As a leader in your company, your default stance maybe to drive at full speed until the job is done and then deal with the personal price later. Though this may work in the short term to finish a project, it is not a good plan for the long game. Taking care isn’t a low-priority item first to be shoved aside when the pressure builds. It is a necessity if you want to maximize your performance and serve the teams who depend on you.

Taking care of yourself physically and psychologically is critical.

1. Back to basics: physical

You know this intellectually already: eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep are good for you. But they are more than that. They are absolutely essential to maintaining balance and staying the course for the long haul.

They are also the first things to cut when the deadlines loom. Skipping the gym, grabbing fast, high fat, and high carb food and gulping caffeine to avoid sleep may gain you a few hours. But as your body and mind become more sluggish, you will lose traction.

You will also lose focus, patience, and your ability to think clearly, opening the door wide for mistakes and stress.

Studies have shown that eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy grains improves your mental functioning as well as stabilizes your energy throughout the day. Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, which reduce stress. Regular exercise also increases energy and helps maintain a regular sleep schedule.

2. Ignoring doesn’t make it go away: psychological

Don’t try to fool yourself. Yes, as a leader, stress will probably be part of your job. But you need to monitor and acknowledge when it has crept to an unhealthy level.

Studies indicate that about 1/3 of leaders feel their stress is unmanageable; about half feel they have enough time to do high-quality work.

Ignoring the buildup of stress and a work-life balance that is out of whack can lead to health problems and job burnout. Physically you risk high blood pressure, intestinal ailments, headaches, stroke, and even diabetes. Emotionally you risk anxiety, depression, reduced ability to make decisions, and increased irritability. These symptoms will not only affect you but will affect your team and your personal relationships.

Self-care isn’t selfish or self-indulgent. It is a vital part of a personal management strategy to enable you to consistently be the best leader possible for the duration of your career.

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