How is prioritizing health linked to leadership? Leadership is fundamentally about being able to commit to a goal, persist through adversity, and inspire others along the way. However, in order to make well-informed decisions, you must have a clear mind. To stay resilient in stressful times, you need energy. To remain steadfast in your purpose, you need emotional strength. In light of this, it only makes sense that a strong leader would also be health-conscious. 

In reality, the path to health and wellness is an area leaders struggle with the most. As responsibilities grow, self-care often takes a back seat to other more “pressing” priorities. Over time, this leads to an exhausted, difficult to work with individual. Putting work before health can even lead to illness and disease if left unchecked. As admirable as it is to put forth your best effort, it should not come at the expense of your health and wellness.  

Being truly healthy encompasses many facets of your life. Optimal wellness is sustained by five pillars: physical, nutritional, emotional, financial, and intellectual. Each one of these pillars of health and wellness is important in their own right, but they also work synergistically. 

The Five Pillars of Health and Wellness 

1. Nutritional 

Although nutrition is intimately linked to physical health, it needs to be represented by its own pillar. A balanced diet feeds your body and mind, helping you cope with pressures, maintain focus and sustain overall wellbeing. It also helps you avoid health conditions that produce discomfort, prevent you from doing your job effectively and hinder your ability to enjoy the most meaningful moments in life.  

The key is to consume high-quality, unprocessed foods. Consuming whole foods is the best way to ensure you are getting the food in its natural state – rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. When you fuel your body with whole foods, you will notice a substantial improvement in your overall performance. In turn, you will also strengthen the other four pillars of health and wellness. 

Tips: 

  • Educate yourself about the differences between macronutrients and micronutrients. 
  • Minimize your sugar intake and avoid eating processed foods. 
  • Use supplements as needed to restore essential nutrients to appropriate levels. 

2. Physical 

When they hear “health and wellness” most people immediately think of exercise. To experience complete physical wellness, your body needs even more than movement – it also needs rest. Inadequate sleep leaves little energy for exercise. In turn, irregular or a complete lack of exercise contributes to lower quality sleep.  

One of the biggest secrets of successful people is that they wake up before everyone else. Why? Early risers give themselves a gift by beginning the day in peace and calm. These moments alone lead to dramatically more productive days, time to exercise their body through fitness and greater feelings of optimism, satisfaction, and creativity.  

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. 

Tips: 

  • Boost your physical and mental health by taking 10-minute walks throughout the day. 
  • Try to cut off screen time at least one hour before bed for optimal sleep. 
  • Consider swapping out your traditional office desk for a standing desk.

3. Emotional 

Feelings are the hardest dimension of wellness to manage. We experience such a wide variety of emotions throughout each day – sometimes at the same time. Emotional wellness is the ability to navigate those feelings, understand why you are feeling the way you are, and decide how you are going to respond. When you are strong emotionally, you are able to handle both positive and negative feelings and learn and grow from experiences. 

It can also inspire self-care, positivity, balance, relaxation, stress reduction, and the development of inner strength. You are better equipped to handle the ups and downs of life and channel your emotions into productive, positive feelings. In short, achieving emotional balance lays the foundation for overall health and wellbeing. 

Tips: 

  • Build healthy relationships by establishing and preserving firm boundaries.  
  • Give yourself permission to make self-care a priority. 
  • Identify those who support you and turn to them when the going gets tough. 

4. Financial 

While financial wellness can be one of the least exciting dimensions to address, it plays a huge role in optimal health and prosperity. According to research, seventy-two percent of Americans are stressed about money and one-third say money is a source of conflict in their relationships. In addition, well over half of both women (68%) and men (56%) say they experience disrupted sleep at least occasionally over money concerns. It is safe to say a big part of a wellness-centered lifestyle should be carefully managing your finances and setting yourself up for a prosperous future. 

When you work on improving your financial standing, it frees up your mental space and valuable time to focus on other things. Breaking through a tough financial time will also make you feel empowered and boost your self-esteem. With your finances in order, you will feel inspired to tackle and achieve other goals. Your physical health will also improve since controlled spending and increased savings lighten the burden on everyday life.  

Tips: 

  • Choose the budgeting method that is right for you (e.g. debt-snowball method). 
  • Take advantage of automated savings and investment tools. Get into the habit of saving.  
  • Build up – and always maintain – an emergency fund to protect your budget and savings. 

5. Intellectual 

Intellectual wellness involves continually engaging your mind. It means cultivating a growth mindset, which revolves around the belief that you are capable of improving your intelligence, ability, and performance. It involves expanding your knowledge, building new skills, and discovering what challenges you and helps you grow. It is a journey of self-discovery.  

There is a reason highly effective and successful people make it a point to never stop learning – life-long learning is the single best investment of your time. Doing so helps you to stay relevant, indispensable, and thrive in the ever-changing world we live in. It can also significantly improve your life, career, and relationships.  

Tips: 

  • Make it a habit to regularly write down your thoughts or journal.  
  • Set aside time each day to read for personal enjoyment. 
  • Take continuing education classes or attend a lecture. 

As a leader, you need the skills to engage others, navigate through challenges, and effectively manage change and complexity. To reach your fullest potential, you have to be functioning at your absolute best – which is why prioritizing the pillars of health and wellness is so important. When you focus on how your health and leadership merge, it not only benefits you personally, but it also strengthens your business and your team.  

 

Sources: 

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/04/money-stress 

https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/money-conflict 

https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/poll-women-more-sleepless-nights.php?mod=article_inline