A Healthy Perspective
When are we at our best, when we are tired, irritable, sluggish or well rested, energized and feeling good about ourselves? The answer is obvious, when we are rested, energized and feeling good about ourselves. So how can we best take care of ourselves to ensure our peak performance?
We are constantly under the stress of trying to solve problems, dealing with conflict and making critical decisions without enough information. The everyday stress in our lives takes a hard toll on our mind and body over time. If we do not protect ourselves from being consumed by this constant attack, it will eventually reduce our efficiency and ability to be effective in our role as leaders. If left unmanaged it will ultimately lead to serious relationship and health issues that will severely undermine our ability to succeed.
Poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, the lack of exercise and constant conflict will inevitably take its toll on our mind and body. Typically it sneaks up on us as part of a busy life with many demands on our time. It may start with not getting adequate sleep as we pack too much into our limited days. That may lead to having to grab some fast food on our way to our next appointment whether that be the after school soccer game, heading to the next meeting or running through the airport. We rationalize that just this time I will compromise on my rest and nutrition, but tomorrow I will do better.
Of course our busyness encroaches on our time to exercise as well as our time to calm down our thinking and process our thoughts. As a result our body responds by storing the extra calories as fat and our mind stores the unprocessed thoughts and emotions as stress and anxiety. Both of these things serve to reduce our ability to perform at our peak capacity. As we become more out of shape we become tired more easily and without time to process we become less able to deal with our emotions and fully apply our thinking. These things accumulate, reducing our ability to perform, and increasing our stress.
As we can see, these challenges build on each other and if not managed only serve to do us harm. So what are the key ingredients to maintaining our mind and body at peak performance?
More sleep tends to lead to better performance. We are more alert and have more energy when we start with a proper foundation of sleep. Studies consistently suggest that as adults we require seven to nine hours of sleep. Even though this is the most foundational part of our performance and stamina, it is the part most often compromised. A recent Gallup poll suggested that 40 % of us get less than six hours of sleep per night. Other studies have found that not getting a full cycle of sleep for even a single night can reduce the effectiveness of our decision-making by a noticeable percentage over those with a full night’s sleep.
It is important that we plan our sleep, just like we do any other part of our busy day. Without sleep as our foundation, we cannot build the structure that supports our activity and provides our success.
Food fuels our body and without proper nutrition our body becomes unable to support our activity. There are numerous programs available to us to support adopting a healthy nutritional approach to fueling our body. The most important aspect is to purposely adopt a program that works for us and then give it the proper priority. Our performance is directly impacted by the ability of our body to sustain our activity and provide the stamina we need to maintain our peak efficiency across the entirety of our scheduled day. Providing the proper nutrition in the proper amounts at the proper time needs to be scheduled into our daily routine and should receive a higher priority than any other activity as it serves to support our ability to lead.
Exercise is essential for keeping our body healthy and helping to manage stress. Exercise allows our body to maintain and build our strength and stamina as well as circulate blood to better process food and remove toxins. It allows us to increase our endurance and condition our bodies to deliver a consistent level of energy over a longer period of activity, enhancing our ability to remain fully engaged throughout the long work days. Studies have proven that those who exercise on a daily basis rated significantly higher on overall leadership effectiveness than those who do not exercise. Just like the other aspects of maintaining our physical and mental capabilities, this must be scheduled in our day and set as a priority.
Time to think and process are essential to managing our emotional state. Whether through activities like Yoga or meditations such as quiet time or prayer, time to process our thoughts allows our mind to unload and regain our perspective. Studies of leaders considered top in their area across the corporate world universally find that these leaders set aside time to process. These studies find that the benefits include achieving lower stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, creative thinking, greater productivity and even improved physical health. These are all benefits that serve our ability to lead and as such should be considered as part of our daily routine.
Considering that these are all foundational elements to supporting our ability to operate at peak performance, it only makes sense to give these the highest priority in scheduling our daily activities. Not compromising on these activities will in fact support our ability to operate at peak levels of energy and thinking and provide more effective leadership. Compromising on our foundation only serves to diminish our capability.
Here are 4 tips for maintaining a healthy perspective: