Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First

Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I love people. I always have. And I am sure I always will. That being said, once I became a leader of an organization, one of the most difficult things for me to grasp was that my team, made up of colleagues who previously would join me for lunch or socialize after work hours, no longer seemed to want to be with me outside of meetings or the office. I wondered what I had done wrong … until I remembered that my new title brought along more with it than met the eye, and that it can be lonely at the top

I have grown tremendously throughout my career and, through the process, have come to understand myself better.  Moving from a CFO of an organization to a consultant and business owner catapulted my self-development to a new level. I have learned more about my strengths and, even more importantly, my weaknesses. Sure, I enjoy learning more about people. I ask tons of questions, not to be intrusive, but to get to know the other person better. And yes, I am an open book, even “honest to a fault,” so I had to learn to grasp that just because another person is not an open book does not mean they don’t like me.  

Through this self-discovery, I am now someone who can better understand not only my own perspectives, but empathetically, those of others.  I understand how much “me taking care of me” is required to be the best leader for my own organization.  And I appreciate it even more after going through COVID-19. 

Leading Ourselves to Better Mental Health 

Recently, I listed to a great podcast that brought these points home for me. As I listened, I could completely relate to how the guest, Nick, talked about how hard his parents were on him (as my parents were on me).  While it bothered him (and me) greatly in our younger years, there is nothing but acceptance and appreciation now for the person they molded me to be. Nick also talked about the feelings of isolation brought about by COVID-19 and how exhilarating it was to have the first business dinner meeting post-COVID. He was right. I’ve had a few meetings that don’t require a camera and Zoom over the past few months, and always felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders in doing so. After I listened to that podcast, I made sure to book more in-person business meetings, and it has already made a difference in how I feel.  

Another area of change for me has to do with my physical health. Pre-COVID, I loved group exercise. When the gyms shut down, it was incredibly difficult for me to learn how to work out on my own and to get and stay motivated. But I didn’t stay in that space. Instead, I found several sources to help me, and now I have many options to deal with stress to ensure I exercise when I travel or even when I cannot make a scheduled exercise class. 

You Don’t Have to Do it Alone 

I have come across some amazing resources that have helped me maintain my mental health through life’s (and a pandemic’s) transitions. I do not receive affiliate income from any of the links I share here. I am sharing them with you in the hopes I can help make your path to self-discovery less bumpy than my own.  

  • Calm App – This has become one of my go-to apps. And I love sleep stories. By far, my favorite is Wander with Mathew McConnaughy. I also have enjoyed the guided meditations that I can use throughout the day. The music is great with coffee in the morning and they also have a selection of music to play to help you concentrate while you work. 
  • Jill Coleman (Instagram) – I love following Jill Coleman, a business coach for fitness professionals, on Instagram.  I also listen to her podcast FITBIZU.  She offers great advice about mindset around eating and exercising.  Her fitness programs helped me make it through COVID-19 with an actual workout plan.  She also offers business advice on her podcast, including how to run a sales call. 
  • Katie Hammill (Instagram) – I follow Katie on Instagram, and work with her to review my weekly meal plans. She taught me that one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is a meal plan. We have implemented it in my household, helping to maintain calm in our daily lives. We always have a plan for dinner, rather than having a stressful conversation at 6 p.m. about what we are going to do. Another helpful hint to reduce stress around mealtime – make sure you have all the ingredients in the household when you make your meal plan! 
  • Kathy’s Table – Kathy’s Table provides individually proportioned meals that are healthy and gluten free. We include these in our weekly plan at least two nights a week. After two minutes in the microwave, you have a healthy, and delicious, well-balanced meal. And, maybe even better yet, clean-up is fast and easy, which also eliminates daily stress. 

Our mental health is impacted by much of our daily lives, especially with all that we have been through in the past fifteen months. And as leaders, we must also recognize our own impact on the mental health of our employees, who are looking to us to lead with more confidence and less stress. We must rid ourselves of the thought process that if we work harder and longer, without any care for ourselves, we will be more effective leaders. In fact, the opposite is true. Without taking care of ourselves, we will eventually burn out, leaving our team without a leader at all. 

Leadership requires accountability not only of your subordinates, but of yourself.  When you are overwhelmed with so many day-to-day responsibilities you may put self-care on the back burner.  If you need a leadership coach to help you with this important aspect, and you are serious about the accountability to do so, click  here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. We will work out the right coaching plan for you, and I will apply the $100 toward the package.   

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