In an airplane safety briefing, flight attendants tell parents that, in the event of cabin pressure loss, be sure to attach the drop-down oxygen mask to themselves before assisting their children with their mask. The reason for this is that parents tend to be so focused on making sure their child is safe, they forget it’s more important, and better for their child’s long-term safety, to first attach their own mask. In a much less dramatic sense, being a leader involves applying the same principal.
Being a great leader isn’t just about taking care of those around you — it’s also about taking care of yourself in order to be the best leader you can be in the long term. Before assisting your employees, it’s best to assist yourself. In order to do that, it’s important to practice some self-care. By getting enough sleep, having healthy work-life boundaries, taking your vacation time, eating well, and engaging in positive self-talk, you’ll be in the right space to be a leader to those around you.
Get Enough Sleep
Nearly every self-care list talks about getting enough sleep, but that’s how important it is. Sleep can affect your energy, your stress levels, your attention to detail, and your ability to be a great leader . Sometimes being told to get enough sleep is easier said than done, but it’s helpful to take steps that can help you get the sleep you need to be there for the people who need you.
Try creating a sleep schedule, removing technology from the bedroom, or getting a new bed. Some people swear by sleeping with a fan in the room, while others need blackout curtains. Experiment with a few things if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Create Work Boundaries
Those who tend to gravitate toward leadership positions can often have an issue with being overworked due to their own priorities in making sure work always comes first. However, this can sometimes lead to exhaustion and a poor work-life balance. Practice self-care by creating some work boundaries. This can mean turning off work emails from your phone, avoiding work discussions after a certain time, or silencing work numbers on the weekends.
This can cause some anxiety at first, but in the long run it can help your overall happiness at work and in life by creating these healthy boundaries. The best leaders encourage work-life balance for their employees, but they also practice that balance themselves as well.
Take Your Vacation Time
Workaholics have a hard time taking vacations. If you’re in a leadership position, it can be hard to leave those who need you. However, it’s important to take a break and recharge in order to be the best you can be at work. It also shows trust for those who will take the reins while you’re gone. Work burnout is real for everyone. It’s also important to lead by example and show employees they don’t have to be overworked to be valuable and that taking a break is important and okay.
In some careers, the job is really emotionally taxing. For positions in social work, healthcare, or criminal justice, etc., it can be hard to take care of yourself when clients, patients, or victims rely on you. It’s common to overlook self-care when you’re in a line of work when the stakes are so high. For positions like these, self-care is extremely important because it can often be looked over in order to benefit others. One of the many aspects of self-care that is commonly forgotten is a focus on eating healthy. Again, you need oxygen in order to put the mask on your child.
Overeating, undereating, or eating poorly can be a result of poor work-life balance or poor self-care in response to a demanding leadership role. Even if you don’t have an emotionally taxing position, stress can still affect what you eat and how much you eat as well. Coffee isn’t a meal replacement, cooking at home can lead to better eating, and it’s important to realize exactly how many calories can be in things like beer or a mixed drink. Creating meal plans and making a schedule for your meals can help you to focus on eating well.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
If you’re in a leadership position, chances are you understand the ramifications of negativity and conflict for your employees. It can be hard to find the balance between holding employees accountable and berating them, but that balance is important. It’s a manager’s or supervisor’s job to help employees become the best they can be, and a big part of that is encouragement and positivity.
In the same way that positive talk is important for your employees, it’s important for you as well. When things are difficult, be careful not to be negative to yourself. Give yourself a break — just like you’d give your employees a break. Positive self-talk is a major component in self-care and something that can help your overall happiness.
Everyone has an area of self-care that they can improve on. Each person manifests stress in a different way. Some can’t sleep; some are overworked; some become workaholics; some don’t eat well; and others talk negatively to themselves. Find the thing that you do, and work to remedy it. Instead of having it be a downfall, use it as self-care and improve upon it. As a result, you’ll become a stronger leader. The better off you are, the better you can help those around you overcome those all too common workplace issues — it all starts with you.