Strategies for Executive Self-Care: Separating Yourself from Workplace Stress

Strategies for Executive Self-Care: Separating Yourself from Workplace Stress was originally published on Ivy Exec.

Patrick Bardsley, CEO and co-founder of Spectrum Designs uses meditation apps, healthy eating, and regular exercise as his self-care.

If he doesn’t keep up with these habits, he finds that he cannot focus and channel his energy. 

This attitude is in stark contrast to how he used to think. Before, he believed he had to work himself until he was exhausted, regardless of how this habit affected his health. 

“I try and remind myself daily that if I don’t take care of my health, I can’t be the best I can be for the business, our team, or my family,” he told Forbes.

He has also helped his team improve their mental and physical health at the office. Employees can participate in mindfulness sessions during work, using the employee assistance program and receiving counseling.

Executive self-care might not be the first item on your to-do list. But as many of us have learned, failing to take care of yourself will eventually come back to bite you. 

In their book Stress and Its Relationship to Leadership and a Healthy Workplace Culture, the researchers write about how long-term stress influences your body. In the short-term, stress can make you hyper-focused, but if you’re stressed for long periods without relief, your stress won’t have any positive side effects. 

“Characteristics of these negative behaviors include (a) lack of listening, (b) over-analysis, (c) failure to make decisions, and (d) erratic, fearful or angry emotional decisions,” the authors note. 

So, it’s important to integrate executive self-care into your everyday routine. Here are some simple strategies to de-stress during and after a day at the office. 


🧘 Decide how to prioritize your time.

Some executives are burnt out because they try to do everything for everyone.

If you’re taking on all kinds of projects, then you’re probably overburdening yourself. What’s more, you’re likely not working on the assignments most compelling to you. 

If you’re having a hard time turning down requests and delegating, try this strategy from leadership coach Erin Urban.

“For some leaders I work with, letting go and effective delegation can sometimes be challenging. Ask yourself: What can someone else do 80% as well as I can?” she suggests. 


🧘 Meditate during your workday.

Stress can build up if you don’t take time during the day to relax and refresh.

Even stopping what you’re doing a few times daily and meditating can keep your stress levels low. 

Meditation also improves focus and problem-solving, affording you better control over your emotions, says coach Tamara Judge.

She says that during the workday, you should meditate for at least a minute several times a day. 

Start by sitting upright and allowing your body to relax. Next, take several deep inhales and exhales, focusing on “the sensation of your lungs expanding and contracting.” 

After that, scan your body for areas of tension, and breathe deeply to release the tension in those areas. 

Finally, you can open your eyes. 

“Repeat this meditation whenever you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed at work; it is enough to release oxytocin and disrupt your body’s production of cortisol, which will lead to lower stress levels,” Judge suggests.


🧘 Separate your work life from your personal life.

One of the reasons we can get burned out is that we never fully separate ourselves from our work.

Instead, we check our emails all evening or tell our families we just have to take one work phone call during a vacation. 

Clinical psychologist Holly Schiff talks about how important it is to separate yourself from your work. As you leave, she suggests turning off your computer and phone notifications, as well as practicing a mindfulness routine where you mentally disengage from your work stress. 

You could also implement a stress-relief ritual, like opening your car windows and letting your stress “release” through the openings or showering when you return home.

“We can get sucked into the idea that we always need to be available, and that we’re the only ones who can solve work-related issues, but for the most part, issues can wait until the next work day,” says psychologist Dr. Natalie Bernstein.


Integrating Executive Self-Care into Your Routine


CEO Patrick Bardsley knows that it can be difficult to make executive self-care part of your routine.

You might be so focused on what you must do that even a one-minute meditation can seem too much. 

Try to set self-care goals until they become a more innate part of your routine. Then, you can determine which practices and how frequently you should take care of yourself. 

If you’re already burned out, you may feel like you don’t know where to start with reclaiming your motivation. Our four-step burnout recovery plan can help.

By Ivy Exec
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