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6 Ways to Turn Your Health and Wellbeing Into a Leadership Asset!

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Health is important in its own right, but how do we move from health as an important-but-separate area of our lives to the idea that health is an asset for work?

I'm thrilled that media and corporate wellness programs have exposed most of us to the idea that being healthy has value. Establishing this in our collective consciousness and corporate cultures is, without a doubt, a win. It's also great to see that supporting employee health is becoming a part of the contract between employees and employers—"we care about your wellbeing, and we'll take care of you," one that's mutually beneficial to employees and company bottom lines.

This is all great stuff! But it's table stakes. If you're like us here at HU-X, you want to do more than show up and not miss work. You want to bring your A-game every day and maintain that A-game throughout the day. So, how can health and wellbeing be an asset for effective leadership?

Neuroscience, nutritional science, and health psychology can tell us a lot about health as an asset for leadership. Here are six ways to begin building and using that asset:

  1. Boost productivity with sleep. Aim to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each day (yeah, yeah… we see you rolling your eyes, parents with young kids) or… take a short nap at work!! According to several studies, more than 35% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep. The economic implications of lack of sleep (which is associated with 50% slower reaction time, 13% higher mortality rate, impared judgement, loss of productivity, accidents, etc.) is costing the US over $400 billion per year. Recent studies have shown that a short 15 or 20min nap can serve as an impactful performance enhancer. Best time to take a nap is typically at 2pm, right before the post-lunch dip in energy. Better sleep → better health and wellbeing → better leadership.

  2. Leverage the physiology of focus. Beyond sleep, there are many other ways to increase your focus, but let’s talk about two biological basics, hunger and thirst. These are survival fundamentals, and when we're dehydrated or our blood sugar drops, our brain immediately drops focus on "higher-order" tasks like work to attend to these basic needs. Research shows that dehydration of even just 2 hours can impact executive function, attention, motor coordination, and reaction time. To keep your brain online and performing well, sip water throughout the day. You should also avoid sugary foods and drinks that will spike and then crash your blood sugar. Some of my favorite snacks are berries and walnuts which are shown to enhance some cognitive capabilities. Make some of these changes and you'll have more even and balanced focus and energy throughout the day.

  3. Build a bench of beverages. In addition to water, there are several beverages to help you focus that you can bring off the bench and put in the game. The key here is that you have a few beverages that you can use when the time is right. For example, if you need a jolt of intense focus, a strong espresso or cup of coffee might be the ticket. But, if that's your every morning (or multiple times per day) go-to, then you'll build a tolerance, and it won't work as well. Green tea has stress-buffering effects with lower caffeine than coffee to deliver a little boost with a stress-reducing benefit. Mixing green tea in with coffee helps keep your caffeine tolerance low. Sometimes, just a little fizz in the afternoon can help you shake off a dip in energy, too. Try seltzer or kombucha to see whether that does the trick.

  4. Enhance your mood with food! It turns out that having a “gut feeling” is not as conceptual as it may seem. Research over the past few years has shown a direct link between gut bacteria and feelings of anxiety and depression. Some research is suggesting that consumption of probiotics can have a powerful impact on your wellbeing. Good sources of probiotics: pickles, miso soup, sauerkraut, and (of course) yogurt.

  5. Affirm key personal areas before performing. The next time you're heading to a presentation, challenging meeting, or difficult conversation, reflect on an area of your life that's really important to you, like family, religion, art and music, etc. Affirming this important part of yourself has been shown to reduce psychological and physiological stress in an upcoming performance. The less stress you have, the more capacity you have to listen to and communicate the things that matter.

  6. Stop visiting the fight-flight-freeze triangle. Whenever we get stressed, our brains and bodies go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. We're quicker to anger, procrastination, or analysis paralysis in this mode, none of which promote focus and productivity or inspire team members. One way to encourage your "rest and digest" system (the opposite of the fight, flight, or freeze system) and create better conditions for focus, compassion, and wellbeing is to stimulate your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body and a connection between our organs and brain that facilitates calm. To stimulate the vagus nerve and promote stress relief, splash cold water on your face, apply ice to your neck, slow down your breathing and take "belly breaths," gargle, or hum (try it!).

Bonus tip: Go beyond these tips to find out what works for you. Out-of-the-box solutions are good for the average person, but you're not the average person. You're an individual with a unique set of circumstances and preferences. What do you really know about what makes you tick or stumble? What experiments and actions come to mind as you consider that question?

At HU-X, we are good at helping you implement the things you already know you want to do for your health and leadership, and we're also good at helping you discover and explore new actions to take. Visit our website to learn about working with us.

Will Welch, M.S, A-CFHC, NBC-HWC

Board-certified health coach and leadership development coach


No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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