Prioritize Your Wellbeing

Prioritizing our wellbeing is crucial – especially when we are in a leadership position – so I’d like to give a gentle reminder of its importance, and ways we can practice self-care.

In September/October, I had the privilege of delivering two in-person workshops for junior professional leaders just starting their careers in the UN. I designed these workshops to address the importance of managing one’s energy and building resilience, for success. Given where the participants were on their journeys, we focused primarily on the importance of boundaries, connection, and self-care – all of which are essential for us to consider at any career stage.

Whilst there are many other ways to practice self-care and nurture ourselves, this article explores three fundamental practices to conserve our energy and build resilience: by managing our boundaries, leveraging connection and engaging in balanced self-care, all around.


Boundaries as Self-Care

Boundaries are there to protect you and allow you to live a balanced lifestyle. They are a way to manage our energy.

A lack of boundaries can lead to exhaustion, resentment, and burnout; diminished confidence, and relationship difficulties.

Maintaining healthy boundaries involves self-awareness and effective communication. Healthy boundaries are also kind, flexible, firm and clear.

For example, you may know that, when receiving feedback from your boss, you need to receive it in a calm manner, versus a loud or heated manner.

Expressing a boundary around this may sound something like: “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t raise your voice when giving me feedback” and/or “I’d really like to receive your feedback, but I can’t hear it when you raise your voice to me. So, I’d like to propose that we reschedule this discussion for another time.”

Establishing a boundary is about knowing what you need – and then asking for it, and/or giving yourself the support you need.

Spoiler alert! It’s important to remember that simply stating your boundaries doesn’t mean that people will accept it and/or act upon your intention immediately. Some people may need time to get used to this new situation or request, and in other cases, a boundary may not be accepted as is. But just because a stated boundary receives pushback, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of discussion. On the contrary, it is often the beginning of an important conversation or negotiation.


Connection and Support – for Resilience

Resilience – or moving forward stronger, wiser and more resourced – is one of our superpowers. It allows us to deal with challenges with more resourcefulness, so that the next time we face one, we can do so with more learning, confidence, and even comfort.

There are many different strategies for practicing resilience, and one I find particularly useful is connection.

Since the start of human evolution, connection with others and the need to belong – to a tribe, group or community – have been essential to our survival. Connecting with others can be a great pathway to a fresh perspective, and to the hope and optimism that may have felt distant when we were down and alone.

Being in connection and relationship (networks) is also important for our career transitions in general, and for leadership transitions in particular.

You may want to spend some time conducting a connection audit to see who is in your support network, and consider adding or updating contacts – and, of course, reaching out as you see fit.

You may want to think about:

  • Maintaining a broad and diverse support network: Connect with a range of individuals from all sorts of environments.
  • Linking with connective/supportive people: Engage with those willing to support your growth.
  • Establish a dynamic support circle: Evolve your network as you grow.

For more ideas, see my article 5 things you can do to expand your network

As key components of both your personal and leadership health and wellbeing, you will want to tend to connection and belonging on a regular basis.


Balanced Care

It is important to develop a comprehensive and holistic plan of self-care to support your emotional resilience and general wellbeing. This means taking care of all your needs: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, because they all impact on your being, your doing and your success.

In their book, The Healthy Mind Platter, Dr Daniel Seigel and David Rock describe the elements needed and some daily activities to provide the ‘nutrition’ for a balanced and healthy mind – and body.

They talk about 7 different categories of activities that don’t just create a healthy mind, but also promote overall wellbeing:

  1. Playtime: Have fun. Embrace spontaneity and creativity.
  2. Focus Time: Tackle tasks by employing goal-oriented focus.
  3. Downtime: Take time out, to allow the mind to relax and recharge.
  4. Time In: Reflect internally on sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts.
  5. Sleep Time: Prioritize rest to consolidate your learning.
  6. Physical Time: Strengthen the brain through physical activity and exercise.
  7. Connecting Time: Foster connections with people, and appreciate nature.

I like to have my clients assess where they are, on a scale of 1-10, across each dimension and then identify what they would like to Stop, Start, and Continue for each category.

For example, my score on the sleep dimension ranges between a 3-4 out of 10 – not great! I have decided that in terms of actions I am going to:

  • Stop reading emails past 21:00 h – otherwise, my mind gets activated by things to do or problems to solve.
  • Start going to bed and getting up at set hours.
  • Continue to be patient with myself for the many times I fall off my sleep wagon and keep plugging way.

This is a great framework to ensure that you are touching all the key components of a healthy mind and body and practicing balanced self-care.


A Caveat and Concluding Thoughts…

Prioritizing energy management, resilience, and self-care is not only essential for personal well-being but is also a cornerstone of effective leadership. By establishing boundaries, fostering connections, and embracing a holistic well-being plan, leaders can navigate challenges with resilience and lead with vitality.

I fully recognise that self-care can also involve delegation and other strategies, tools and techniques. I don’t have the space here to cover every aspect of self-care and resilience (nor boundaries and connection!), but because I have written elsewhere on the subject, here are some other resources that you might find useful to consolidate your own self-care:

Resilience: How to create your own super power

Micro-Acts of Self-Care That Take Little Time and Deliver Big Impact

Practicing Self-Care: Work, Yourself and Everything In Between

Self-care and Leading with Resilience for The Palladium Group

“Serious” Leaders Need Self-Care, Too

Small Acts of Self-Care: Practices for Work, Home and Everything In-between

Practising self-care – 10 Tips for taking care of yourself


If you’d like more, please feel free to download Designing Your Leadership Self-Reflection Practice – Guided Writing Prompts – packed with tips, tools, and guided prompts to launch your leadership self-reflection practice as you continue to strengthen your leadership.

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