Good Leadership Starts with Mastering Self-care

Good Leadership Starts with Mastering Self-care

Signs of Stress

Stress is how the brain and body respond to external and/or internal demands or pressure placed upon us.

External demands occur outside of ourselves. Examples include tight and multiple work deadlines, high workloads, financial difficulties and relationship issues.

Internal demands are the stressors we place on ourselves via thoughts and beliefs. Examples include thoughts such as “I must be perfect,” “I am not smart enough” or “I should always put others first.”

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can provide us with the motivation to get out of bed, set goals, learn, focus and achieve.

However, without an effective toolkit, prolonged stress can take a toll on your health.

The first step to managing stress, is noticing the early signs. Stress shows up through our body, behaviours and feelings. Some signs include:


o  Headaches

o  Tightness

o  Tiredness

o  Digestive problems

o  Sweating

o  Teeth grinding

o  Weight or appetite changes

o  Difficulty sleeping


o  Irritable

o  Constant worry and racing thoughts

o  Overwhelmed

o  Demotivated

o  Disinterested

o  Angry


o  Rushed, snappy and impatient

o  Indecisive and forgetful

o  Avoidant

o  Overeating or under-eating

o  Working long hour with few breaks

o  Increasing alcohol intake or smoking/vaping


Take a moment here to reflect and write down what your signs of physical, emotional and behavioural signs of stress are.


How to Manage Stress

Ok, so you know you’re feeling stressed and have noticed how your mind, body and behaviours are reacting to it.

Now what? Well we can choose to cope with stress in a helpful or unhelpful way.

Unhelpful coping mechanisms can include alcohol, ruminating on thoughts and avoiding or ignoring problems. Whilst this gives temporary relief, it does fuels long term difficulties.

The key is to focus your energy toward helpful coping.This includes:

1.    Problem Focused Coping

This involves actively taking steps to resolving the stressful situation or change the source of stress. For example,prioritising workloads, asking for support and establishing boundaries.


Try asking yourself:

·     What resources and support do I have to help deal with this situation?

·     How have I dealt with similar difficulties in the past?

·     Can I break down the problem into manageable steps?


2.    Emotion Focused Coping

We can’t always change a stressful situation. In this case, we need to focus on managing our feelings and emotions associated with the stressful situation. For example, exercising, meditation and talking about our feelings with family and friends.


Try asking yourself:

·     Am I accepting that strong negative feelings area natural part of this experience?

·     Am I allowing these feelings to come and go or am I fighting them and trying to push them away?

·     Am I talking to myself in a kind way, as I would to a friend, or criticising myself?

·     Is there anyone who can give me emotional support through these difficulties?


3.    Prioritising Self-Care

Self-care is the act of consistently listening to and prioritising our own needs. When we are meeting our own needs it not only benefits ourselves, but also those around us, as they get to experience a better version of ourselves.


How can we do this?
a) Take some time to connect with yourself and understand what your own needs are from an emotional, spiritual, physical and professional perspective.

Meditation, journaling and time on your own reflecting will help. It is important to be authentic to yourself here and to try not to compare your own needs to those of others. You deserve to live the life you truly desire!


b) Align your self-care actions with your needs.

In general, self-care actions include:

·     Getting the basics right including a balanced diet, exercise, hydration and quality sleep

·     Soothing actions, such as rest and relaxation, breathing exercises, spending time in nature and having fun with friends and family

·     Protecting actions, such as saying no, being assertive, delegating, prioritising, reducing multi-tasking and limiting distractions


Sometimes it can help to write these down, so in times of stress you know what actions can get you back to your needs.


c) Practice self-compassion and give yourself permission to have a self care routine  

Be kind and understanding to yourself, rather than critical. No one is perfect and it is completely ok to go off track sometimes, what is important is building the habit of being our own cheerleader so we can get ourselves back on track time and time again.

Getting off track can manifest in the form of belief blockers that get in the way of caring for ourselves, such as “I’m too busy and don’t have time,” “I don’t deserve this”, “It’s selfish and indulgent” and “I will become less motivated and achieve less.”

If these beliefs do arise for you, try to challenge them. Would you speak to a friend like that and tell them they don’t deserve to prioritise their needs over others? Or even put that belief to the test. For example, take your holiday leave and see if that week off does lead to less motivation? Often we tend to overestimate how our actions will make us feel in the long term.

Above all, it’s important to give yourself permission to have a self-care routine.

Furthermore, if you do need a bit of extra support, we recommend discussing coping strategies with your GP and/or a psychologist, such as our guest clinical psychologist, Dr Aileen Alegado from Mindset Consulting.Plus for further resources check out these helpful resources from Unmind.

About the Authors: This article was written byRebecca Tan (NNC Community Manager and Psychology student) and Dr Aileen Alegado (Director and Clinical Psychologist at Mindset Consulting), in partnership with Unmind, a leading workplace wellbeing platform on a mission to create mentally healthy workplaces where employees can flourish.