Mindful Leadership: Embracing Mental Health with Three Simple Tactics

Tim Huff

By Tim Huff

President & CEO, TLG

Especially around this time of year, many of us find ourselves neck-deep in a whirlwind of projects, priorities, relationships, problems, and distractions. The pace can feel relentless, and the pressure to perform can seem overwhelming. It’s during these times of intense activity and high demands that our mental health often takes a back seat as we take on more and more in our lives. However, maintaining our mental well-being is crucial not only for our personal health but also for our effectiveness as leaders. Throughout my career, as I’ve navigated the highs and lows of leadership and experienced the impact on my mental health, I’ve incorporated three tactics that have helped me tremendously (when I remember to do them)! These are, quite simply, Slow Down, Breathe, and Focus.


Slow Down to Go Fast

We hear it all too often: Go, go, go! Hustle, hustle, hustle! Grind, grind, grind! As much as I agree with the sentiments of rapid action, sense of urgency, and hard work, this mentality can have a major negative impact if not done right. Although it might seem counterintuitive, especially when there are so many tasks clamoring for our attention, slowing down can help get things done faster. It’s not about reducing productivity; it’s about enhancing it. When we rush through tasks, we are more prone to mistakes, oversight, and burnout. By taking the time to slow down, we can approach our work more thoughtfully and deliberately.

Slowing down allows us to process information more thoroughly, make better decisions, and ultimately perform more efficiently. It also gives us the opportunity to reflect on our actions and adjust our strategies as needed. This reflective practice can lead to more innovative solutions and improved outcomes. As leaders, setting an example of a measured pace can encourage our teams to adopt a similar approach, fostering a more mindful and productive work environment.


Breathe to Regain Centeredness

As Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid, Part II” wisely advised, “when you feel life is out of focus, always return to the basics of life. Breathing.” As cliché as this may seem, taking as little as 30 seconds to focus on your breathing can be a powerful tool to manage stress and regain our sense of centeredness. When we’re stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. By taking a few moments to practice deep, mindful breathing, we can calm our nervous system and bring ourselves back to a state of balance.

Incorporating breathing exercises into our daily routine can have a profound impact on our mental health. For instance, taking a few deep breaths before joining a Zoom meeting with that one person who is sure to press your buttons can help you approach the situation with greater composure. As leaders, we can promote a culture of mindfulness by encouraging our teams to take regular breaks to breathe and reset. This simple practice can lead to a more focused and resilient workforce.


Focus on One Thing

With so many demands on our attention, maintaining focus can be a significant challenge. Multitasking may seem like a necessity, but it often leads to decreased efficiency and increased stress. Instead, focusing on one task at a time can enhance our productivity and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

To foster focus, it’s essential to prioritize our tasks and set clear boundaries. Identifying the most critical tasks and dedicating uninterrupted time to them can help us make meaningful progress. Additionally, minimizing distractions—whether it’s turning off notifications or creating a quiet workspace—can improve our ability to concentrate. For those of us who have an email addiction (guilty!), this can be a challenging but necessary step.

As leaders, we have the responsibility to create an environment that supports focused work. This might include setting realistic expectations, providing resources for time management, and encouraging our teams to take time for focused work without interruptions.


A Call to Action!

In the midst of the bustling activities of May, let’s remember the importance of mental health and the benefits of slowing down, breathing, and focusing. By integrating these practices into our daily routines, we can enhance our well-being, improve our performance, and lead by example. As we slow down to go fast, breathe to regain our centeredness, and focus on one thing at a time, we not only take care of ourselves but also pave the way for a healthier and more productive organizational culture.

Let’s make mental health a priority this month and beyond. Together, we can create a more mindful, resilient, and effective leadership community!