Put On Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

Increase Energy

Leading during uncertain times drains your energy. Difficult decisions and tough conversations cause stress and anxiety for all leaders. Here are three ways to increase energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence when leading through uncertainty.

Anyone who has taken a flight has watched the safety demonstration where oxygen masks drop from the ceiling when the plane loses cabin pressure. You are instructed to put on your own mask before helping others.

This is a great metaphor for leaders during uncertain times like a financial crisis or a global pandemic.

Leading during difficult circumstances requires us to dig deep into our energy reserves. Therefore, we must put on our own masks first and prioritize lifestyle choices that will sustain our “leadership oxygen.”

Here are three ways to care for yourself to increase energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence.

1. Get Quality Sleep

The amount of sleep you get, and the quality of that sleep, directly affects your ability to regulate your emotions and think clearly – skills that need to remain extra sharp when interacting with people under stress.

Without enough sleep, you will be more easily upset, less patient, and less empathetic. Even worse, you will be less aware of being emotionally triggered. You may say or do things that you later regret.

Sleep boosts your awareness of emotions and your ability to regulate them. However, not all sleep is created equal. During a typical night, you go through cycles of deep sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The restorative benefits of sleep happen during the REM cycles.

Alcohol and other sedatives may help you go to sleep faster, but they inhibit REM sleep, impacting your mental and emotional performance the next day.

Getting enough quality sleep is the first step to increase energy and prepare yourself for the challenges of the day ahead.

2. Exercise

Exercise makes you feel good. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that increase energy, improve your mood, and reduce stress.

A bad mood “puts a dark cloud over every thought, feeling, and experience you have,” writes Dr. Travis Bradberry in Emotional Intelligence 2.0. This distorted view of reality can impact your ability to make good decisions.

Engaging in regular exercise improves your ability to cope with the demands of leadership, making you more effective.

In turbulent times, leaders need every advantage we can get.

You don’t have to run a marathon or lift weights. A 30-minute daily walk can make you happier, healthier, and better equipped to lead those who depend on you.

3. Learn Something New

Exposing yourself to new ideas will change your perspective and multiply your options for solving problems. 

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

Many of the problems we face during a crisis require creative solutions and innovative thinking.

Learning something new will jump-start your creativity by allowing you to approach your problem from a different perspective.

Try reading a business book from an adjacent field. If you’re in sales, read a book about marketing. If you’re a product designer, read a book about customer service.

Podcasts provide free insights from industry leaders on current industry topics and trends. Learn principles of influence from a psychologist or crisis communication from a public relations consultant.

Spend 30 minutes per day investing in yourself, and you’ll come back to your place of leadership with new ideas, sharper skills, and a different perspective.

BONUS: Double your efficiency and listen to a podcast while you exercise.

Put On Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

Our first instinct is often to help those around us before we focus on ourselves. 

In an airplane emergency, it may seem counterintuitive to put on your own mask when a child next to you needs help. However, ensuring your own consciousness during the emergency means you’re available to help the child with her mask and the events that come after.

Put on your own mask first. Get your “leadership oxygen” flowing to increase energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence. You’ll be more effective leading others when you’re in great shape yourself!

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