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Five Ways to Boost Your Energy And Resilience to Lead

Are you too exhausted to lead well? If you answer this question with a wry acknowledgement of possibility, you’re not alone. 74% of respondents in the largest UK workplace stress study, from the Mental Health Foundation, reported feeling so stressed in the previous year that they were overwhelmed or unable to cope. And this was published just before the pandemic.

But the data is not surprising. As you’ll know as a leader, the demand on your time to lead is immense, the sense of always being ‘on’ is draining, and the pace in most organizations is relentless.

In this article, I’ll talk you through five simple strategies for boosting your energy and resilience to lead effectively. But these skills and strategies are not a ‘nice to have’ - they’re central to your survival as a leader and your ability to manage a flourishing team. This is about practicing healthy resilience habits at home and at work, with learning being an integral part of your personal development plan.

Resilience is the result of a combination of inner strengths and outer resources which enable you to adapt and flex in the face of challenging situations. Your goal, as a resilient leader, is to be able to recover well from setbacks, function almost normally and, in many circumstances, grow as a result of the situation.

And the beautiful reality is you can learn it. Resilience isn’t the preserve of the lucky or genetically blessed, it’s a learned skill. And if you practice strategies like these below, you’ll embed some important lifelong strategies for you and role model crucial resilient strategies for your team.

1. Drains and energizers

What would you have to change if you practiced the same level of self-care as you show towards others? I’m sure you encourage best practice in your team, and I’d like you to do the same for yourself. So, write down what drains you at home and at work, which might include disrupted sleep, back-to-back meetings or late-night working. And do the reverse too, what energizes you? Make these lists as broad and honest as you can.

To achieve a better balance, what can you stop that drains you and increase that energizes you? Make your decisions realistic for your lifestyle, rather than what you feel you ‘should do’, and keep your decisions to fewer than three, or it won’t happen!

2. Step off your ‘Sticky Path’

In 2012 Professor Ilona Boniwell and I co-wrote the UK’s first resilience curriculum, SPARK, and coined the phrase the ‘Sticky Path’ to describe the sensation when our emotions and feelings collide. You’ll know this yourself when you ‘ruminate’ about a situation, it goes round and round in your head, or perhaps you ‘catastrophize’. This is particularly prevalent when there is uncertainty, rumours, and an abundance of media information.

Coach yourself off this pathway by asking yourself three questions:

  1. What can I control?
  2. What’s the most positive, yet realistic story I can tell myself here?
  3. Who can give me an alternative perspective?

3. Stop for 60!

When did you last notice your feelings? Or what’s triggered those feelings? It’s much easier to notice when you’re feeling distracted, impatient or annoyed (and for others to see) than it is to track your thinking habits. But it’s vital to hear these alarm bells and to react differently. Practice stopping for 60. Before you react to a situation that triggers you, breathe for 60 seconds, walk 60 steps or wait 60 minutes before responding to that email.

4. Show your appreciation

Strong personal relationships, grounded in trust, are your secure foundations for resilience. Yet if you’re like many leaders, time with your loved one and friends takes a hammering when the pressure is on. If this is temporary, they’ll probably forgive you. But if you’ve got into a habit of cancelling time out with friends, perhaps a luxury you don't feel you can afford, it’s time to reconnect and show your appreciation.

As Shawn Achor’s research suggests, “the people who survive tough times in business best are the ones who actually increase their social investments in the middle of stress."

So, diarise your time with your closest friends. Place a boundary around this time and make it a priority. And send an appreciation letter to those you love. Tell them you’re sorry you haven’t been available and how important they are to you. Make them feel genuinely appreciated.

And whilst I’m talking appreciation, let’s extend this exercise to those at work! All you do is, every day, send someone an email acknowledging their help, teamwork, progress, strength or achievement, and copy in everyone who knows them. Allow them to shine and see how appreciated they are, by you.

5. Go to sleep!

I don't need to reiterate the prolific advice about drinking more water, getting outside every day and eating more vegetables. But it is worth emphasizing the research that the longer and later you work at night, the less efficient you become. As the scientist Matt Walker says, “sleep is your superpower!

Other than eating and breathing, sleep is the most important factor for your levels of resilience. Most of my clients are seriously sleep deprived, so getting a quality 7-8 hours a night is critical.

So here are your five starter strategies for boosting your resilience to lead. I can only re-emphasize that you need energy and resilience to lead well, which means that it’s worth taking your physical, mental and emotional energy levels seriously. Think of your body like a series of batteries that you must recharge before they’re too depleted to function well.

Your family, friends and team will be grateful you’ve taken action now!

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