Updated: May 12
Leadership of your Wellness Part 2 of 2
with Dr. Ashley Margeson
At Pivotal Coaching we pay attention to the health and wellness of our clients; health is part of the executive coaching conversations we have with them. We have brought in a guest contributor to share her expertise on the topic. Health, wellness and burnout are essential topics to talk about. They are important to our work; we do focus on them. Whether burnout is on your mind or not, this article is a must-read.
In Leadership of your Wellness Part 1, Dr. Ashley Margeson shared two extremes of a busy leader’s story. She sees the effects of our busy worlds and how little things can become a big deal. In the continuation of her input, Dr. Ashley shares how we can proactively manage our health and wellness. I write about the importance of proactivity in leadership.
Dr. Ashley’s 4 Cornerstones are the proactivity for our health that precedes our proactivity for our leadership. We are knowledge workers who are dependent on healthy minds and healthy bodies to do our best work.
If you feel stress on a regular basis, you definitely need to take Dr. Ashley’s advice into your daily routine. Over to you Ashley…
I talk about the 4 Cornerstones of Health all the time and I do so with almost every single one of my patients, no matter if they’re a stay-at-home mom, an executive at a company, an entrepreneur or a young professional hustling hard to make their name in this world. When people enter my office, they’ve generally always heard about me from one of their friends or co-workers. The most common statement I hear? “I figured once your name came up from multiple people, I should come see you”. The second most common statement? “I hear you don’t just do pills and things… you actually work to figure it out.”
The body is like a car. The difference with our cars is that we’ve been told to watch for signs that show us our car might need a little tune up… low fuel, a “check engine” light, an oil change sign. So we look at our owner’s manual, take our car into our mechanic and then we get our car back in good working order. But what happens if that “check engine” light comes on, you haven’t replaced the tires in years because “you just didn’t have time” and you can’t remember the last time the oil was changed? Chances are, it’s going to take a lot more work to bring your car back up to working order.
See, the longer you let something go; the longer you ignore that nagging voice at the back of your head; the higher probability that something much worse is going to happen.
Here’s the deal though… the same thing happens with your body. Except, unlike your car, you didn’t get an owner’s manual. But you do get warning signs. Everything I mentioned in the article Are you heading for burnout? is the equivalent of your body’s version of a “check engine” light, but we tend to ignore the signs until we’ve compounded so many of them together that it takes someone with a little bit more training than Dr. Google to help us get back to functioning at the level we want to be at.
My 4 Cornerstones of Health aren’t the only things you put in play when you’re trying to revert 20 years of stress (though they’re VERY helpful). They’re what we use preventatively to reduce the risk of burnout happening and if, in the event that burnout does happen, you can bounce back quickly. And they’re not hard things… but they take work and a commitment to consistency. Because good health isn’t about doing one thing once… it’s about doing multiple little things every day. Self-care isn’t something you do just one day of the week… it’s something you need to do every day. And that self-care are these Cornerstones:
Sleep. Movement. Nutrition. Happiness.
All the supplements, medications and coffees can’t undo poor sleep. And it’s one of the first things we sacrifice to get everything else done. Think back to last night’s sleep. Were you on your phone before bed? Answering emails or posting on social media? Did you fall asleep easily? Or did you toss and turn? Did you wake up throughout the night or did you sleep all the way through? Do you remember your dreams? Are they vivid? Or nothing? And, most importantly… did you wake up rested?
Good sleep starts with a consistent night time routine. Turn off that phone (no one is going to die if you don’t send that email until the morning), leave a notebook with a pencil beside your bed to jot down thoughts instead. Avoid caffeine late in the evening. Wake up at the same time every morning. Use an app to help you meditate.
All of these options are things you can easily implement to start to stabilize your first cornerstone of health. Pick one to try tonight. Why? Because if you’re working at a high level, you also need to REST at a high level. Period.
The adult brain has a focus ability of 45 minutes. If you are working at your best, the most amount of time that you have is 45 minutes. That’s not a lot of time, and the closer to burnout you get, the worse your short-term memory and focus become. The best way to break up your brain and get things moving again is - you guessed it - movement. And we’re not talking about running a marathon… we’re talking about getting 10-20 minutes of movement in a few times a day.
