Importance of Mental Health and Stress Management for Leaders
In alignment with the theme of this years’ World Mental Health Day marked on 10th of October each year, mental health problems and well-being at the workplace is undoubtedly of significant relevance, especially in the contemporary world today. Today’s hectic lifestyle, with the competitive race against time, excessive dependence on technology and the media, along with the consequent social isolation and its impact on the sense of self, are ample to lay the foundation for a stressful life. In addition, the interplay of various personal, social, economic, professional, emotional and environmental factors, while managing our multiple roles, contribute to increasing stress and mental health problems in all our daily lives.
Mental Health and Leadership
Moreover, as a leader, it is inevitable to experience stress which could be attributed to innumerable factors, both within the organization and outside of it. Some of these stressors maybe realistic, while some may not even be in our control. Be it dealing with the members of the group, external factors, the dynamics associated within the group, or the pressure of work or leading the group, or being answerable for the group’s performance, the list of the stressors could be never-ending.
Stress-busting Tips for Leaders
While there is no escaping such stressors, but we need to acquire better coping skills to be able to overcome them while also serving as an example for the organization, being able to do justice to our organization, our employees, as well as to our own selves. Some points that could be helpful to keep in mind include the following:
1. Take a break. While it is said often enough, it is undoubtedly the most important and yet most likely to be neglected. We all deserve to take breaks from our stressful lifestyle to allow ourselves to relax. Getting hassled is not going to help resolve the problems. Instead, it will only reduce the individual’s capacity to search for alternative ways of resolution. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, and give yourself a break from the stress provoking situation, to allow yourself to look at the problem with a fresh mind. And yes, also take regular breaks from work, with short vacations, going for a spa, or other relaxation to help you recuperate yourself to come back to lead your team effectively.
2. Substitute Escaping with Coping. Since stress is an inevitable part of life, we are often tempted to give up certain roles and run into an avoidant mode. As a leader, you are bound to be answerable. Rather than running away from responsibilities, we must not avoid the stress and instead develop better coping mechanisms to face them.
3. Healthy lifestyle choices. Yes, it cannot be reiterated enough. A disciplined and healthy lifestyle is very beneficial in maintaining mental health. An adequate sleep, a proper diet, staying away from substances, and regular physical exercise would help us stay physically as well as mentally fit. Mental and physical health are directly interconnected. Despite a sedentary lifestyle as most of us lead today, it is a must to include some form of physical activity regularly.
4. Engage with your team. As a leader, one of the best ways of dealing with stressors is to ensure that you form a good connect with your team members. Such efforts towards relationship building would not only enhance the performance of the group as a whole, but would also contribute towards healthier working dynamics, and therefore prevent you or the members from experiencing a burnout.
5. Maintain a balance and clear boundaries. Effective time management is the key to staying mentally healthy and avoiding mental health problems. This is important to ensure a stress free life both at home as well as at work. With the heights of technological advancements today, it is very easy to blur the lines between work and home. However, it is essential to set clear boundaries, not bringing work home, and vice versa. Unless you learn to set limits clearly, stress would almost always end up overflowing into your work or personal space.
6. Be realistic. Remember, life is not meant to be a smooth sailing journey. There are bound to be both highs and lows, and it is vital for us to be prepared for them. Being overly optimistic could actually translate into unrealistic expectations. It is important to set practical goals, prioritize tasks and to keep in mind any extraneous factors as well.
7. Don’t overcommit. It is vital for you to be aware of your limitations and also accept them. The goals that you set for yourself must be doable and achievable, without having excessively high or optimistic expectations from yourself. Take on only as much as you can handle, and it’s ok for you to delegate tasks to others or to be assertive.
8. Prioritize. It is very easy to get caught up in thinking of the past or planning for the future. At the same time, it is important to reiterate to ourselves the importance of the here and now. Making a conscious effort to live in the present and to enjoy each moment for its worth goes a long way in maintaining mental health. There will inevitably be times when you have too many things to be done, and unreasonable amount of time at your hands. Rather than getting flustered, you could pause to take a second look at the list, and reorder the priorities in your head, striking off the less important or urgent ones and focussing on the present instead.
9. Use humour. If you make an effort to find opportunities to smile and laugh often, not only would this help lighten your mood, but it will also have a positive effect on the team members around you. This is the cheapest and easiest stress-buster ever!
10. Be open to ask for help. If you are finding it difficult to deal with the stress, do not hesitate to ask for help. Such pressures and overloads can lead to a state of burnout and exhaustion, making the individual more vulnerable to experience depressive or anxiety features. Therefore, you must seek adequate professional help to deal with your stress.
11. Take out time for self-care. No matter how much work may be pending, it is essential to give priority to yourself and your needs, so as to ensure you are able to stay healthy enough to remain capable of fulfilling your roles and responsibilities with justice. Despite the hectic lifestyle, we must not neglect our own self. We have the right to give priority to our self and our needs, so as to ensure we are able to stay healthy enough to do justice to our role as an effective leader.
12. Support system at work. We usually tend to have our support systems in place in the form of our family or friends. However, as our lifestyle today ensures that we spend a larger portion of our waking hours at our workplace, therefore it becomes all the more important to establish a network of support for ourselves within the organization. Sharing time with them, participating with them in tasks besides work would ensure you improve your relationship building at the workplace, and deal better with your as well as your team members stresses more effectively.
13. Don’t give up! No matter how stressed your life might be, you must not lose hope. Remember, the stressors will not last forever, and therefore this would be just a phase of your life, which you need to face and overcome. Remember, you ae the leader, and you need to set the example for your team members. So enjoy life, and make it enjoyable for your team as well!