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How to look after yourself (and your organisation) during COVID-19


6 April 2020 at 8:10 am
Maggie Coggan
Leading through a crisis can take its toll. So we take a look at some ways you can refocus and take care of yourself  


Maggie Coggan | 6 April 2020 at 8:10 am


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How to look after yourself (and your organisation) during COVID-19
6 April 2020 at 8:10 am

Leading through a crisis can take its toll. So we take a look at some ways you can refocus and take care of yourself  

During these uncertain times, a lot of pressure has fallen on the shoulders of the executive leaders to not only keep their organisations afloat, but be a calm, guiding light for their staff and customers.   

There’s been a lot of talk around how critical it is that you look after your mental wellbeing, because you can’t actually help anyone unless you help yourself first. But how do you actually do that when things are so uncertain? 

It’s an issue that Gabriel Edwards from Fisher Leadership, knows all about. We sat down with her for some advice.  

Hey Gabriel. Things are pretty stressful right now. Why is it so important that executive leaders look after themselves? 

We’re all facing something we have never faced before and we’re all experiencing feelings like fear, anxiety, loss, anger, insecurity. And as such, we’re naturally looking at our leaders to guide us, to reassure us, to keep us informed. But I think we also forget that these leaders are in the same boat as us and are actually experiencing incredible levels of stress and anxiety. Some will be losing confidence in their capacity to lead and respond in a situation they have never even imagined.

So because we need them to lead us, they need to be mentally and emotionally grounded. 

What are some simple things that our leaders can do to be mentally healthy?   

It’s a matter of looking at the core pillars of good mental health and actually carving out time for them. Some of the most important things are connecting with others, particularly people who know you well and what you are going through. We all need good food and water. Now, more than ever, we need to increase or be vigilant about eating healthy, unprocessed food, and we need to drink lots of water. 

Making sure you’re moving your body once a day is also so important. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise, it can be as simple as doing some yoga, some stretching. 

Carving out space in the day to reflect, and to drop the game face is also critical. That means acknowledging and validating all of those challenging thoughts and feelings you’re having because it gives you the opportunity to unpack them and gain perspective. 

It’s also so important to acknowledge the positive thoughts and feelings you have, leverage them and strengthen them.

What are some things that a leader can do outside of the work day to really boost their mental health? 

Avoid alcohol as a soother or to help you sleep. At the end of the work day, or before, spend 15 minutes in the backyard and focus on your breathing. Expose yourself to some comedy or something that is a complete escape. Identify in your private life who your safe person is. This can be your partner or a close friend you can be completely yourself around. 

Another really important thing to do is that now most of us are working from home, go through all your technology and adjust your notification settings so that once you shut your computer down for the day, you can completely switch off. 

And what are some warning signs to look out for that your mental health is taking a dip?  

Some really common signs are a change in your sleep pattern, you’re feeling angrier and less patient, and maybe you’re feeling quite confused and sad a lot of the time. 

Your physical health can also point to problems with your mental health. Are you getting headaches? Is your stomach hurting? 

If you’ve got a safe person such as a partner or a close friend that you are regularly in contact with, make a point of asking them how they think you are going, because getting some outside perspective can be really helpful. 

If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental health, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 now. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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