Maintaining health can be a struggle for busy leaders but it is critically important for incisive decision-making and effective leadership. Additionally, leaders are influencing their teams and can have profound effects on the health of others. Here are five suggestions for improving your own health and the health of your team, including goals to work toward.
Establishing boundaries allows you to take control of your time, energy, and resources and ultimately prioritize what is most important to you. Boundaries can also help reduce stress, improve relationships, reduce burnout, and increase overall well-being. Examples include setting aside dedicated family time or having dedicated time away from technology (e.g., cell phone, computer) on a daily or weekly basis. Goal: Establish appropriate healthy boundaries in one additional area of your life.
Adequate sleep is essential for processing memory and deeper thinking processes. Lack of sleep can lead to decreased energy, impaired decision-making, and decreased productivity, and it increases the risk of suffering from chronic pain.1 Decreases in both quantity and quality of sleep have been linked to increased rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol—all factors that increase one’s risk of heart disease.2 Goal: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night on most nights of the week.
3. Stress management
Living with high levels of stress for prolonged periods of time can affect many systems, including your body’s hormones and nervous system, and can trigger anxiety disorders. Healthy ways to manage stress could include practicing mindfulness, exercising, prayer, or even taking up a relaxing hobby. Goal: Try a new stress management technique, and record how it seems to work over time.
4. Energy in
Based on the best available research, a diet that consists primarily of whole, plant-based foods promotes physical, mental, and spiritual health. Avoid packaged and processed foods whenever possible. Remember Daniel and his friends? After 10 days of vegetables and water, “they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (Daniel 1:15, NIV). They were found to be 10 times better than others in matters of wisdom and understanding. Goal: Progress toward a diet that consists primarily of whole plant-based foods. Stay hydrated with plenty of water.
5. Energy out
Exercise! Exercise can be a great way not only to manage stress but also to influence many systems of the body to work more efficiently. It lowers the risk of death from many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.3 Furthermore, it benefits the brain by activating molecular and cellular cascades to increase the ability of the brain to change and adapt, specifically in areas of the brain that promote learning and memory. Goal: Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (i.e., brisk walk) physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week.4
Implementing these goals can improve your physical and mental health, memory, and general sense of well-being. By maintaining your own health, you can become a more effective leader and positively influence your team to make positive changes in their own lives. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2, NKJV).