The last year has been a turbulent one for many, so as we welcome 2021 with open arms, we look at why you should be prioritising your mental fitness now, more than ever before.
With this in mind, when reflecting upon the last year, what words would you use to describe it?
I find myself using words such as “Challenging”, “Emotional” and “Rewarding”. I believe it’s also created a greater level of appreciation, gratitude and love.
I’ve certainly found myself moving full circle and concentrating on “what I do have”, rather than “what I don’t”. It’s an empowering place to live when you allow yourself to see the positives in yourself, others and all situations. Don’t get me wrong, I too get those days where it feels impossible to see the gift or remain optimistic. However, when you make the commitment to think with a positive mindset and not judge yourself or others, it becomes a habit, it becomes who you are, more natural and 100% less stressful.
I interviewed a number of incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders last year, via my podcast channel, Business F.I.L.E and one question kept on arising; “Who’s looking after you”?
Some of the best leaders out there make it their mission to prioritise their staff and their mental fitness but, astonishingly, would put themselves at the back of the queue when it comes to self-care and support. We’ve all been there, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past but letting your own mental fitness fall by the wayside sadly has implications.
Alarmingly, very few of the inspiring leaders I interviewed had mentors, therapists or external advisors. It’s so important to have someone you could turn to, to lighten the load, to use as a sounding board or even say the words out loud “I’m not okay”. I’m proud to say I’ve connected with all of the above over the years and it has only made me and my mental fitness stronger.
Whilst this naturally applies to everyone, not just leaders, it’s important to take some time to appreciate that when you manage others, you typically take on that entire person. What I mean by that is their professional challenges as well as personal and emotional ones. It can feel almost impossible to close the door on circa 20 staff and their struggles when you care so much about making a difference. So ultimately, their worries become yours. “It’s all in a day’s work” or “it’s my job to be there” to coin the phrase. Whilst this may well be true to a point, how does this impact your home life and other relationships? By not making time for you and not allowing yourself an appropriate outlet, can be really damaging and have a huge impact on your mental fitness.
This presents significant challenges for leaders. Not only because one of the primary responsibilities of leaders is to create the conditions for people to do their best work, but because failing to take care of employee mental health and wellbeing can have a ripple effect throughout their organisation – undermining trust, engagement and psychological safety, the strongest attribute of high performing teams.
Which is why it has to start with you, investing in you.
According to MIND, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in the workplace and these numbers are not surprisingly on the rise.
MHFA England claim that, 69% of UK line managers say that supporting employee wellbeing is a core skill, but only 13% have received mental health training.
Whilst most of us will believe we have broad shoulders, there’s only so much weight we can load, before we sadly start to crumble.
So, as leaders with these magical broad shoulders and huge responsibilities, what can we do to start prioritising our own mental fitness in 2021?
MAKE TIME in your weekly plan for self-development. Read a book, listen to a podcast, attend a course. Look at topics such as mental health, emotional intelligence and positive intelligence. These will help you understand yourself on a whole new level through identifing your own emotional trigger points.
REACH OUT to mentors, coaches, therapists or external advisors. It’s so important to talk, lighten the load, get support or simply benefit from a sounding board.
TALK OPENLY ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH Pretending to be someone else is draining and harmful to your wellbeing. It’s important that you “become the culture”; a culture where it feels okay to share how you feel. This will ultimately breed through your organisation and direct reports.
BE KIND to yourself. You are not a superhero, and no one is perfect. Self-care is important, especially when you’re managing others. We’re all human and we will make mistakes. Learn from them and be kind.
KEEP A JOURNAL. Keeping a journal is one of the most effective ways to reflect on your daily experiences and make stronger, more nuanced decisions. It’s also extremely good for your mental fitness.
2021 has to be about you!
Invest in self-development and don’t be afraid of feeling vulnerable. Being your authentic self and reaching out for support has never been more important. I’m confident exceptional leadership will always follow.