The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself When You are a Leader
By: Diane Dew, RD, LD, MSC, FAND
TriHealth Corporate Health
When you think about what leadership involves the list could be endless. Leadership focus might include areas such as being visionary, motivating your team, facing challenges, being a problem solver and putting work above oneself. All this can be true, of course, but have you given any thought to what you personally need in order to be an effective leader?
What you as the leader need is to consider, in addition to all the criteria of being effective in your role, is your own level of wellness. Yes, wellness. Wellness involves how much water you drink, what kind of food you eat, how you eat, when you eat, sleep and stress response. All these criteria can impact leadership areas such as patience, quick and efficient decision making, temperament and what messages you send to your team.
Consider the following:
- When you haven’t had enough water your cognitive thinking skills slow down. This means you don’t make decisions as quickly or as clearly.
- Not drinking enough water impairs your memory, by up to 20 percent
- Not drinking enough water causes you to feel hungry
- Not drinking enough water can change your temperament making you less tolerant of things going on around you and more susceptible to stress
- Not eating enough or eating the wrong things impacts your thinking and tolerance
- Eating fast or eating on the go almost always promotes eating too much
- Eating correctly and drinking enough water can lower your stress response and how you deal with those around you as well as those you lead.
The question to ask yourself is not should you do something about this but instead - what should you do. When thinking what you should do it is best to think small changes made incrementally.
“Inch by inch, life’s a cinch, yard by yard, life’s too hard” – John Bytheway
Wellness should be approached from an inch by inch perspective. There are many websites, blogs, books and free advice on the topic of nutrition. It can be overwhelming and at times confusing regarding what is right and what is wrong. Below are a few basic principles to enhance wellness. Choose one option and spend a week trying to apply the change. Then choose a second option and add that change to the first. Continue in this manner. If a change doesn’t stick, keep working at it. Your goal is to make these changes part of your daily life. Nutrition should meet you where you are; you shouldn’t have to meet nutrition.
A few changes to consider:
- Drink two more glasses of water per day than what you drink now.
- Eat something healthy every 3-4 hours during the day
- Have one more fruit or vegetable every day than what you currently are having
- Sleep one half hour longer than you are currently sleeping
These may not seem significant, but they can be very difficult to adhere to and can also have a significant effect on how you feel. Don’t be deceived by the seemingly simple messages. Sometimes people think if the fix sounds simple it might not be effective. Nutrition does not work this way. Often the most seemingly simple steps can have the most profound effect on a person’s ability to function and feel well.
As a leader, you also want to model these health behaviors for your team. If you are too busy to eat right or drink enough water your team will assume you expect the same from them. What message have you been sending?