Why It’s Important for High-Performing Leaders to Prioritize Self-Care

I’ve spent decades coaching and noticed the most successful executives and leaders take time for self-care while balancing stress. Their key to success is more about attitude than time.

Your ability to change your mindset and attitude has a lot to do with self-care. I believe whether you’re up or down in life or rich or poor, you can change your situation for the better. Just remember that you can’t change much if you’re depleted of energy, self-worth, or rest. Feeling unhealthy, unhappy, or lacking mental focus won’t help either. It’s crucial to constantly work on yourself—by doing so, you’ll be able to bring your best self forward to effectively help and serve others.

Executives and leaders that prioritize self-care are happier, more productive, and more engaged. One CEO said it best in a Harvard Business Review article:

“Self-care is no longer a luxury; it’s part of the job.”

Why do some leaders ignore self-care?

If self-care is so important, then why do some leaders turn a blind eye? Below are a few reasons:

  1. They think it’s a luxury
  2. They think it’s a sign of weakness
  3. They don’t have the time for it

Carving time out of a busy schedule can be a challenge, but too many leaders are stressed and burnt out. When this happens there’s a release of the stress hormone that puts your body into fight or flight mode. Our emotional part of our brain, called the amygdala, kicks in and diverts the oxygen and blood flow away from our thinking brain called the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for logic, reasoning, problem solving and willpower).

It might be a little uncomfortable in the beginning to take time out of your day to practice self-care, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.

How to practice self-care

If you want to be innovative and creative, and solve challenges that are causing you to feel pressure, you need to take breaks and manage your energy and stress. It’s important to disengage in order to re-engage more effectively. Even short breaks improve your level of productivity and focus.

According to an article on leadership best practices, it stated:

“Specifically, a healthy diet has been linked to better moods, higher energy levels, and lower levels of depression. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow, boosting both learning and memory. Getting good sleep has been linked to increased focus, improved cognitive function (including creativity and innovation), greater capacity for learning, and improved empathy.”

Adam Grant researched the topic of self-care in his book, Give & Take, and he shares how selflessness at work leads to exhaustion—and ends up hurting the very people you want to help. There’s a time when giving and generosity can go bad.

Grant talks about teachers as a great example. Most teachers are givers as Grant stated in an Inc. magazine article:

“We love teachers who are selfless, but [the research shows that] the most selfless teachers ended up being the least engaged in the classroom–and their students did the worst on standardized achievement tests.”

The selfless teachers put everything into teaching and didn’t allow extra time for themselves or their family. There were other teachers that were givers, but took time for their family and themselves—They didn’t give all of their time to students. Grant shared, “They felt less altruistic, but they actually helped more. Their giving was energizing instead of exhausting.”

The “less altruistic” teachers decided to do things differently and did the following:

  • Focused on the team
  • Took time to sleep, eat well, and exercise
  • Worked on their strengths and delegated responsibilities that were not their area of expertise
  • Hired great team players

Here are some quick self-care tips and tricks:

  • Revamp your workspace
    Check out these popular Marie Kondo videos on how to simplify your setup.
  • Clean out your mind
    The things from your past that are holding you back may originate from your family and your judgment around others. Let go or find a way to confront it, learn from it, and then let it go. Learn from your past mistakes, while remembering that you don’t have to keep reliving them. If you’re looking for a fun read around this topic, check out The Work by Byron Katie.
  • Take time for just you
    Having space from your partner, family, and work is re-energizing. Work on your strengths and focus on what brings you joy.
  • Prioritize wellness
    Remember to rest, exercise, and have a healthy diet.

How do you do things that are good for you when you don’t feel like it?

  • Set a schedule
  • Be flexible with your time
  • Make time for short meditations or workouts
  • Go for a walk
  • Take time for appreciation as a bare minimum

When a leader practices self-care and values it, his or her team will follow creating a more engaged culture. Join me in prioritizing better self-care. Have fun with it and enjoy what you’re doing in life.  I just redid my office space and removed a lot of clutter in my life, and it feels fantastic. I’ve started pilates and yoga again and committed to walking my dog and meditating more. Now, when I start my workday, I feel more productive and focused.


I’d love to hear how you’re practicing self-care. Share your story in the comments section below.

Bobi Seredich is the Co-Founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence in Phoenix, Arizona. She can be reached at bobi@swiei.com.