling, and deep breathing exercises, equips me with valuable skills to navigate challenging situations. I make an effort to incorporate these practices at least three times a week.
- Personal Time: It’s essential to set aside time for yourself outside of work hours. Engage in activities that bring joy and happiness into your life, whether it’s a hobby, craft, sport or just going for a walk on your own.
- Laughter: Incorporating moments of play, whether at work or at home with colleagues, can be a powerful stress reliever. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
- Supplementation: While supplements should not be considered a solution, they can complement other stress management measures. Personally, I find magnesium and ashwagandha to be helpful in managing stress.
- Nighttime Routine: I’ve found that ending the day with a relaxing nighttime routine, such as a warm shower and reading a book can promote better sleep and overall well-being.
Remember, the challenges you face in your leadership journey are stepping stones to building resilience. To navigate them successfully, clarity of thought is crucial. Begin by seeking clarity of the “why” behind a problem and its underlying purpose. Consider who you need to engage in conversation to find solutions. Doing this will assist you in maintaining a calm and focused mindset while you’re under pressure.
Implementing Healthy Habits
Building healthy habits is a gradual process, taking anywhere from three to nine months to establish. The key is to begin today, without feeling the need to embark on complex diets or join an expensive gym. Instead, focus on what works for you and integrates seamlessly into your current schedule.
Incorporating healthy habits into your life not only enhances your personal well-being but also sets a positive example for your team. When you feel your best, you can show up as a strong and empowered leader. Consider integrating a fitness routine, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and adopting a balanced approach to nutrition into your daily routine. I’m a huge advocate for community and collaboration. I always find when working out with like-minded people within a community, it becomes easier to be excited about your workout – and they help you push through when you’re having a tough day.
Regular exercise, a well-rounded diet, and sufficient sleep provides leaders with the energy and resilience required to steer their organisations through challenges. Personally, I gravitate towards resistance training, kickboxing, and brisk walks whenever possible. The physical and mental benefits of exercise are widely recognised, but I believe there is more to it than that.
Sleep holds a top priority in my routine. I rise at 5:30 AM daily, exercise at 6:15, and ensure I’m back in bed by 8 PM, asleep by 9 PM. I make a conscious choice to decline evening engagements, prioritising my sleep and overall health above all else.
When it comes to nutrition, I adhere to a simple mantra of “calories in, calories out.” My approach involves clean, unprocessed foods – focused on whole vegetables and lean meats. Mindful eating is crucial; I pay close attention to how different foods make me feel and their impact on my overall wellbeing. Awareness plays a pivotal role, and I make a point to engage in weekly food prep to maintain a healthy dietary routine.
Mental Health Awareness
Mental well-being is an important, often overlooked aspect of leadership. Experts stress the vital importance of leaders proactively monitoring their mental health and being willing to seek support when necessary. This support may encompass therapy, counseling, or engaging in open and honest dialogues with trusted colleagues.
Throughout the workday, I’ve adopted several strategies to prioritize my mental health:
- Daily 5-10K Steps: Did you notice I didn’t say you have to walk 10K steps? Incorporating daily walks has proven immensely beneficial in maintaining mental clarity and focus. But if you have a busy schedule, it can feel impossible to get to 10K! If I’m low in steps, I try to squeeze in a few extra through walking meetings or taking public transport to add extra steps.
- Digital Detox: Recognising the distractions posed by phones, I’ve made a habit of putting my phone away when it’s not needed. For increased focus, I utilise “focus mode,” a grayscale digital setting that minimises engagement with distracting apps.
- Time Blocking: I’ve implemented time blocking not only for meetings but also for personal tasks, enabling me to efficiently accomplish what needs to be done while preserving mental well-being.
- Effective Task Management: Task management is a personal journey, and for me, it involves the use of post-it notes. There’s an undeniable satisfaction in crumpling up completed tasks and tossing them away. You may find a paper tick list, a mini-whiteboard or an app works best for you.
- Strategic Meeting Days: Designating specific days for in-person meetings has proven to be an effective approach. These days provide a more focused environment with reduced disruptions, allowing for more productive work blocks.
Cultivate a Supportive Culture:
At Leading Edge, we are strong proponents of a company culture that places employee wellbeing at the forefront. We actively advocate for wellness programs, provide resources for mental health support, and foster a sense of community among our team members. It’s essential to recognise that meaningful achievements are rarely solitary endeavors. Rather than dictating directives, we value the input of our team members, shaping our initiatives collaboratively.
Leading by Example:
Influence alone does not define leadership; true leaders are influencers. I didn’t initially set out to become an influencer, but I’ve come to embody leadership through the power of influence. Healthy leaders exemplify what they expect from their teams, serving as compelling role models.
I endeavor to lead by example through modest yet impactful actions. For instance, I bring my own tupperware to the office, filled with nutritious meals, as a symbol of the importance of healthy eating. I also encourage my team to take short brain breaks by joining me for walks to get some much-needed Vitamin D. My aspiration is to inspire others through the journey I’ve undertaken in life, and if my actions or words motivate anyone, that brings me profound fulfillment.
Ultimately, the path to effective leadership begins with prioritising your own well-being and becoming the leader you would want to follow. To show up as the best version of yourself as a leader you need to prioritse your mental and physical health.
If you’re overwhelmed by the countless information available online, bookmark this blog to your desktop and come back to it regularly to remind yourself that you can do anything you put your mind too.