A couple months ago, I wrote about How Leadership Begins with the Self, on the importance of self-care and the impact that it has on leadership. Following from this post, I have started a series of tips to rejuvenate each aspect of the self. This week I wanted to take a closer look at mental energy, and give my tips on how to rejuvenate this area of your life. You’ll notice that these are dominated by nutritional habits, which is also a strong reminder of how intertwined our bodies, minds, and hearts are.
Some of these recommendations you may have heard before, and likely in other contexts: but I encourage you to consider them with a fresh perspective, taking some time to contemplate how incorporating habits that bolster and uplift you can be a vital step in improving your capacities in all areas of your life: personal, family, and business.
Whether you are struggling with feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed, or simply want to start something new, consider adopting at least one of the following tips to renew your energy and bring a refreshed outlook to your work in the family enterprise:
1. Manage Attention & Distractions
Mental energy is also a question of managing our attention (which is different from time management). What are you allowing yourself to focus on? Consider your distractions. If you are mentally grounded, you can shift from being reactive and scattered to being focused and attentive.
To this end, I often suggest starting the day taking 5-10 minutes to focus on yourself before making yourself available to others. Those first 10 minutes can be used to focus on what is important to you so you can prioritize and set your intentions.
In the world of back-to-back Zoom meetings, people are reporting increased levels of fatigue. If you’re working from home, there are limited opportunities for even the quick breaks you had walking down the hall from your office to a meeting room nearby. Consider getting away from 60 min meetings. Start them at 10 minutes past the hour or finish at 10 minutes to the top of the hour. Your brain (and your participants) will appreciate the chance to recharge and refocus.
2. Omega-3 Oil
If you’re feeling like your brain is foggy, you're a bit moody or you find it hard to concentrate, you might be lacking Omega-3 oil. Try boosting your diet with a tablespoon of chopped raw walnuts or add a tablespoon of chia seeds, flaxseed or hemp hearts to your smoothy or your salad. A cup (or handful) of raw kale, spinach, brussel sprouts or a cup of cooked wild rice are other great boosts for your brain. You might not see a change right away, but small daily changes like adding Omega-3-rich foods can reap large returns in just a few months.
Magnesium is also beneficial for helping fight the effects of stress like insomnia, irritability, anxiety, heart palpitations and eye twitches. The recommended minimum amount of magnesium needed is 320 mg daily for women and 420 mg daily for men. You can find magnesium in foods like brazil nuts, raw almonds, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and cooked black beans as well as some of the foods listed above: spinach, walnuts, ground flaxseed and hemp seeds. Replace white rice with cooked quinoa or brown rice and your body will thank you.
If you’re more interested in magnesium supplements, make sure they contain magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate which the body can easily absorb.
4. Breaks & Exercise
Taking a break and getting the blood flowing is great for the brain. Movement is key: it doesn’t have to be an intense cardio workout. Start wherever you’re at. Whether it’s taking a break for a brisk walk, bouncing for a few minutes on a rebounder (a mini trampoline), doing some yoga, or dancing in your kitchen, mental energy improves when your body has adequate exercise AND adequate downtime to restore.
You may not be a person who needs 8 hours of sleep to function optimally, but the time you go to sleep makes a difference. Falling asleep well before midnight generally leads to better quality sleep. Moreover, it’s important to unplug from devices at least 90 minutes before you go to bed to give your brain a chance to unwind. Blue light from screens keeps the brain activated - it tricks the brain into thinking that it is daylight, and prevents it from producing melatonin, that essential sleep hormone. Even if you have colour adjustment on your devices, the overall point is to let your mind rest so that when you head to bed it is ready to sleep. To that end, don’t be the leader who sends out late night emails. Model good boundary management and allow yourself and your employees to “switch off” well before bed.
Our minds are also affected by what we put into our bodies. I can’t overstate how important it is to stay hydrated. Hydration is so pivotal in so many areas, that I elaborated at length on strategies for incorporating it into your practice to boost your physical energy in my last post. As a brief reminder, your goal should be to drink half of your “ideal body weight” in ounces - if you don’t know how much that is, just focus on drinking consistently throughout the day. Get a good-sized (500ml, for example) reusable water bottle or a favourite cup, set a refill goal, and stick to it. Refilling your water cup or bottle can also be a helpful way to incorporate regular movement into your work days. For variations that keep this level of hydration interesting, read my tips in How to Rejuvenate your Physical Energy.
Starting with even one of these healthy habits can have a huge effect on your mental well-being, and be a positive force in your ability to lead in your family enterprise. Small, incremental, and joy-filled changes can be the key pieces to living, working, and relating to those around you with greater presence, a more positive impact and more fulfillment overall.
Laura Barton is a Family Enterprise consultant and leadership coach with over 20 years experience. She specializes in improving communication, strengthening team dynamics, and building relationships across family enterprise systems. By incorporating holistic wellness with her practice, Laura facilitates the comprehensive personal and professional wellbeing of those that she serves, and fosters leadership efficiency.