Health and Happiness for You, Me and Us
The World Health Day 2022 theme of “Our Planet, Our Health” summarises the last 2 years of our lives pretty well. The pandemic has caused a major setback for humankind and has been traumatic for a lot of people in many different ways. Besides the negative impact, it also gave us the chance to reconsider the choices we’ve been making throughout our lives and whether they’ve helped our health, happiness and well-being. The pandemic highlighted the urgency of creating an economy with human well-being, equity and ecological sustainability as its focus.
Before the pandemic, we were in a rat race to boost our careers but never stopped to ask if our mental and emotional health were being taken care of. The pause we got during the pandemic gave us time to ponder on the decisions we’ve made and today, some of us can say we are much more aware of ourselves than we ever were.
We now know that our health and well-being are key to improving both our personal and professional development. As we commemorate World Health Day, we’ll discuss how to incorporate holistic learning to achieve a better life in the three aspects of health and well-being: personal, professional and systemic.
The Importance of a Leader’s Health
Leaders are figures of influence that boost motivation to create high performing teams and also encourage a safe space for their team to grow. However, these positive impacts only happen with a healthy leader. Leaders may sometimes neglect their well-being, creating an unhealthy leadership and toxic work environment. Conflicts and broken communication caused by harmful leadership practices will also affect the well-being of the team. Unhealthy leadership only creates a snowball effect so here’s how you can develop leadership skills by prioritising health.
In our episode ‘When Work is One Big Project’, we discussed how self-care is a must for a leader’s health and how it can create contentment even in tough moments.
The First Level: Personal Health
Before handling conflicts in the workplace, it’s important to look within because that may be where the problems reside. Instead of trying to take care of others, improve upon yourself first. Being a leader can be very stressful especially when you have many responsibilities and high-risk decisions to make. The fear of making a mistake is real and causes a lot of anxiety. When you’re caught in this head space, it’s hard to step away from it all and take a breather. Instead of overthinking and fearing the what-ifs, leaders should instead learn how to manage their emotions.
Self-care and Leadership
Self-care is no longer a luxury, it’s a need for everyone including leaders. Taking care of your mind, body, emotions, relationships and environment has proven to reap positive outcomes. Besides managing anxiety, self-care can also improve concentration, minimise frustration and improve overall performance and energy. Some simple examples of self-care habits include going for a walk, ensuring you get adequate sleep and journaling your thoughts.
Misconceptions of Leadership and Self-Care
Putting time aside for self-care can improve learning and development but many still hold misconceptions about leaders taking time off for themselves. This is probably because most people don’t understand how self-care works. Here are the three most common reasons why leaders are resistant to self-care habits.
Self-care is pointless
Some may find the idea of meditation and mindfulness useless. However, not slowing down can result in negative consequences. Not only can it cause physical health issues like heart disease, your mental health will also be at risk. Leaders who neglect their well-being tend to be more irritable, depressed and tired. Unfortunately, these effects won’t just affect you, they will also impact the people around you. Your relationships with others may become rocky because of your erratic emotions. Your personal and professional life can be negatively affected if self-care isn’t prioritised.
There is no time
Being a leader is a time-consuming responsibility but burdening everyone around you with unhealthy emotions and actions due to the lack of self-care will do you no good. Studies reveal that taking breaks can prevent decision fatigue, increase productivity, boost learning and strengthen motivation. No matter how busy your schedule can get, put aside a few minutes every day to take care of yourself.
Self-care doesn’t show strength in a leader
There’s this assumption that self-care shows weakness in a leader and that a strong leader should always have it together. This is completely false and is actually the opposite — self-care is the key to strong leadership. Good leaders know that they don’t have all the answers and are allowed to ask for help. Good leaders are also not afraid to show vulnerability because it is part of the journey to reach optimal performance. Self-care makes you a better leader as it improves your happiness which directly affects your team. A happy team is proof of a strong leader.
Acknowledging your resistance is the first step to overcoming it. Once you’ve come to terms with the idea of self-care, it’s time to include it in your daily routine. Here is what can help:
Be your own person: You must understand that caring for yourself is about indulging in things that do you good. For instance, if you are a person who needs to channel your social network to renew motivation, pick up your phone, call up a friend and pay them a visit to boost your mood.
