Make self-care a leadership priority

When it comes to leadership performance, making time for self-care, including the all-important downtime, makes a measurable difference.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Higher levels of effectiveness
  • Lower levels of stress and anxiety
  • Clearer thinking, with less ‘brain fog’
  • Increased focus and attention 
  • Better overall decision-making 
  • Stronger ability to regulate your emotions and reactions when challenges arise

Add it up, and the case for leadership self-care is compelling: When you make time for your health and well-being, you boost your performance and impact as a leader. You also send a powerful, positive signal to those around you, encouraging them to do the same.

However, we also know that many leaders struggle to prioritize self-care and well-being, given the many roles and responsibilities they juggle.

Leaders Need Down Time 

While there are many ways to strengthen leadership wellness and performance, taking a break from work is one of the most important.

Our bodies and our brains need routine time-outs to rest and recharge. Otherwise, our capacity to perform at our best is compromised. So too is our ability to strengthen our resilience skills and ensure we can bounce back effectively from sustained periods of higher stress. 

So how about you? Where do rest and restoration fit in your leadership life? And what steps might you be contemplating to boost your wellness and your leadership performance?

The good news is that there are many ways to add restorative practices to your leadership agenda—with or without a dedicated vacation.

When you prioritize building rest and restoration into your daily routine, you will be building a powerful leadership-wellness muscle that boosts your effectiveness every day.

Powerful Ways to Boost Your Restorative Time, and Your Leadership

Here are some of the most effective (yet most uncomplicated) ways to get more rest and restoration into your day. These are some of my personal go-to’s, including a few approaches that many of the leaders I work with are now using with positive outcomes.

1. Be Intentional About Self Care

Bring a clear, intentional focus to making rest and restoration a priority. When you do this every day, you will be setting yourself up for success.

2. Schedule the Time 

Make it a habit to schedule ‘recharge’ time into your calendar every day. Whether your preference is a mid-day exercise break, coffee and conversation with a colleague, or a self-care opportunity (perhaps a brief walk to a nearby green space), it is essential to know when you will do it. When you build it right into your daily calendar, you are much more likely to make it happen.

3. Take ‘Mini’ Breaks Throughout the Day

Short breaks throughout the day can be especially beneficial; as little as five minutes at a time is enough to make a difference. You can stand up, stretch, and move a little if you’ve been sedentary. Alternatively, you can get off your feet if your work is usually done standing.

4. Optimize your Day

Work in blocks of time that optimize your cognitive capacity, especially when you want to tackle anything complex. Research confirms that our brains max out after 90-minute work blocks and need a break then to rest and restore. When you use this insight to your advantage, you can plan your day for peak performance.

Set a timer to allow you to concentrate on the work in front of you during each block (ideally, with your devices and notifications off), then take a brief, energizing break to stretch and move around when the timer rings. When you do this every 60 to 90 minutes, you will notice how much fresher you are for what’s next in your day.

5. Move More

Your body will thank you for more movement in your day; your brain will, too. Walking can be a great way to make it happen.

Working from home? As there’s no need to schedule commute time, embrace pre-work and post-work walks.

Going to the office? Park further from your workplace or get off public transit before your usual stop to fit in a little walk at the beginning and end of your day.

6. Get Outdoors

Time outdoors, especially if it involves green space of some kind, is emerging as a powerful physical and mental health and wellness practice, as well as a great way to restore our cognitive energy throughout the day.

For example, public health researchers from the University of Minnesota found that nature has a positive impact on our overall wellbeing. 

With researchers now finding clear correlations between time in nature and reduced blood pressure, heart rates and overall levels of stress and anxiety, to name a few—here are a few simple ways you can add the restorative power of nature to your day:

  • If you are lucky enough to live or work near a park or green space of some kind, visit it daily – perhaps as part of your commute or instead of it if you are working from home.
  • In warmer months, take your lunch and head outdoors—to your deck or backyard if you are working from home or a nearby park or patch of green close to your office.
  • Schedule a walking meeting if the weather permits.
  • If nearby green space is not an option, bring the green space indoors, with a plant or two.
  • Or hang a beautiful nature photo or painting near you and return your gaze to it throughout the day.

Leadership self-care is vital for leadership performance and impact. Regular rest and restoration time boosts your health and well-being and your capacity to continue growing, thriving, and leading at your best. Whether you opt for a good stretch of vacation time during the year, or enjoy shorter breaks several times a year, each ‘down’ day counts.

You can also boost your leadership effectiveness by incorporating restorative practices into your routine every day. And if you ever need to give yourself ‘permission’ to relax and unwind, know that you will be achieving two things when you do. You will be investing in your leadership health and effectiveness; you will also be inspiring those you lead to do the same.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at

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