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Look After Yourself

|  —  30/11/23

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had many conversations with people who are not at their best. They’re tired, stressed and overwhelmed. Some are navigating big changes in their workplaces and job uncertainty. Others are struggling with exhaustion after a long and challenging year. Their tolerance is shot and they’re getting frustrated and snappy. To be able to show up well as we end the year, manage your own stress under pressure, and lead through change, you need to look after yourself.

Think about the support you can put in place at work, at home and in your social life to help you navigate this stressful period. There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Every person is different. I’ve listed some examples below to prompt your thinking, but by no means is it exhaustive. You need to consider what’s right for you. And the key is to put them in place proactively, now, hopefully before you REALLY need them. Don’t wait to not be ok to reach out for help. If you know change or a challenging time is approaching, set those supports up now.

Self-care in challenging times is not a luxury, it’s essential.

If you’re a leader and you go down, in many cases, so will your team. Pushing through is not a sustainable option. Sure, resilience and a stoic approach can be powerful (and necessary at times), but looking after yourself is crucial too. To lead at your best, you need to be at your best.

Here are some suggestions that may help:


Hold regular leadership meetings to talk about LEADERSHIP – both of self and others. Meet regularly with other leaders affected by challenge or change to specifically focus on LEADERSHIP. This meeting is not about the nuts and bolts of the change itself or where the process is up to, but rather focussed on the people bit.

Hire a mentor or coach.

Create an out-of-hours communication strategy. Have a conversation with your team about how you want to be communicated with out of hours. For example, tell your people if there is an emergency or something that needs a response, they need to phone or text message you, not email. This will help you to be able to keep out of your email at home when you need to disconnect.

Engage with your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if your organisation has one. You don’t have to be unwell to get support.

Put boundaries in place. Ensure work doesn’t creep into all aspects of your life by putting some boundaries in place, such as no work on Sundays, or after 8pm. Being able to disconnect and recharge is critical.

Schedule your priorities, don’t prioritise your schedule (thanks Stephen Covey). When leading through change it’s easy to become reactionary and frantic. Take time each day, or each Friday, to put the most important things into your calendar for the next day or week. That includes putting lunch in as an appointment and scheduling time for connection. A common frustration of leaders during times of change is that they don’t have time to do the people bit because tasks and management take over. Schedule 30 to 60 minutes a day for people stuff.

Use your out of office when you’re in meetings all day or off-site, even if you’re still working. Include a brief explanation of what you’re doing and then set expectations for when you can likely respond. For example: I am in meetings all day so my response to email may be delayed. If the matter is urgent, please text my mobile on xxxxxxxx.


  • Get enough sleep. The research on the impact of sleep on our cognitive and physical functioning is unequivocal. Without enough sleep you may as well be leading drunk.
  • Eat well. Boring, I know. But binging on junk food because you’re too stressed and time poor will likely see you crash and burn. You need to fuel your body well to ensure your brain functions at its best and you have the energy to see the change through.
  • Exercise. For your mental health more than your physical health. Get outside if you can and move in whatever way works for you – be it team sport, walking, running, lifting weights, whatever! Exercise is a great form of stress relief – it not only burns off cortisol (the stress hormone) but also gets the endorphins (happy hormones) flowing. Bonus points if you can do it outside in nature.
  • Find healthy ways to process your emotions and turn off. This looks different for everyone but is not about numbing out with alcohol, drugs, social media or smoking. Think more about putting your phone away at a certain time each night, playing with your pets, watching your favourite TV show, and listening to your favourite music.
  • Ask for support from your nearest and dearest. Speak to your family and friends about the pressure the change is going to put you under and ask for their help and support to help you manage your wellbeing. This is also a good opportunity to set expectations with your loved ones for the change period. If your availability is going to be limited or you’re likely to be distracted and quieter, let them know this.

They say the festive season is the most wonderful time of the year – and it can be – but only if you take care of you. I encourage you to give yourself that gift this Christmas.

Leah Mether is a communication and soft skills trainer obsessed with making the people part of leadership and work life easier.

With more than 15 years’ experience working with thousands of clients, and an acclaimed book to her name, Leah knows what it takes to communicate under pressure. Like you, she knows the challenge of conflict, personality clashes, and difficult conversations.

Leah is renowned for her practical, engaging, straight-shooting style. Utilising her Five Cs® model of communication, she helps leaders and teams shift from knowing to doing, and radically improve their effectiveness.

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