As a Life Coach who specialises in supporting the ‘successfully depressed’ to overcome their mental health challenges, I was asked by a friend of mine who is an entrepreneur and author, what are seven tips I would offer a leader to maintain mental wellbeing. Here is my response.
Achieving and maintaining optimum mental health is important for everyone and no less so for leaders. Leaders are often placed under extreme levels of pressure, with responsibility for people’s performance, wellbeing and ultimately livelihood. A leader losing sight of their own wellbeing is a common occurrence. Leaders need to lead by example and this includes role modelling a proactive approach to mental wellbeing.
Global business is moving away from the days of applauding those who work the hardest by completing 18-hour days and forfeiting everything for their career. The move is to celebrate those who work smartest and pride themselves on maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, engaging with all areas of their life in its entirety.
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health challenge.
This statistic is expected to increase, with the number being no less in leadership. It is leaders who step forward, share and own their challenges who will create the biggest impact within organisations and promote not only a culture of acceptance but one where mental health is central to the company. With this, developing a culture of high performance working, low attrition and increased employee satisfaction.
Focusing on mental health begins before you experience a challenge, putting the horse firmly before the cart, here are 7 steps you can take to achieve and maintain mental wellbeing.
1. In my life coaching, I create Vitality Checklists with my clients and these identify and document personal daily and weekly goals that support you in being the healthiest and therefore most productive version of yourself include everything from how many hours sleep you need, what you should eat, and how often you should exercise, etc.
2. Using these goals, identify potential red flags. This could include missing any of these goals or not achieving them in their entirety. An example of this would be setting the goal of sleeping for 8-hours and only achieving 6-hours, where you know 6-hours impacts your wellbeing and performance.
3. Gain an understanding of stress and its impact on the human body in the short and long term. Understanding this at a deeper level supports you in connecting with the importance of managing your mental health. This will also open your eyes to the potential symptoms you may already be experiencing but had not attributed to stress, or wider mental health challenges.
4. Monitor your mood through the day and identify and document any specific thoughts or experiences which trigger you to feel a negative emotion such as stress and anger. Understanding your triggers give you the opportunity to adapt your day to avoid or better manage these.
5. Listen to the voices in your head! We are all a product of our beliefs and some of those beliefs limit us in achieving our potential. Identify those beliefs which hold you back and work through identifying their root cause and revaluating their necessity. It’s these beliefs that will often create anxiety and depression whether that be explicitly or by preventing us achieving the life we desire and deserve.
6. Audit your life and proactively seek to identify goals or projects you can simply cancel. We often take on a myriad of goals for ourselves and these can leave us feeling overwhelmed and at times causing feelings of failure as we strive daily to make achievements that are not realistic. Assess what you are aiming towards in all areas of your life and remove those which are no longer urgent or important.
7. Learn to say no. This is a primary step for those who work in leadership. The only way to maintain mental well being as a leader is to understand what you can achieve and within what timeframe, and only commit when the task at hand is realistic. Continuing to push yourself beyond these limits is playing with fire and unfortunately, there could be a day you get burnt.
Leadership has the potential to be a challenging job note least because people look to you to role model what it means to be a leader. You need a team who are healthy and resilient and the best way to create this is to first achieve it yourself.