Leadership and burnout often go hand-in-hand. The challenges of being in a leadership position are immense, and it can be difficult to find the “off” switch. When leaders go home, they are still problem-solving, taking calls, and writing emails. An endless stream of stress can lead to feeling overwhelmed, tired, depressed, discouraged, exasperated, frustrated, and even angry. Those feelings can lead to burnout, a state of mental and physical exhaustion that saps motivation, engagement, creativity, and productivity.
While it’s important to be present for your team, staying invigorated and engaged can’t happen if you don’t take steps to care for your well-being. While it might seem like stopping to take a beat is not worth the time when there are other issues to manage that seem more pressing, figuring out how to hit your reset button is a necessity, not a luxury. Learning how to carve out time to de-stress and recharge is a crucial life skill for becoming a healthy, positive and productive leader over the long term.
Let’s explore some steps you can take to care for yourself to help you become a stronger, healthier leader, both mentally and physically.
1. Develop healthy habits
Many leaders struggle to find enough time in the day to consistently practice healthy habits. Whether it’s cramming down fast-food meals in airports, skipping your exercise routine, or being constantly sleep-deprived because work is eating away your resting time, it’s easy to get sidetracked from a healthy lifestyle. But dedicating time to staying physically healthy will give you more energy and foster a healthy mindset, too. It will supply you with the strength and positive attitude you need to tackle complicated problems and help keep stress at bay.
2. Schedule time for relaxing, restorative activities
Everyone has activities they cherish, the kind that nurtures souls and minds and allows you to relax and decompress. Think about what these interests are for you and give yourself some time and space to enjoy them. Perhaps it’s a hobby that you stopped practicing years ago, or a new pastime you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t afford yourself the time. It could be taking up an artistic or creative pursuit such as drawing, painting, or sculpting. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of learning to play an instrument. Or perhaps you want to immerse yourself in participating in sports, such as running a marathon or joining a rowing team. Great rewards can come from exploring these non-monetary outlets for happiness. There is the joy that comes from learning new things, the satisfaction of achieving in a new arena, and the thrill of taking part in a pastime simply because you love doing it.
3. Maintain social connections
No one succeeds alone. While you may not feel much like interacting with others when you are stressed out and overworked, taking time to nourish bonds with friends and family is essential. Or you might have a peer group of fellow leaders who give you strength and solace. Isolating yourself will only make matters worse. While it’s tempting to believe that no one will understand what you’re going through, that’s often a misperception. Maintaining interactions with loved ones can give you a boost of energy and provide a support system that will help you ride out business challenges and keep difficult situations in perspective. Volunteering to help those in need can also deepen your gratitude and expand your insight.
4. Find quiet time to think and reflect
It’s not uncommon for leaders to explore and experiment with a variety of ways to calm an active mind. Every person is wired differently, so finding out what works for you might require some trial and error. Making time to calm the mind by meditating for even a few minutes each day can make a world of difference, allowing you to be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. For others, simply clearing time to do some deep thinking without the pressure to be constantly productive can allow you to work through obstacles. Breaking complicated situations into smaller problems can make it easier to tackle them. You can also prioritize tasks and create an action plan, which wards off the feeling that you are helpless in the situation and gives you a sense of control.
5. Remember your purpose
Leaders usually carry a strong sense of vision. Writing down your goals and reminding yourself of the reasons you were drawn to a leadership role in the first place can soothe your sense of burnout. Your greater goals and purpose are powerful motivators. Keeping them top of mind can do wonders to refresh your spirit and give you the strength to hurdle obstacles on your way to getting there.
Stay the course
We all need a gentle reminder to take care of ourselves when the hustle and bustle of a busy life as a business leader threatens to overwhelm and overshadow every other part of our days. Most importantly, don’t give up. Recognize that feeling defeated and drained is not a sign of weakness. It’s a normal reaction to a stressful set of circumstances, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. Treating yourself with kindness and compassion when you’re feeling low, rather than beating yourself up for having these feelings, can help you turn a nose-dive into burnout territory into an opportunity to fly even higher.