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Looking after yourself as a leader

If you’ve travelled on a plane, you’ll know the flight attendant’s safety briefing: brace positions, emergency exits, and remember to put on your own oxygen mask first. The reason we’re told this is because you can’t help others if you’re running low on oxygen.

Leaders often face difficult situations like these, and it can be tricky to support your team when you’re stressed. In crises, leaders need to be aware of their own emotions, health and wellbeing to be an effective leader. Helena Andrews, Positive Psychology expert at SuperFriend, gave us insight into dealing with these challenges at work. She explained the three phases of looking after yourself in stressful times.

Preparation phase

Although you can’t always predict when a stressful event is approaching, you can be prepared by investing in your health and wellbeing. If you know you’ve got a stressful time ahead, follow these self-care strategies:

  • tell your circle at work that there will be a stressful situation
  • prepare your team to lead themselves if you’re away.

When you’re in the thick of it

As a leader, you can provide your team members with a good example of looking after your own wellbeing. When you’re dealing with a crisis, use these practical tips for looking after yourself:

  • give yourself space and quiet time
  • practice mindfulness and meditation
  • communicate honestly to your team that there is a crisis so that you can approach it together
  • look after your body by keeping to healthy routines in eating, sleeping and exercising.

Recovery phase

The recovery phase is important for leaders because it breaks up the stressful periods. When you’re deciding how to manage your recovery time, remember to put in place boundaries between work and home. Here are some tips for creating those boundaries and recovering:

  • set a time for switching off technology in the evening
  • keep technology out of the bedroom and off the dinner table
  • seek support from other leaders or your own manager.

Check if your workplace can give you access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Often your EAP will offer support for dealing with difficult issues in the workplace.

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