The weight of leadership can be immense. Even the most resilient individual can be worn down by long hours, demanding decisions, and endless pressure. In fact, a UKG study found that a whopping 80% of managers feel burnt out – the highest percentage among all groups.

Further, this burnout can have a significant ripple effect on their teams. According to another study, when a leader is burned out, psychological safety in the team drops by 52% and feelings of support fall by 44%. Moreover, despite their best efforts, burnt-out leaders often end up increasing their subordinates’ workload by 26%.

The bottom line is that safeguarding your mental health shouldn’t be considered a luxury – it’s necessary in today’s competitive environment. After all, an emotionally balanced and well-rested leader makes better decisions, inspires his or her team, and cultivates a positive work environment.

In addition, leaders prioritizing their mental health build strength, not show weakness. As a responsible leader, let’s discuss ways you can incorporate mental health protection practices into your daily routine.

The Leader’s Burden: Recognizing the Mental Strain

Many stressors come with leadership, as you know well. Your decisions affect not just the success of your organization but also the livelihood of your team. As a result, you may experience:

  • Chronic stress. You may feel perpetually on edge due to the constant pressure to perform, affecting your sleep, focus, and overall well-being.
  • Decision fatigue. The constant making of decisions can deplete your mental reserves, resulting in poor judgment and a lack of creativity.
  • Imposter syndrome. For leaders, doubting their abilities despite achievements is surprisingly common.
  • Compassion fatigue. In difficult times, supporting and motivating your team can be draining emotionally.

These issues can affect your entire team, not just you. Stressed leaders often lead to stressful environments. In contrast, a leader who prioritizes their mental health leads to a culture of well-being so that their employees are happier and more productive.

The Path to Well-being: Practical Steps for Leaders

Is it possible to strike a balance between your own mental health and the demands of leadership? The following are some practical steps you can take to safeguard your mental health and be a more effective leader.

1. Prioritize self-awareness.

The foundation of great leadership is self-awareness. A good place to start is by understanding your own triggers, limitations, and what works for you personally. When faced with tight deadlines, do you tend to burnout? Is it draining to have difficult conversations? Identifying these patterns allows you to manage them proactively.

For self-reflection, journaling can be a powerful tool. Daily, spend 10-15 minutes writing down your thoughts, feelings, and challenges. By identifying recurring themes and areas for improvement, you can identify recurring problems.

2. Cultivate healthy boundaries.

Despite what you may think, leaders don’t have to be available 24 hours a day. As such, keep a clear line between work and personal life. You should also schedule “focus time” for uninterrupted work and resist the urge to check your email after work hours.

You should also communicate your boundaries to your team with respect. Ensure they are aware of your preferred channels of communication and response times. As a result, everyone’s personal time is respected.

You could also share your calendar with them so they know when and when you’re available.

3. Delegate and empower.

Stress is a side effect of micromanagement for yourself and your team. To avoid this, delegate tasks to your team members and trust them to complete them.

You should delegate tasks that are appropriate for your team’s skill level, while also providing growth opportunities. Allow ownership and freedom of decision-making while offering guidance and support. In addition to building confidence within your team, this fosters a sense of responsibility.

4. Get a good night’s sleep.

Your mood, focus, and decision-making abilities are significantly impacted by chronic sleep deprivation. Therefore, aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. To achieve this, make sure that you do the following:

  • Set up a routine for your sleep.
  • Ensure that your sleep environment is relaxing.
  • Avoid blue light from TVs, phones, or computers before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.

5. Fuel your body and mind.

Energy levels and mental clarity are directly affected by what you eat and drink. So, consume a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Also, stay hydrated through the day with water and avoid sugary drinks and processed foods.

6. Get up and move.

In order to manage stress and promote mental well-being, regular physical activity is essential. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s a brisk walk, a team sport, or a yoga session. When you exercise, you release endorphins, which are mood-boosting chemicals that help you cope with stress and feel better.

7. Practice mindfulness.

By practicing mindfulness, you focus your attention on the present moment without judging it. For example, deep breathing and meditation can reduce stress, improve focus, and improve emotional regulation.

To get started, there are many mindfulness apps and resources online, such as Headspace and Calm. Even a small amount of daily practice can make a big difference.

Also part of this is practicing self-compassion. Don’t be hard on yourself. We all make mistakes. Take the lessons you’ve learned from them and move on. But, don’t be afraid to celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, as well.

8. Foster a support network.

At times, leadership can be isolating. As such, develop a solid network of colleagues, mentors, or friends who you can confide in. With a trusted confidant, you can reduce stress and improve your mental health.

9. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

As Brené Brown writes in Dare to Lead, “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing; it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

What’s more, leaders who share their struggles with their teams can foster a more understanding and supportive environment. Remember, having not all the answers is okay, and being vulnerable fosters trust.

10. Ask for help if you need it.

It is not a sign of weakness to seek professional help. You may benefit from therapy if you suffer from stress or anxiety or are overwhelmed. It is possible to manage your mental health and improve your overall well-being with the help of a therapist.

Leading by Example

As a leader, you set a powerful example by prioritizing your mental health. When leaders openly discuss stress and self-care, a culture of openness and vulnerability is created, encouraging team members to prioritize their well-being.

It is important to remember that a healthy leader breeds a healthy team. In addition to improving your own well-being, you will be able to be a more effective, inspiring leader by safeguarding your mental health.


Why is mental wellness important for leaders?

Leaders under pressure may experience burnout, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. The ability to manage stress effectively, make sound decisions, and inspire one’s team is greatly enhanced through mental well-being. In addition, it fosters a positive workplace culture where employees feel comfortable prioritizing their own well-being.

I feel overwhelmed and stressed. What are some signs I might need to focus on my mental health?

Be aware of signs such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, changes in sleep or appetite, and withdrawal from social activities.

How can the pressure of leadership impact mental health?

Taking on leadership entails a lot of responsibility, which can lead to:

  • Stress and anxiety. Meeting deadlines, handling people, and facing challenges can be overwhelming.
  • Burnout. You may become exhausted when you neglect your self-care and work long hours.
  • Isolation. Leaders may struggle to show vulnerability under pressure to be strong.

As a leader, how can I prioritize my mental wellness?

Several strategies exist. Among them are:

  • Set boundaries. Make sure you maintain a healthy work-life balance and disconnect after work.
  • Practice self-care. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep.
  • Delegate tasks. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. Ensure your team is empowered and that you delegate effectively.
  • Maintain a support network. Consult a therapist, coach, friend, or colleague you trust.
  • Focus on gratitude. Take a moment to reflect on what is positive in your life and work.

How can I create a culture of mental well-being in my team?

Openly discuss your own mental health struggles and encourage open communication. In addition, here are a few other tips:

  • Normalize open communication. Employees should be encouraged to discuss mental health concerns without fear of judgment.
  • Offer mental health resources. Inform employees about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and mental health benefits.
  • Promote healthy work habits. After work, do not respond to emails or work long hours.
  • Recognize and reward good work. You should celebrate your team’s accomplishments and show appreciation for their work.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements. When possible, allow remote work or flexible schedules.

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