Leaders everywhere ask me about managing mental health issues in the work place; either for themselves or the people under their charge. It’s been a pressing issue since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, and an ongoing conversation as we enter a new office environment and expanded leadership roles and responsibilities.
Most are encouraged when I tell them that they truly can take control of their own wellbeing, that being a leader means taking care of themselves physically and emotionally first and foremost. I am passionate about guiding, advising, and coaching others to be their absolute best – to create high performance teams – and by implementing a few simple tools leaders are better equipped to delve deeper and extract the best possible results from themselves and the people around them.
With that, I have developed my top mental health strategies for deployment right now, which provides leadership parameters that focus on intent, purpose and taking a holistic approach to workplace wellness.
• Set healthy boundaries and prioritize yourself. There’s an often-cited adage: “self-care is not selfish,” and while somewhat cliché, its premise is often taken for granted by many leaders. We are taught to be selfless, to put others needs above ours, and to serve. As someone who has spent the majority of my career in social impact, I would go a step further and say that there’s sometimes a badge of honor to burnout for the sake of “the cause.” No more.
The best way for you to show leadership and be your best for others is to make sure you are healthy and mentally fit. A great place to start that journey is to start to create healthy boundaries: with coworkers, with loved ones, with friends and begin seeing “no” as a door to opportunity. It sounds counterintuitive, but I would encourage you to not feel guilty about saying no to obligations, spending time doing exactly what you want to do, and putting your needs above others.
A behavioral health clinician once told me, “Boundaries are created with no one else in mind but you.” To create healthy boundaries, you can’t think about the impact that they will have on others, only the (positive) impact they will have on you. A hard learned lesson for me, having the agency to say “I am not available for that” or “this is not something I think is healthy for me” has costs me some friendships and business relationships for sure, but it also benefitted me in ways I am only now fully understanding. Try to do the same.
• Make self care part of your daily routine. I have the great privilege of working for a company that truly prioritizes mental health. For us, making self-care part of the daily routine is not only allowed but highly encouraged by leadership. Doing things that bring you joy each and every day will be crucial to living a fulfilling and balanced life.
Whether it’s taking a walk and listening to your favorite podcast (I recommend “Figure it Out”), meditating, yoga in your office, scrolling through TikTok, taking a hike, doing a workout, baking, or just phoning a friend – you have to commit to being as intentional about self-care and wellness as you are about your professional development. In fact, think of them as the same. The best you is going to be one that nurtures and sustains all of you.
• Spend more time with people who give you energy. Having wonderful people in your life can be a game-changer. Members of leadership should feel strongly about the power of surrounding themselves with the right people and believe that it is especially true for your mental health. I often say that your “community” matters – the people you surround yourself with, and how they serve as a wonderful resource on many levels. I would elevate that notion further and say they can be an even more impactful resource if properly curated.
Stop for a moment and consider who is on your calendar in the next two weeks. Who are you excited to see? Who do you dread? Focus more of your attention on the former and see how your energy changes for the better.
• Talk with your company or prospective employer about what mental health means to you. One of my favorite talks I’ve given during the past year is “The Business Case for Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace.” I developed this presentation to show companies and brands why it is important to start making mental health a priority. Not just from a recruitment and retention standpoint, but also as a great conversation starter for many C-Level leaders on the perceived barriers for providing more mental health recourses for their company, and why those barriers really don’t exist when you view the mental health of your employees as a business imperative. When it’s shown and proven that business performance and the bottom are impacted, the tenor changes.
I’ve been pleasantly encouraged by the dialogue and feedback, and I encourage all of you to have candid conversations with your managers and leadership about what mental health means to you. Tell them how they can best support you, how the company needs to show up so that you show up, too, and also what boundaries need to be in place for you to thrive. Companies are prepared now more than ever for these tough conversations, so let’s normalize driving them.
• Seek professional help. I have been very transparent, candid, and vocal about my mental health journey, and encourage fellow leaders to do the same. I have benefitted from wonderful therapists over the years who have helped me better understand me, why I do what I do, what my triggers are, how I should approach situations, and how I need to self-regulate based on things that happened when I was four years old (seriously, therapy is wild). I am thankful for the help of licensed professionals trained in carrying a conversation that has helped me become a better person and continue to improve.
Access to quality mental health services is not always easy for leaders or for their teams. But it’s a journey worth exploring; not just because you want to, but because you must. Your future success is dependent upon it.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to best show up for myself first, as a leader, but also bring the best out of the people around me. I am convinced that everyone needs a little bit of encouragement, a slight nudge to get them to a place where they can thrive and I will keep pushing these strategies to be that gentle reminder that it’s possible, you just have to start. Take a step, now. Onward!
Best known as an award-winning company culture whisperer and strategy guru, Sentari Minor has spent more than a decade cultivating new businesses, building brands, and advancing people and ideas at several category-leading enterprises and nonprofits in the Southwest. He received “40 Under 40” recognition in 2022 from the Phoenix Business Journal and is currently Vice President of Strategy and Chief of Staff at evolvedMD in Scottsdale, Arizona, an Inc. 5000 firm. SentariMMinor.com.