Being a leader can be a thankless job.

There are budgets to think about, deliverables and timelines to meet, plus the people side of things. Remember that old saying about management would be a great job if it wasn’t for the people you have to manage?

And that’s during a normal year. 2020 has been anything but ordinary and thrown up many new challenges for leaders as they grabble with the effects of COVID19 on their organisations, their teams, and themselves.

Like everyone else I know, I have been professionally impacted by the effects of the lock-down. The excitement and expectation with which I rang in the new calendar year, seemed worlds away to  how I was feeling last week as the new financial year dawned.

Knowing the Workology Co theme for the month was mental wellness, at the start of July I decided to practice what I preach and took myself off for a three-day solo writing retreat.

I worked all day, every day, banging out words for the third draft of a novel I last worked on four years ago. 25,000 words and 16 chapters later, I’m feeling refreshed and energised and ready to face whatever the second half of 2020 throws my way.

The importance of self-care and looking after our own mental wellness when we are a busy leader, is often overlooked for more important things.

But think of it like this: As the leader of a team, you are the engine room of your team. And if the engine is not functioning properly, how can the rest of the machine?

Tips for improving your personal mental wellness:

  1. Take a quick test to ascertain how mentally well you currently are. The Black Dog institute have a great online check in tool that provides you with a downloadable report, as well as links to other resources your assessment may indicate you would benefit from.
  1. Take good care of yourself. This seems pretty straight forward, but as well as the usual diet, exercise, appropriate sleep suggestions (Beyond Blue has some great practical tips here), it is important to find time to do things that give you joy.

For me, it was the solo writing retreat mentioned at the start of the blog. I ran a straw poll on Workology Co’s Facebook page to find out what other leaders are currently doing to look after their mental wellness. The answers included:

  • Going bush for 4 days of solo hiking, phone turned off
  • Retreat to cabins by the sea
  • Kite surfing
  • Twice daily meditations (once before getting up in the day, once to mark the difference between work and home)
  • Baths, deep breathing, yoga, spending time with loved ones and animals
  • Walks on the beach
  • Visual journaling (drawing your feelings)

Whatever it is for you that sparks that joie de vivre,  block out time in your calendar to make sure it happens.

  1. Understand not all stress is bad for you

Certain levels of stress are important for optimal productivity according to the Yerkes Dodson Law aka stress curve. This HBR article explains the theory and includes a simple quiz for you to ascertain your own current stress level – and whether it is optimal or otherwise.

Teach yourself however to better cope with unproductive or unhealthy stress. This Way Up provide a free, self-paced stress course, and offer a series of COVID19 specific resources including downloadable information sheets knowing what to say, focusing on solutions and returning to work.

  1. Embrace Permah-licious into your life.

The PERMAH model of mental wellbeing is based on the version developed by the man known as the co-founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman.

The PERMAH premise is that by incorporating the six elements of the model into our lives, we work towards giving our lives fulfillment, meaning and happiness.

Sounds pretty darn good doesn’t it!

Image courtesy of

One of my dearest friends and fellow facilitator, Paula Cunniffe, coined the phrase PERMAH-licious, because she is a firm believer in the power and joy a dedicated PERMAH practice brings to our lives.

PERMAH questions to ask yourself at least weekly

I recommend you lash out and buy yourself a journal, label it your PERMAH-LICIOUS JOURNEY and start journaling your answers to the following questions regularly, every few days is ideal but at a minimum, weekly.

  1. Positive Emotion – What are you grateful for?
  2. Engagement – What brings you joy, at work and at play? When are you in your element?
  3. Relationships – What do you do to nurture your relationships? Do you have what Covey coined a healthy emotional bank balance?
  4. Meaning – name three areas in your life where you find meaning.
  5. Accomplishment – what goals have you achieved in the last 12 months; what goals do you have for the remainder of 2020? What are three steps you have taken towards achieving those goals?
  6. Health – Is there any healthy habits you could do more/less of?

Final note

As noted at the beginning of this blog, as a leader you need to make sure you look after your own mental well-being, mainly so you can continue to do your job.

But also, because being seen to look after your personal mental wellness sends a great message to your team. It says you value mental wellness, and that when you tell them to make sure their mental well-being is healthy, they know you mean it.

If you would like to chat about ways Workology Co can help you and your team understand the importance of mental wellness, and learns some simple tools like building resilience and understanding the difference between positive and negative forms of stress, reach out here.