Tis the Season for Self-Care

December 8, 2023

At Laughter On Call, we focus a lot on employee wellbeing. When we show up to an event or training we always read the room, get a sense of who’s an introvert, who’s game to get out of their comfort zone, and who we’re going to have to pull off their phone. Personally, my eye always goes to the person in charge. I know from experience that if the person at the top is all in, everyone else will follow suit. Or at least give it their best effort.

So it was interesting to come across this  Forbes article this week confirming exactly what I have found. Specifically, the impact leaders have on their people. Which is to say, a lot. And not just in terms of work product, although this is indirectly influenced. What’s reported here is the effect leaders have on the mental health of their employees. I would assume that having unrealistic expectations for your team would influence the amount of stress they experience. What I didn’t anticipate was how the leader’s own mental health affects their staff.

“New data suggests that for almost 70% of people, their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or their doctor—and it’s equal to the impact of their partner.”

Reading this brought to mind the caregiver workshops I run. For the most part caregivers are not inclined to put themselves first. In fact, nearly half of what I teach falls under “self-care.” You can’t laugh if you’re paralyzed by stress and exhaustion, so this has to be addressed.

One way that I get the attention of the skeptics is to share a report by the NIH featured in the National Library of Medicine. The paper asserts, “…many studies have shown that the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) mutually affect the caregiver’s skills and are also reflexively influenced by the caregiver, so the caregiver's own physical and mental health is extremely important.”

If this doesn’t move them, I’ll add some Harvard Medical School findings, “A blend of assertiveness and cognitive restructuring skills can help you share the work, instead of taking on everything yourself. When someone offers help, accept. If no one offers help, ask for it.”

Here’s where it gets interesting, because the advice from HMS for caregivers aligns almost perfectly with Forbes’ recommendations for effective leadership, “People watch how you manage your own workload and they use your choices as a model—whether you mean them to or not…avoid overloading yourself. Train others, delegate, empower and ensure teamwork and coordination with other groups so everything doesn’t fall on your shoulders.”

Both of these noted symbiotic relationships, leaders and the people they manage, and caregivers with the people they are responsible for, point to the universality of taking care of ourselves. Not just for personal gain, but because of the impact it has on the people who rely upon you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re running a Fortune 500 company or home caring for a family member, attending to your wellbeing–particularly your mental health, has to be a priority.