Set a timer. Every 45 minutes get up and walk down the stairs and back up the stairs. Grab some water. Get your blood moving. Not only is this important for your health (obesity isn’t the leading cause of death for nothing), your blood also moves important nutrients to your brain. Work smarter, not harder, by infusing consistent movement into your day.
Before I worked in medicine my background was in nutrition and dietetics, specifically health policy implementation. Food is just a little important detail in how I run my days at a high level. When we’re stressed and overworked (or when our bodies think that we are stressed and overworked) we start to crave quick energy. Salt and sugar to be exact. It isn’t really our fault; our bodies are wired to protect us. But it just so happens that the salt and sugar that we’re craving to keep us going are exactly the opposite of what our bodies and our brains need in order to thrive.
To give you another 4 key factors to think about… every time you put something in your mouth it has to meet 4 checkmarks. This is the EASIEST way to structure your nutrition so that your food is working for you, not against you.
What do you have to add in? Greens, a protein, a healthy fat and fibre.
Have that at the back of your head when you’re running around with a crazy day and you’re grabbing a hamburger on your way home because it’s easy. So, have that hamburger (it’s protein - check!), add a salad (hi greens! and fibre!), with a little bit of almonds or cheese (healthy fats - check!). Easy.
It’s not about doing a diet, it’s about pairing up your foods to nourish your body. If each meal you make contains these 4 things, your blood sugar will stay stable.
In addition to the 4 key points for your nutrition, you want to start your day off with a low carbohydrate meal. Simple carbohydrates decrease your cortisol level, which makes your energy drop specifically 3 hours and 6 hours after you eat (like that mid-afternoon crash you just LOVE to experience).
Start your days with a smoothie with protein powder and olive oil, eggs and greens, energy ball bites with protein and fat, skyr yoghurt with chia seeds, hemp hearts and berries. Ditch the cereal, ditch the single piece of toast as you run out the door or the leftovers from your kids’ meals and nourish your body.
When was the last time you genuinely laughed? Actually?
When was the last time that you spent time with your friends? Surrounded yourself with people who fed your soul? Who elevated you?
What about the last time you cooked that meal you love to make? Sat and read a book with a cup of tea?
When was the last time you truly felt content?
The amount of work that you do every day can’t just be for a paycheck; it has to be for something more. It has to be part of the larger purpose and legacy that you’ll leave. But most importantly, you have to be able to wake up, push through the hard days and find happiness in those little things.
Thank you, Ashley, for being such a great help to your clients and extending your help to the Pivotal Coaching community with this article. Your generosity in sharing your experience and your 4 Cornerstone framework is a valued gift!
Working on this article was a great health check opportunity for me. I have been in burnout mode at a number of points in my career. Have I got my 4 Cornerstones mastered? No, definitely not. I am making strong progress. The pillar of Happiness has been an important one for me over last several years. I have found the courage, confidence and energy to follow my passion and that has added to my happiness. I am working harder than I was in my corporate career. I have a passion that fuels my work and adds to my happiness.
There’s lots more to talk about. Dr. Ashley does corporate presentations, so connect with her to engage more of your team on their health and wellness. Dr. Ashley has given us some great foundations to plan our healthiness. At the core of our leadership of wellness is habits.
Where do you need to start with your small habit changes?
Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND is one of Canada’s foremost experts in burnout, work-life integration and living a purpose filled life. She and her partner run Cornerstone Naturopathic, a regenerative medicine clinic focused on enhancing the quality of life for driven and hardworking individuals. Dr. Ashley is the host of the highly anticipated podcast, The Superwoman Code, launching in November 2019 and can be found online at www.ashleymargeson.com
Lisa W. Haydon is the President and Founder of Pivotal Coaching Inc. She left her comfortable corporate career several years ago to follow her passion of helping people realize their potential and companies to realize high performance. Lisa is a growth focused entrepreneur, leadership development consultant and certified executive coach. To her clients, she brings business experience with prestigious corporations and continuous education. Lisa’s work in business operations and B to B sales expertise allowed her to create a differentiated coaching model and client experience. Lisa and Pivotal Coaching are known for 1:1 and cohort Programs in leadership development and sales effectiveness.