Are you in a leadership or managerial position at work? If so, you know the unique set of pressures and stressors that inevitably come with managing others. These stressors can build up over time if you don’t prioritize self-care practices in your routine, which can risk general job dissatisfaction and burnout. If you’re feeling this way already, the good news is you’re not alone! New research estimates show that 33%-50% of all leaders and managers feel overwhelmed by their workload and struggle to maintain a work-life balance. 

Does this mean that stress is just a part of having a leadership role? It shouldn’t be. Long-term stress leads to a number of health risks as well as unsustainable workplace behaviors that emerge when leaders are exhausted or overwhelmed. Research shows that these emotions can lead to a “flight, fight, or freeze” response that limits creativity, and that the way leaders cope with stress influences the way that their employees handle stress. 

So, what can be done? Leaders need to develop long-term self-care practices like morning stretches that help them cope with the demands of work. Below are a few ways that self-care can help leaders in their work roles.

 

Self-Care Helps Prevent Burnout 

Burnout describes a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by long periods of high stress. It tends to occur when individuals feel unable to meet the demands of their job and it often comes with self-doubt and feelings of hopelessness. Burnout is highly correlated with a number of physiological and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, type II diabetes, and stroke. It can also lead to increased irritability, unexplained chronic pain, decreased motivation, and insomnia. The signs are usually fairly clear. 

Self-care practices help reduce the likelihood that you will experience burnout by giving you perspective and relieving tension. We all need to integrate activities that bring us joy or stress relief into our work lives. Otherwise, the work becomes fundamentally unsustainable. Self-care can be as simple as performing a 30-minute full-body stretch routine once a day. Stretching has been proven to help improve blood flow, relieve tension in the body, prevent lower back pain, and improve posture. 

 

Self-Care Helps You Respond Better to Stress 

Stanford psychologist Alia Crum has argued, based on her research findings, that stress can be good for leaders if they “know how to use it.” But how could stress be a good thing? Stressful situations are simply opportunities for leaders to demonstrate their skills. The key is being able to get enough perspective from your work to maintain the psychological flexibility it takes to manage stress effectively. 

This brings us back to self-care. Self-care routines help you properly manage stress, relieve stress, and get some distance from stressful situations at work. All of these practices make you a more effective leader, as they provide need introspection and perspective to keep you grounded and help you have a better understanding of how to respond to stresses at work.

 

When developing a self-care routine, be sure to holistically evaluate your priorities, values, and purpose. Grounding yourself in what is important to you is always a good place to start!