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Caring for Your Mental Health While Leading   

Woman with hot cup at home writing on wall calendar.

Being a leader at any level is demanding. The American Psychological Association suggests that today’s leaders face higher levels of burnout and more mental health challenges than ever before.   

We also know that managers and leaders have a massive impact on employees’ mental health. Recent data from the Workforce Institute at UKG found that for 69 percent of people, managers had more impact on employee mental health than their therapist (41 percent) or doctor (51 percent), which is about equal to the effects of a domestic partner. But, for that impact to be positive, leaders must first address their own mental health needs.   

It’s the ever-familiar “oxygen mask in the airplane” scenario. No one can fully take care of others without first caring for themselves. Acknowledging and addressing mental health is essential for leaders’ well-being and the success and growth of their teams and organizations. While prioritizing mental health isn’t always easy with a stacked to-do list, it is worth it.   

Here are some suggestions on how to start integrating care into your day.  

Start and end your day with routines. Humans thrive in routines. We crave them. Setting morning and evening rituals can help lower stress and anxiety, which may widen your window for stressors throughout the day.  

Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you feel like you’re taking on too much. Prioritizing can be an excellent opportunity to take a breath and delegate.   

Use your calendar. A calendar doesn’t have to be a curse. Your self-care time and time with friends and family are as important as meetings or other work-related tasks. We do not have to be “on” every moment of the day.  

Practice self-compassion. No one can do everything, nor can they do it perfectly. Give yourself grace.

Seek support. Reach out to your network of colleagues, friends, or family members who can provide emotional support. Professional help from a licensed therapist can also help equip you with tools and space to share.  

Reframe self-care as an investment. As a leader, taking care of your mental health is not a sign of weakness but a testament to your strength and commitment to yourself and those you lead. By taking care of yourself, you can become a more effective and resilient leader. Prioritize your well-being, and the positive impact will reverberate throughout your organization and life.  

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, visit Burrell Behavioral Health online at BurrellCenter.com to start your mental health journey. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, don’t wait, call or text 988.

Megan Steen

Megan Steen, MBA, LCSW, is the Regional Chief Operating Officer of Brightli’s Central Region, which includes Burrell Behavioral Health.

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