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8 Self-Care Best Practices for Managers

Self-care is essential for leadership as it supports physical and mental health. Learn 10 self-care best practices for managers.

By Kate Dagher  •   August 10, 2022  •   8 min read

The concept of self-care has been trending a lot in the last few years. While some may look at self-care as overexaggerated or difficult to take seriously, taking care of your mental health is essential to lead a happy and fulfilled life. Self-care for managers is especially important because individuals in leadership roles are often spread quite thin and have trouble prioritizing their well-being. Investing in self-care as a manager means that you respect your team enough to show up to work as the best version of yourself, with a healthy mindset. 

It can sometimes be difficult to know where to begin if self-care is something that you’ve neglected for a while now. Often, this neglect comes from putting others first instead of yourself. Other times, self-care only becomes a practice when leaders are facing considerable stress and experiencing burnout. Like all other things, self-care is most effective when you’re proactive about it and when it’s practiced regularly. To guide you in the right direction, this article will outline why self-care is important for managers and provide you with 10 best practices for optimizing self-care. 

Why is self-care important for managers? 

1Encourages more productivity

Practicing self-care is important for managers because it encourages you to be more productive. When you take the time to put your mind in a positive place which is at ease, it allows you to show up at work more prepared to take on the day and the challenges it may bring. Small self-care habits such as creating a morning routine that includes either exercise, reading, or simply having a coffee before heading out to the office can have a huge impact on your productivity. Likewise, an end of day routine will help you wind down and sleep better so that you can feel more energized the next day. 

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2Enhances decision-making abilities

Self-care can also help your decision-making abilities. Because self-care helps manage stress, this practice allows individuals to think more rationally and more clearly. This reduction in stress is essential because the long-term effects of stress include burnout and negative impacts on cognition, meaning more difficulty making decisions. Often, decisions we make when we feel overwhelmed, under pressure, or tired differ greatly from ones we make when we’re feeling level-headed and aware. When you engage in self-care practices that reduce stress and anxiety, you support your own ability to solve problems and make decisions at work. 

3Improves overall well-being

Your overall well-being is improved when you engage in self-care practices. Focusing on the things that put you back in touch with yourself and your values brings you alignment and better life satisfaction. Self-care means that you have a stronger ability to focus on things outside of your career, like your friends, family, hobbies, interests, and other priorities that are often pushed aside to focus on work. Because self-care practices focus on quieting the mind and calming the body, you reap both physical and psychological benefits when you take the time to truly take care of yourself. 

8 ways managers can practice self-care 

1Understand the signs of burnout

Self-care is not something that you should only engage in when you feel completely burned out. Before burnout occurs, understand and notice the signs so you can stop it at its source and take some time to unwind. Burnout is a negative mental health state that arises as the result of unceasing, unmanaged workplace stress. Specific types of burnout exist—such as meeting burnout, which is chronic stress due to the frequency, duration, content, and design of meetings. Subsequently, meeting burnout creates a breakdown between the person and their organizational responsibilities. First, notice the signs of burnout and next, understand the specific source of your burnout so you can adjust your work day accordingly. 

2Spend some time outside 

Research has demonstrated time and again that spending time outside improves mood, concentration, and physical health. Taking the time to connect with nature reduces negative feelings such as stress and frustration, and decreases depressive moods while boosting positive emotions. Taking some time to disconnect from your workstation and spend time outside will allow you to unwind and come back to work feeling more prepared to take on your responsibilities. If you find it challenging to remember to take a walk or get a breath of fresh air, schedule this time outside into your calendar every few hours and make it a priority. We guarantee that you’ll notice a difference. 

3Delegate tasks 

Many managers have fallen victim to thinking they can fully manage their never-ending to-do list with no support because of their impressive productivity levels and work ethic. Unfortunately, taking on everything by yourself and adopting this kind of a mentality often leads individuals to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and burned out. Choosing to delegate tasks to other members of your team on whom you can rely is an important skill to master. Delegating empowers your team members while also building trust with one another; it also supports the personal development of individuals as they’re given new tasks to accomplish while furthering their particular skills and competencies. What’s more, you can use a tool like Fellow to track action items so even when you’re delegating tasks, you can keep an eye on your team members’ progress and updates. 

4Set realistic goals

Be sure to set realistic self-care goals for yourself. If you set too many, you may have trouble committing to them and fall right back into old habits of putting your job and other people before your own well-being. If you set too few, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice any difference at all. It’s a good idea to start with one self-care practice for the morning and one for the evening. These goals can be as little as reading for 15 minutes in the morning and disconnecting from technology 30 minutes before bed. Once you feel like you’ve mastered your new self-care practices, you can increase the time you spend engaging in them or add in a few more, depending on what you feel like you need the most. 

Pro tip: Stay on top of your goals by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your OKRs in Fellow’s Objectives tool.

5Time block downtime in your schedule 

Time blocking shouldn’t just be used for writing down which kinds of work-related tasks you’ll be working on. You can use your calendar to also block downtime in your calendar! In a recent article by the Harvard Business Review, the author elucidates this idea of time blocking for self-care, explaining: 

“Make time in your agenda. Once you’ve come up with a plan, put it in your calendar to make it official! If you’re not sure what exactly you want to do, you can start by simply identifying two 10-minute blocks every day, setting your alarm, and then choosing a new self-care activity to try out during each time block.”

6Keep yourself fueled 

This tip may seem simple, but it’s important to mention nonetheless. Make sure that you’re keeping yourself fueled while you’re at work—this means taking adequate breaks from the computer, moving your body (whether during a lunchtime workout or a 10-minute walk), eating nutritious foods, and listening to what your mind and body need to thrive at work. We’ve all had days where we choose to eat lunch at our desks and go without a break because we’re simply “just too busy,” but avoid making this a habit at all costs. It isn’t human to work the entire day without taking the time to fuel your body, whether by resting or having a bite to eat. 

7Be self-aware 

Being self-aware is crucial to developing self-care practices that work for you. In a recent article by Forbes, the author explains how to do this and which kinds of questions you should be asking yourself to develop your self-awareness: 

  • “Identify the self-care behaviors that work for you. Reflect on what you value and need in your everyday life and during times of high stress. Figure out what acts of self-care can help you achieve this. Sometimes this means setting boundaries.
  • “How do I speak to myself? Does my inner voice affirm or criticize me? How we speak to ourselves is critical…. Am I dwelling on the positive or negative aspects of today’s events?” 

8Establish boundaries 

Boundaries are important as they help you prioritize self-care in your daily life. Knowing how to say no is an extremely important skill to master as a manager, because these boundaries protect you from feeling overwhelmed and burned out. Time is a non-renewable resource, so it’s important that you’re picky with what you agree to and what you choose to say no to. In management, perfectionistic tendencies often get in the way of establishing a good work-life balance and result in a lack of boundaries. In short, striving to be the very best is self-defeating; choosing when to meet your own expectations and when to exceed them requires a balance. 

Parting advice 

Self-care for managers is essential for strong leadership, good productivity, and solid decision-making abilities. Taking care of yourself and engaging in activities that promote your well-being will actually improve your efficiency, which is why it’s so important to prioritize your self-care. Start by creating small self-care habits and make a commitment to yourself to stick with them. After you feel like you’ve established these habits, you can choose to engage in even more self-care practices to help you feel level-headed and ready to take on your day as a leader. If you found this article to be helpful or interesting, be sure to share it with a fellow manager, friend, or colleague!

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