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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

15 mental health tips to help leaders cope under pressure

Being a leader can be mentally and emotionally taxing, so it’s important to prioritize wellness and self-care as a manager.

15 mental health tips to help leaders cope under pressure
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of thinking about mental health and wellness in the workplace. Business leaders have begun advocating for the wellbeing of their employees in growing numbers, transforming mental health support from a perk to a workplace imperative.

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Even as leaders across industries strive to improve support for their teams, many face their own mental health challenges. To help fellow leaders cope, a panel of Fast Company Executive Board members offers their best advice for managing the unique pressures of leadership and prioritizing mental health and wellness as a manager.

1. TAKE A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY

Much as I love technology, it is important to get away from it occasionally. Don’t take your device to dinner, or put it on silent. Everyone has their own escape, be that sport, yoga, meditation, or the movies. Find what nourishes your soul and make sure you have time to do it regularly. Secondly, make sure you have friends, family, and advisors to talk to when you need them, these people are gold! – Philip Stoten, SCOOP

2. INVEST IN YOUR TEAM

Remember this phrase: “Automate your business but humanize your culture.” Remember that a great leader is not only in charge of the speed of the business but also the pace of the people. Great leaders truly care about their team’s feelings. Invest plenty of time getting to know your team’s inner side, problems, and personal challenges. In return, you’ll get an empowered, more enthusiastic team. – Fernando Anzures, EXMA Global

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3. SET GOALS OUTSIDE OF WORK

Investing in a real challenge and setting motivating goals outside of work—like training for a marathon—helps ground me and makes any work pressures feel more surmountable. I’m also lucky to lead an organization that is deeply important to me, so any pressures that arise just make me more motivated to keep doing the work to support our LGBTQ youth community. – Amit Paley, The Trevor Project

4. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Taking time for yourself in our intensely work-obsessed culture is critical to being an effective leader and providing the best results for your company. Humans are not meant to work nonstop all day. It’s important to take breaks and prioritize wellness. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, or take a snack break because it all counts and can make an immense difference in focus and energy. – Ryan Simonetti, Convene

5. REMEMBER THE EXAMPLE YOU’RE SETTING

I’ve found it helpful to remember the example that I’m setting for my team. When I was in the C-suite of a company with 120,000 people, I was setting an example for people across the organization. So if I wanted a healthy, well-rested team, I needed to put my words into action. Taking care of myself was the best way to take care of my team. – Jessica Federer, Boston Millennia Partners

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6. CREATE SPACE FOR INNER STILLNESS

We live in an age of non-stop activity, with a built-in “busyness” addiction. Yet, we are human “beings,” not human “doings.” It’s essential to create space for inner stillness amidst the nonstop noise of our lives. Each one of us has unique ways of accessing that—whether it’s through meditation, art, hiking, or simply doing nothing—this stillness connects us to our true inner leadership resources. – Marc Inzelstein, Indiggo – Return on Leadership

7. MEDITATE

It is not as touchy-feely as you think. In just 10 minutes a day, I use meditation to help me plan for the pressures inherent in leadership. My well-being has exponentially improved. I am able to be more present in stressful situations, unhook from negative emotions, and gain a better perspective to make higher quality decisions. Give it a try. – Steve Dion, Dion Leadership

8. GET INTO A ‘FLOW STATE’

As a creative person, I’ve found that when I don’t take time to make art, my mental health begins to erode in other strange ways—even how I show up as a leader at work. Just like meditating or walking, making art puts me into a “flow state” to simply be present and let things happen without needing to overly control them or be irrationally attached. That’s also a great mindset to bring to work! – Amaya Weddle, bande

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9. TAKE MOMENTS OF SILENCE THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY

Meditation has really helped me to lower stress. While I used to do it in the morning, I found that running an agency, by noon I was pulling my hair out. So I changed it up and now will just close my office doors, and take 10 minutes of silence to refocus my thoughts and calm down. I find afterward I am looking at the stressors differently with fresh eyes and making better decisions. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

10. CREATE A CALM WORK ENVIRONMENT

Lower your stress while working at creating a calm work environment. Also, sometimes a change in environment can have a huge impact on your stress level. Make sure you are taking breaks, even if they are only short ones, and spend some time outdoors. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

11. GET OUT OF THE OFFICE

Get out of the office and visit one of your best customers—especially if it takes you getting on a plane to go visit them. Let your team around you keep things running while you are out because you have surrounded yourself with awesome people, so let them be awesome. You’ll have some ‘me time’ during your travel days to disconnect from the day-to-day and look at the bigger picture. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny

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12. TAKE TIME FOR YOUR HOBBIES

Double down on your hobbies. Besides being the CEO of a fast-growing startup, I’m also a guitarist for a rock band, a Thai boxer, and I also tend to find some free time to help others in need. – Yoav Vilner, Walnut

13. GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO REFLECT

Breathe and give yourself some headspace to reflect on things. Trying not to be going full-throttle all the time is better for your mental health and helps you avoid experiencing burnout. Remind yourself to take breathers, go on a walk, and schedule time for yourself. Your future self will thank you for not overscheduling, and it will help you think and react with a clearer mind. – John Hall, Calendar

14. BE VULNERABLE

Leaders don’t need to know it all or appear to have all the answers. A creative leader understands a good idea can come from any level of an organization and provides ways for other team members to step up to share ideas. This shared responsibility model alleviates the pressures of leadership. – Van Lai-DuMone, worksmart Advantage

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15. BE POSITIVE AND CELEBRATE LITTLE SUCCESSES

Bring more joy and celebration into your life, while embracing a positive mindset. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, promoting an overall sense of well-being, while celebration produces oxytocin and endorphins, which reduce stress and boost your immune system. Also adopt a healthy lifestyle that integrates exercising, sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night, and eating foods that fuel your mind and body. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

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