Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.
Can you recite the flight attendant’s safety speech? We bet you can. You know, the one that goes something like, “. . . In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. If you are traveling with a child, place your mask on first . . ..”
We found this version of the safety speech written by a flight attendant who was trying to break the monotony and win the attention of the passengers:
In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, these baggy things will drop down over your head. You stick it over your nose and mouth like the flight attendant is doing now. The bag won’t inflate, but there’s oxygen there, promise. If you are sitting next to a small child, or someone who is acting like a small child, please do us all a favor and put on your mask first. If you are traveling with two or more children, please take a moment now to decide which one is your favorite. Help that one first, and then work your way down.
As a parent, it always seems counterintuitive to put your own mask on first (not to mention picking your favorite child!). The lesson in this speech for a healthy leader is simple: Take care of yourself, so you can better serve others.
This sounds simple, but it can also feel unnatural for leaders accustomed to putting others’ needs before their own. Failing to prioritize your own health can damage your ability to lead others.
If you are ever feeling the need for “oxygen” or that there is something a bit off that you can’t quite put your finger on, think H.A.L.T. It’s a simple reminder to take care of yourself and avoid getting too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
Hungry. Being hungry compromises your peak performance and focus. Keep your body appropriately fueled to minimize stress and maximize productivity. The more nutritious food your body gets and the fewer “empty calories” you consume, the happier your body becomes; this results in a healthier metabolism and less intense hunger signals.
Also, avoid multitasking during snacks and meals. Your brain and five senses are an important part of digestion and satisfaction. If you eat while watching television or answering email, you won’t really taste your food, which can lead your body to send out hunger signals even after you’ve eaten.
Angry. Remember that positive emotions expand the possibilities you see, while negative emotions limit them. Unexpressed emotions do not go away, they just rear their heads in uglier ways. Carrying around anger will inevitably deteriorate relationships and your own body.
The key is to vent your emotions in constructive ways: Talk feelings out with a trusted friend, write in your journal, use a creative outlet, exercise, meditate, or pray.
Lonely. Humans are fundamentally social creatures . . . yes, even those of you who are introverts. Don’t misconstrue your social media friends for real interactions that make you feel connected, wanted, and cared for.
Reach out to those at work, in your community, at your place of worship, from your alma mater—any place that feels comfortable for you. Choose to be present, to share words, laughter, and real-life connections.
Tired. If food is fuel for your body, then sleep is the pit crew providing needed maintenance. Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of wartime torture for good reason—it works. The average person requires seven hours of sleep per night to be at his/her best.
Sleep replenishes. It serves as a cognitive car wash, restoring and refreshing your mind, body, and spirit. Take the long view and get the rest you need so you can sustain your productivity.
Healthy leaders are generally, well, healthy: They eat right, exercise, get regular checkups, read a lot, engage in hobbies, and have friends outside of work. It’s what fuels their focus, creativity, and drive while they are on the job.
Staying in balance physically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally, and recognizing the four H.A.L.T. triggers will help you stay at your best. Additionally, taking care of yourself sets a healthy example for your employees. If you care for yourself, then you’ll be at your best to help your team be at its best . . . and thrive.