Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Strong mental health is important at every stage of life, from birth to our final days.
Caring for the mental health of the team is necessary for the long-term success of any organization. As a leader, it is critical that you have an intimate understanding of your team and an overall sensitivity to their well-being. A team cannot work together effectively if any of the team members are struggling with personal challenges that seep into their work-life without receiving any support.
Research shows that good mental health is directly connected to elements that are vital to a total health picture. These include improved learning, creativity, higher levels of productivity, better social relationships, good physical health, and increased life expectancy.
Other benefits of taking care of our mental health can include improving our mood, reducing our anxiety, creating an enhanced sense of inner peace, thinking more clearly, improving our relationships, and increasing our self-esteem.
You may not feel skilled enough to know when you or your team needs help to strengthen their mental health. Here are a few signals to notice:
• Withdrawing from other people
• Losing interest in activities that previously seemed to be enjoyable
• Deterioration in work output, motivation level, and focus
• Difficulties in making decisions or finding solutions to problems
• Significant changes in mood, energy, or eating habits
• Substance abuse
These are not reasons to remove a person—they are reasons to step in with hope and help.
Good mental health is a leader’s best friend—not just the leader’s own health, but that of his/her team. Every workplace is full of people. We all know that people are a mix of personalities, money, priorities, and pressure. This diversity can start to cause tension.
Another thing adding to the tension is that remote working is now more convenient and common than ever. This is a help in many ways, but it also brings additional challenges, as home and work life start to merge into one. When work is done at home, people tend to work longer hours and are still responding after they normally would have left for the day.
Tension and stress is also present because so many new industries and companies have sprung up. Older companies are challenged by this, the marketplace is constantly changing. As the pressure mounts, leaders and their teams are regularly asked to do more with less.
Every leader must give consistent attention to the mental health of their team and provide opportunities to grow it, but the leader must start with himself/herself. Without good mental health, leaders can start to negatively impact the people around them.
• Without mental health, leaders will lose the ability to feel and show empathy. Empathy is the edge that makes thoughtful leaders great. Genuine care for others and receptively understanding other perspectives builds rapport, trust, and credibility. When you are struggling at work, you’ll be so preoccupied trying to fix your own problems that you can’t focus on others. You will easily become an absent, unavailable leader.
• Without mental health, leaders lack perception. Perception is vital to leadership.
Effective leaders notice body language, attitudes, comments, and can respond to situations and adapt their approach. When my mental health is weak, I tend to become preoccupied with my own thoughts and problems. As a result, I am less observant. Even when I do notice something that would normally cause me concern, I will be much more likely to ignore it because my ability to care is diminished.
• Mental health is a requirement to keep showing up. Without mental health, small issues take on mammoth proportions. It’s hard to get out of bed and take on the world. When you’re struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, there is a good chance you might need to take some time to feel better. Of course, this creates another problem—away from your team you can’t support them. However, taking time to get healthy is vital—otherwise you would simply reinforce a downward spiral in your team.
Here are some strategies that will help you thrive as a leader by taking care of your mental health:
Realize that your self-care is an investment in your family and your team. Self-care is a strategic investment that directly impacts your productivity and effectiveness as a leader. Prioritizing elements such as diet, exercise, and sleep reasonably helps enhance your overall health and well-being, paving the way for outstanding results in the family and team. Be careful to be wise, not obsessive.
Maintain healthy boundaries. Clearly define your boundaries and effectively communicate them to your employees. They preserve your time and energy. They make you better and more appropriately available. Make sure you honor their boundaries too. For instance, you could establish mutual boundaries about a certain time after which no one is obligated to answer emails or messages.
Set workplace health goals. Identify areas in which you aim to enhance your overall well-being and create actionable steps to achieve these goals. Write them down. Be accountable to someone for them. This proactive approach enables positive habits to become part of your daily routines, fostering health and satisfaction.
Take control of your calendar. Block off time for personal and social commitments, just as you would for work-related tasks. Setting reminders for your self-care habits throughout the day will help you take them seriously and consistently focus on your well-being to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Start and end your day with positive routines. Start your day with a positive routine such as exercise, meditation, or journaling. This sets a positive and uplifting tone for the rest of your day. Similarly, creating an evening routine allows you to disconnect from work, unwind, and make time for your family or hobbies.
Give yourself the compassion you give others. Treat yourself with kindness. Recognize your strengths, celebrate your achievements, and remember that mistakes are part of your growth. They are not final. Encourage yourself and have compassion on yourself instead of harsh self-criticism. You need a supportive inner dialogue to nurture your overall mental health.
You may need to seek professional help. This is not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of health. When faced with overwhelming challenges, reaching out to a coach or a psychologist can offer you a safe space to discuss your concerns, gain clarity, and develop effective strategies to overcome obstacles. You will preserve and grow yourself as a leader and will make it possible for everyone around you—team and family—to have a better life.
Prioritizing your mental well-being as a leader is a wise investment in yourself and your team’s success. By taking care of yourself, you can become a more effective and resilient leader, ultimately benefiting both your own growth and the well-being of those you lead.
What will you do to get healthy and stay healthy in 2024?