There is one timeless leadership lesson from conventional wisdom applicable in the post-pandemic age: In order to take care of your followers and help boost their mental health, you need to take care of yourself first.

This is especially critical during times of stress or a crisis. If you're ill-equipped to manage yourself emotionally and physically, the people under your charge will notice.

The idea of practicing self-care, recharging regularly, and showing up with your best self always starts with the leader modeling the way for their workers to do the same. 

As you go over each of these techniques for your own personal development, you'll soon notice that others will follow suit. The best case scenario is that you'll create a culture of highly-engaged, motivated, and healthy employees who will go above and beyond to produce great work. 

1. Have fun

Work doesn't have to be boring. Make it a habit to energize it with celebrations and fun activities that engage, stimulate, and motivate. Science has found that fun on the job is good for not only your mental health, but it's also good for business. People who have fun on the job are more creative and productive, make better decisions, and get along better with colleagues. 

Ring a bell, play a special song over the sound system, and hand out kazoos as you gather the whole team to celebrate someone's accomplishments or special moments. As a leader, give it freely and learn to gracefully accept it in return.

2. Help people heal and grow

Both leaders and employees agree: Two years of social distancing was not good for anyone's mental health. Wise leaders consciously construct opportunities for people to satisfy their fundamental human need for connection (both in real life and virtually). Have you considered how social activities, joint projects, and unstructured time will enable relationships to reignite and social learning to flourish?

3. Take short breaks

A while back I wrote on the importance of downtime, and how neuroscience recommends that, for every 80-120 minutes, we need to take a 10-minute break to calm down our brain activity so we don't get overstimulated and lose our sharpness. I recommended (among others) activities that can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, including:

  • Practicing mindful meditation.
  • Listening to music
  • Laughing.
  • Going on a short nature walk.

Now that you're taking time outs with activities that replenish the brain, encourage your employees to do the same.

4. Experience moments of joy

Choose every opportunity to express your joy as a leader, and make it a habit to share it with your team -- quotes, funny pictures, uplifting stories, jokes, positive books, blogs, podcasts, and good news to pick them up and add color to their lives. It's contagious and builds a culture of positive energy, passion, and enthusiasm for life and the work you (and they) are doing.

5. Practice work-life balance

Research by Georgetown University and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation confirms that 80 percent of employees would be happier with more flexible work options and alternative schedules that meet their personal needs. Think out of the box with some of these strategies for yourself. Then make it a working policy for your team to boost morale and increase satisfaction