How to Add Health Back Into Your Busy Life
Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Long hours. Pressure. Lofty goals. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own well-being in the process. That’s a recipe for overall failure.
Danielle Harlan, PhD and CEO Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential says that more often than not, leaders who don’t prioritize their health either become unbearable to work with because they’re dehydrated, or tired, or stressed, or “hangry”—or they start to get sick. She’s worked with people who’ve developed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even heart disease because they’ve put work ahead of their health. She has also known people who’ve gained or lost too much weight because of work and even someone who eventually had an aneurysm.
So how do we grow, scale, lead, and build without sacrificing our health? Our research shows that many leaders struggle with staying healthy, so it’s not just you — and that the hardest part is getting into good habits.
Start Small. We enjoy the phrase “too small to fail.” This means, commit to a new habit that is ridiculously small, like doing one pushup a day. Although it may seem silly, the reality is, you can absolutely do this commitment. What you’ll find is, while you’re down there, you’ll probably do a few more, and that will give you a great sense of accomplishment. Feeling under the weather another day? You can still do one pushup. It’s fail-proof and this is how you begin great health habits. Some other ideas are: eat a piece of fruit each day, walk for five minutes every day, meditate the first three minutes of each day, read one page a day, etc.
Move Creatively. Given the sedentary nature of office life, finding ways to increase activity throughout the day can make a big difference. Try walking while talking on your phone, getting up from your desk to stretch, parking far from the door, and taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Another great idea is to combine exercise time with other activities. Use your daily walk, run, or workout to think through your day and strategize about work matters. Listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or read emails as you exercise. Exercise with your spouse or kids. Finding creative ways to combine exercise with other activities helps provide justification for the time spent moving.
Meal Plan. No, this doesn’t mean you need to become a chef or even cook at home every day. Although studies show when you cook for yourself you eat less calories; planning simply creates healthy boundaries. Seriously, take some time to create a weekly menu of what you’ll eat for each meal and then stick to it! The point is that having a routine around what you eat will make it much, much easier to eat healthy meals. Think about how many times you’ve been hungry, and not been sure what your next meal will be, so you grab something unhealthy.
Sleep. Sharon McDowell-Larsen, an Exercise Physiologist explains that a lack of sleep hurts our internal mechanisms of satiation; ghrelin, a hormone which increases appetite, goes up and leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, goes down. This increases the likelihood of reaching for calorie-rich foods. Eating calorie-rich foods, in turn, can hurt sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can also hinder exercise efforts. For example, lack of sleep increases the “perceived effort” of exercise. In other words, it makes it feel that much harder. It also negatively impacts reaction time. Inadequate sleep leaves less energy for exercise and may thus result in another excuse to skip working out altogether. Lack of exercise, in turn, contributes to lower quality sleep. It all starts with quality sleep!
Your efforts will pay off with enhanced fitness, health benefits, and increased success in coping with the demands of your busy life. We want to be the leaders that are “better at 70”, and today you can start small to make a difference in your health.
Until next time, lead on.
The Leadr Team