advertisement
advertisement
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.

As leaders, it’s time to walk the walk when it comes to mental health

As leaders, we must commit to ourselves in order to inspire, motivate, and fuel a positive environment for those around us. Start with good mental health for yourself and your team, and success can follow.

As leaders, it’s time to walk the walk when it comes to mental health
[Studio Romantic/AdobeStock]

In recent years, an increasing number of people have recognized the vital—and growing—role that mental health plays in all walks of life. According to Mindbody’s annual industry report, nearly 40% of Americans chose mental health as the most important area of wellness.

advertisement
advertisement

Additionally, more than half of Americans—59%—said they seek to reduce stress by focusing on their health and well-being. We live in stressful times. How do we as leaders acknowledge this more often and create an environment where our teams thrive, reducing unnecessary stress?

IT STARTS WITH YOU

For those of us in leadership roles, mental health is something that can’t be ignored—in our teams or ourselves. Ask any C-suite executive and they’ll likely tell you that in the past, there’s been a stigma when anyone talked about mental wellness in the workplace. Personally, I’m glad that stigma is going away. It’s time for leaders to embrace mental health as a part of their corporate cultures. It’s time to lead by example, take care of yourself first, and develop a mental wellness routine that works best for you.

advertisement
advertisement

I’m open about my wellness journey—and I encourage my team to share theirs as well. My daily wellness routine begins with a set of breathing exercises. We take around 22,000 breaths every day, but we barely think about it. Breathing exercises can have a direct impact on your brain’s physiology and your overall mental well-being. Gratefulness exercises are an important part of my routine as well; I take a few minutes to focus on something I’m feeling gratitude for and let that feeling guide my actions during the day. I also practice loving-kindness meditation, which puts my brain in the right space before I start the day.

Finally, as part of my morning routine, I set intentions for my activities at work. I also try to take mindfulness breaks throughout the day—a short walk can do wonders for your frame of mind, sparking new ideas and pushing you forward. This is my routine and it works for me. Everyone needs to find what works for them. The key? Prioritize yourself and your mental health. When it comes to mental health, sometimes the smallest actions make the most difference.

TRANSPARENCY IS KEY

advertisement

Of course, everyone’s wellness practices are going to look slightly different. As leaders, what’s most important is for us to make mental health a fundamental part of our corporate structure and make it OK to talk about stress. Like so much, it starts at the top. Focusing on mental well-being can make you more calm, relatable, balanced, thoughtful, and empathetic, all of which directly impact your leadership skills. These skills can help set the right tone for your team, whether you’re in charge of a small startup or an enormous company.

Be the role model. Be the one to openly share how you are doing and take a couple of minutes to encourage others to do the same. It’s so easy to just say “good” when someone asks how you are doing. Take the time to really check in with others. Check in with your team during one-on-ones, and make space in other meetings to connect with people so it is not just transactional. Leverage a team environment to build one another up, and check in on one another.

REDUCE BURNOUT AND OFFER SUPPORT

advertisement

As the last two years have taught us, employee burnout is real; according to Deloitte, more than 70% of employees said they felt burned out and their employers weren’t doing enough to address it. One way to prevent that burnout is to encourage and enable mental well-being among every person who works for you.

Consider offering your employees wellness perks or encouraging memberships such as Calm or ClassPass (which was acquired by Mindbody in 2021). Consider providing the team with a mental health day off. Help manage people’s meeting load and address Zoom fatigue. Instead of suggesting a team happy hour, take a yoga class together. Keep the lines of communication open and honest so that you can all work together to create a positive environment.

I’ve always believed that life is one percent what happens to you and 99% how you react to it. Your reality is created by your perceptions, and having the right mental operating system can shape your perceptions, reactions, and approach to your relationships and career. Treating your mind in the same way you treat your body is the first step toward strong mental health. As leaders, we must commit to ourselves first in order to inspire, motivate, and fuel a positive environment for those around us. Start with good mental health for yourself and your team, and success can follow.

advertisement

Sunil Rajasekar is President & CTO of Mindbody.

advertisement
advertisement