Leadership Breakfast Series – October 2023

Our recent Signature Leadership Breakfast Event focused on how leaders can protect their mental health. Guest speaker Shaun Durham, Professional Coach and Managing Director for Crisp Professional Development shared insights and tips on the topic.

Here at Signature Recruitment Bristol, we recently partnered with Crisp Professional Development, to bring our  clients an informative workshop looking into how leaders can protect their mental health. As leaders, we hear so much about how to ensure our teams are happy, productive and protected, however, often fall down when it comes to protecting our own mental health.

So how is it done? How, as leaders, do we make sure we are putting our own oxygen mask on before helping others? Below are 5 key tips which will allow for anyone with responsibility for the performance and wellbeing of their teams in the workplace to be able to look after themselves to enable them to be effective leaders.

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1) Focus on holistic well-being

Wellbeing is a word that sometimes can feel hard to understand, as it can encompass so many things. In this sense, we mean wellbeing as feeling happy, supported and healthy, both physically and mentally. Think about your work-life balance, how you can feel like you have a community around you, habits or rituals you have in place to support your well-being. If you don’t have any habits or rituals, think about what aspect of your life make you feel fulfilled and combine this into the day to day. Perhaps its walking, or listening to music, or gardening. Whatever makes you feel good, add this in micro elements to your day.  This will allow you to replenish your energy and increase mental resilience.

2) Breathe

It sounds simple, but breathing can make a real difference. You have a Parasympathetic and a Sympathetic nervous system, the former commands your rest while the latter commands your fight or flight. When you exhale longer than you inhale, even just a few counts, your parasympathetic response is triggered, lowering cortisol and meaning you will feel calmer and more in control. Your breathing will slow, your heart rate will drop and your blood pressure will lower, guiding you back to calm. If you consciously practice breathing in this way, you’ll feel a lot better.

3) Make sure your working hours are used in a way that conducive to your cycles.

Humans generally fall into one of three categories when it comes to sleep/wake cycles, they can be an early bird, a night owl or a third bird. Depending on whether you’re an early bird of a night owl, or somewhere in the middle, will inform when you should complete certain tasks. All of us experience the day in three stages – a peak, a trough and a rebound. ¾ of us (early birds and those in the middle) experience the day in that order, however a night owl will experience the day in reverse, so recovery, tough, peak.

Practically, this means early birds and third birds would focus on analytical tasks in the morning, making an impression in the morning, decision making in the early morning and insight tasks in the afternoon. Night owls however should focus on insight tasks and making an impression in the morning, while looking at analytical tasks and making a decision in the afternoon.

4) Take a break

Occupational psychologists suggest five key breaks someone can take during the day. These include “Micro-Breaks” and the “20-20-20 Rule”. For the 20-20-20, which means taking a break of at least 20 seconds, every 20 minutes and to look at least 20 feet away. Another example would be a “Nature Break”, spending five minutes to get outside and get some fresh air. A “Moving break” is as it sounds, a break in which you get up and move your body to shake off the cobwebs. A “Social Break” allows you to speak to a friend of colleague, allowing you to refill your metaphorical social cup. All of the aforementioned can allow for you to switch off, even if for just a minute, and focus on something that will make you feel fulfilled.

5) Reflect

At the end of your day, take a moment to reflect. Think about how you’re feeling, why you might be feeling that way, what has brought you joy, what do you need to do to improve your well-being and did you make enough time to focus on your well-being? If the answer the last question is no, what can you do tomorrow to ensure self care? We all have good and bad days, and some days looking after yourself will feel tricky, but if we can all reflect at the end of the day and make conscious choices, we are more likely to make good self care decisions.

In conclusion, well-being in the work place is a constant journey and requires conscious choices and self compassion. The saying “put your own mask on before helping others” is often mistaken to be a statement of selfishness, but in fact when it comes to leadership, it can be what makes you productive, healthy, compassionate, strong and efficient.

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