Leaders at every level are vulnerable to chronic stress. We’re sincere in our desire to burn energy to accomplish our goals and help people. However, over time, depleted “batteries” mean our decisions are less effective, our creativity drops, our emotional resilience fades, and our endurance becomes pitiful.
Leaders need to recharge. Your organization and the people you serve need you at your best. Here are three suggested ways to recharge:
1. Extend your sleep by 30 minutes per night.
Many leaders get into seasons of chronic sleep deprivation – not all-nighters, but just a little short each day. You’ll know this is true for you if you need to sleep more on the weekends to “catch up.” A typical sleep phase is 20 minutes. Set your alarm to give yourself an additional 30 minutes of sleep time, which is enough to carry you through another sleep phase. It only takes a little more discipline to find 30 minutes in your day, and the payoff is enormous.
2. Breathe deeply for two minutes.
When problems are coming in high and hot, or you’ve been switching between many small tasks and conversations, take two minutes and focus on breathing deeply. Breath in slowly, breathe out slowly. You don’t need any special program or ritual to do this. Just focus on your breathing. Tell your busy, anxious mind that you’ll start on a new problem in only two minutes. Your heart rate will slow down. You’ll find it easier to concentrate. Getting more oxygen in your brain will help you make better decisions. [Bonus: do this two-minute breathing ritual before you go into a difficult meeting or important presentation.]
3. Walk in natural surroundings.
There is something – difficult to describe but commonly experienced – uniquely refreshing about walking in a natural setting. Strolling in a garden and focusing on the sounds, smells, and sights. Listening to the wind in the leaves of trees. Relishing the gurgle of a small creek, or the sound of waves lapping on the shoreline. These do more to recharge you than hours working on gym equipment indoors. Get outside, no matter the weather, for a few minutes each day.
There are other ways to recharge, too. Become a student of yourself, so you develop greater sensitivity to when your energy levels are low. Try these approaches, and develop others which help you in particular. (I know one talented leader who gets recharged by sitting in a quiet area and knitting.)