To lead well engage in self-care. Why? Because self-care is crucial for managers to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Since the pandemic, subsequent mental health crisis, and the Great Resignation, the management role has become even more stressful. Managers are being asked to do more with less. In addition, they must pay special attention to their direct reports’ mental health and well-being. But health issues and burnout aren’t just issues that affect direct reports. Managers themselves are at high risk. In fact, 53% of managers have reported feeling burnout, which is higher than that of employees in general. This means it’s imperative that managers create their own self-care plan in order to effectively navigate their role. To get started, we suggest focusing on strategies for each of the following broader contexts: mental, spiritual and emotional self-care.
Mental self-care involves understanding how your brain takes in and processes information and experiences. The idea here is to become more self-aware. This could be a total game changer for a manager’s career because in truth, only 10-15% of people are truly self-aware. The other 85% just believe they are more aware than they actually are. “Additionally, roughly 50-70% of people have a significant blind spot which can negatively impact their relationships and leadership skills,” according to recent research released by Gitnux. This blind spot is the reason it is so important for a manager to figure out how they show up in the world and the effect they have on the people who work with and for them.
Self-awareness is usually the hardest part of mental self-care because it often includes the realization that there is work work to be done. One sure way to improve self-awareness is to take an Everything DiSC assessment to understand individual preferences, motivators, strengths and struggles. This information will also help a manager consider and confront any biases (unconcious or not) that exist. And let’s be honest. We all have them. The most productive and proactive thing to do then is to out them and work on them. The DiSC assessment offers examples of how each personality type can learn to interact better with the others and learn from them as well.
To continue to improve mental self-care a manager can also practice positive self-talk. Of course, we can all fall prey at times to feeling like we could be doing better at our job. But the constant relentless inner critic is destructive and can keep a manager from seeing or seeking out new opportunities.This internal criticism can also negatively affect relationships with direct reports. On the other hand, positive self-talk is actually a predictor of success and can even decrease symptoms of depression.
The third aspect of mental health that a manager can work on is to think positively. This is different than positive self-talk. It’s more about believing that good things will happen, that people are mostly good, that the sun will come up again tomorrow. However Pollyanna (or Annie!) -ish it may sound, it’s true. Research shows that when people think positively, they believe they CAN.
- They can do a better job next time
- There will be a next time
- They can make their numbers this quarter
- They do have great people working for them
In general, a positive attitude improves mood, makes it easier to get a long with others, and gives off vibes of self-confidence. All of which contributes to having good morale and higher productivity on a team. If a positive outlook does not come natural to you, start keeping a daily gratitude journal. In the beginning it may only contain things like Advil and the ability to shut your office door, but over time, more positive aspects of any given day will start to emerge. And this presence of gratitude will empower you to see the positive in life versus ruminating on the negative. If you’re not convinced, think about the person you know who never seems to have anything positive to say or do. And then consider how their life is going.
Another simple strategy to increase positivity is to consider your own responses to the people who work with or for you. When someone asks how you’re doing or what the future holds, is your response positive or negative? Are your typical responses sarcastic or snarky? Start to pay attention to the actual words you use and your tone of voice when you respond. You can even create scenarios in your head or think back over the last week or month to look at how you typically respond to others. Then rework those responses in your head so that they come out in a more positive manner. It will take a little practice, but over time, more positive responses will become the norm. And positivity just like negativity is contagious, so spread some cheer and watch how it positively affects team culture.
Spiritual self-care is all about how you feed your spirit. It’s taking the time to to think about who you are and want to be in the world. And then taking some steps to sustain or change your current behaviors. For people of faith in a higher power, this might involve being with others of the same faith on a regular basis in order to worship and pray. Or it might involve doing this alone on your own or with a journal. It might even include a trip to the nearest sweat lodge.
For those who look to nature for their spiritual journey, self-care could involve making the time to regularly be outside. This could involve exercise, but it could also just be about enjoying the outdoors. Maybe your office building has a sitting area outside under the trees, or you live near a hike and bike trail whose beauty moves you. Starting the day on the porch or patio with a cup of tea and a self-help book, taking a daily walk with your dog, or just going out once a day to put your bare feet on some grass could be a part of a spiritual self-care routine.
Lastly, there is the idea of meditation. People who don’t meditate are rolling their eyes right now and saying, “I can’t meditate! It just doesn’t work for me.” But hear me out. Meditation doesn’t have to look like sitting on the ground cross-legged and chanting “ooooohm”. Meditation can be prayer, song, chanting, yoga, tai-chi, guided imagery, focused breathing, and or progressive muscle relaxation. There are so many options! What is important is finding the thing that resonates with you and then commit to doing it regularly. Doing so will reap huge benefits including higher energy levels, better memory and focus, and less anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms.
Emotional self-care includes understanding your moods and feelings and learning to regulate them. People who do this well are considered to have high emotional intelligence or EQ. And this is important for every manager to consider because 71% of employers value emotional intelligence over IQ, and 75% of employers are more likely to promote a worker with high emotional intelligence. So how do you improve your EQ? Several of the techniques that have already been recommended can actually do double duty. For example, practicing gratitude and improving your self-awareness are ways to improve your mental health, but they also can help you understand your emotions.
Journaling and meditation have also been mentioned already but for emotional self-care you could specifically focus on understanding your moods and emotions. For example, consider why you react the way you do to certain issues or people and not others. You could also examine what really makes you angry and why, and then think about what it takes for your anger to dissove. Do you hold a grudge, ignore the person or the problem, or move on without looking backward? Contemplating the impetus for a mood or emotion can give you the insight you need to learn to respond in healthier, more productive ways (aka self-awareness).
Lastly, having a supportive group of friends that you spend quality time with is another suggestion for emotional self-care. People who know you well, care for you, and will tell you the truth are essential. We need friends who can laugh, cry and worry with us. We need friends who are good listeners, give good advice, and give grace when we need it most. These are the people who will help you navigate not only work but life in general.
Looking to the Future
For many, the whole idea of self-care is new and may, on one end of the spectrum seem like fluff and on the other, like more work. But the reality is that stress is one of the leading job hazards. When left unmanaged, stress can have a major impact on mental
and physical well-being as well as productivity as reported by over 70% of workers. So, no matter which methods of self-care you choose, choose to do something and remember that this is an ongoing practice. It’s not something you’ll do for a month and then be finished. The responsibilities and associated stresses of your job won’t go away just because you choose to spend time outside, with friends, in Bible study or meditating on a regular basis. These are just techniques to help you thrive at work instead of burning out.
Of course, there is no perfect way to do self-care. It’s all subjective to individual tastes and needs, and it may take time to find the methods that work best. So, regularly assess your well-being and adjust your self-care routine accordingly. And don’t be shy about what’s happening. Sharing how you are doing and how you are going about your own self-care journey with direct reports and teammates is just another way of leading by being a good role model.
To help your organization’s managers get started with their own self-care, order DiSC assessments today through Brilliant People™ today!