Short diversions can be helpful: Self-care is about recharging yourself. Taking out some time from your busy schedule to practise meditation, journaling and other such exercises can give you a powerful boost.
Experiment for self-awareness: Self-awareness helps lead a happier, healthier and better life. Once you’ve started practising self-care, try out different exercises and activities to judge what works for you. Gain an understanding of what makes you happy.
“Health is not just being disease-free. Health is when every cell in your body is bouncing with joy”
The Second Level: Professional Health
In our recent episode ‘A Leader’s Health’ we discussed how a leader’s health can impact their team in the workplace.
The pandemic has created some challenges for leaders as the work environment has drastically evolved with employees having new needs and desires. For example, many rather work from home, are strict on their work hours and prioritise their happiness outside of their jobs. The pandemic has been a reminder to organisations around the globe of how necessary it is to not take healthy and motivated employees for granted. The top reason behind the Great Resignation where more than 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021 was low pay and no advancement opportunities.
As a leader, influencing your team to stay motivated has become more challenging than ever. Leaders need to understand that their team members need a purpose to keep them at optimal performance. Strong leadership can make your employees feel heard and continue effective collaboration with their team members.
When a good chunk of our lives revolve around our jobs, it’s important to be able to collaborate with people that drive us to work harder and better. ‘Everyone must be happy and healthy’ should be the mantra leaders advocate. Leaders have the power to create a positive work environment so here are some ways leaders can incorporate healthy professional habits to build a happy workplace.
Leading with values and impact
All of us have ambitions and as leaders, you want to be able to leave a legacy that will make you proud. Ambition shouldn’t stop at material gains like money or a house. Ambition constantly changes when we reach each one of our goals. It allows you to constantly grow and realise your potential and desires. When you put aside material goals, you lead with values that positively impact the people around you. Instead of being remembered as the leader with flashy material items, you can be remembered for being a compassionate and loving human. Empathy goes a long way in the workplace and your team will show appreciation through their performance and attitudes.
While you may have your own ambitions as a leader, your team members will also have their personal desires that differ from yours. As leaders, you need to realise that others’ ambitions may not be similar to yours but you still have the responsibility to help your team achieve them. Learning to put aside your judgement and giving your team 100% of your attention to help them reach their goals is a healthy habit that leaders should practice. A leader is the heart of the team and your members may lean on you for support and encouragement. So, drown out your judgement, improve your listening skills and hear what they have to share so you can guide them on the right path.
The Final Level: Systemic Health
In our episode ‘The Jekyll & Hyde of Mental Health’ with Associate Professor, Mythily Subramanian, she shared with us the importance of organisations creating a work culture that supports mental health and well-being.
The systemic perspective focuses on happiness and well-being within the corporate system. Mental health issues have always been seen as taboo, which stops employees from reaching out for help if they’re ever having a rough time.
When organisations are so focused on production and reaching goals, it could risk their employees’ well-being in the long run. Instead, organisations and leaders should create a safe space in the workplace for their employees to reach out to them if they need help. The power lies within the system to care and look out for their team members.
These are some ways organisations can shape their systems to improve overall health and happiness:
Start with the Culture: When thinking about well-being, don’t just stick to wellness programs. Dive into your company’s values, norms, assumptions and shared belief systems and align them with health and happiness.
Building Connections: Creating meaningful relationships can make your team feel a sense of belonging. By ensuring that your organisation holds community bonding sessions, it can create a safe space for your team members to share their thoughts and emotions that may be bothering them.
In our last show of April, “Our Planet, Our Health”, we conceptualised how we can work together on a personal, professional and systemic level to achieve a healthy well-being. Especially with the challenges leaders face in this drastically different post-pandemic world, leaders need to equip themselves with healthy habits that inspire resilience and motivation. When we’re no longer promised certainty, leaders need to prioritise their team and allow them to thrive and flourish within a safe environment. Remember, happiness inspires productivity!
1. When Work is One Big Project- https://youtu.be/UlEfPJsXEBk
2. A Leader’s Health- https://youtu.be/bkcmWFCg7HE
3. Our Planet, Our Health- https://youtu.be/3q8CvAa4q0M
4. The Jekyll & Hyde of Mental Health- https://youtu.be/zGCzPYQT4mY
7. Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels