Managing your mental health as a leader

failure, stressed woman, female leader, burnoutLeaders in business are continuously bombarded right now with the changes in hybrid working, employee retention and ‘the great resignation’ and managing the overflowing stress buckets off employees and clients.

As if your own stress bucket is not enough to deal with, you have the added pressure of dealing with employees and clients stress buckets too!

What is the stress bucket and why is it important to make sure it’s not overflowing?

The analogy of the gas hob works well in explaining this. Imagine a gas hob with 4 burners on it. Each burner represents a different area in your life. 1) business/work 2) family 3) friends and 4) health/mental health. At all times we need to have equal levels of gas burning through each area. (Think cooking Sunday dinner and wanting it ready at same time!).

As a leader in business, all your energy and attention are taken up with managing the business, employees, and productivity. Often without realising it all the gas is flowing towards business/work. The gas towards the other three drops and it is always burner 4-health/mental health- that takes the biggest hit and is the first to lose gas!

On top of that imagine a full stress bucket sitting on top of the gas pipe supplying the hob, squashing the supply. Even less gas can get through to all the burners.

Without realising it your mental health can reduce showing up as anxiety, stress, anger, low mood, emotional eating, OCD, overwhelm and burnout.

Your stress bucket is filled with negative thinking. Any worries, judgements, criticism, negative self-talk, opinion of others all goes in and fills your stress bucket.

Why does this cause problems?

When your stress bucket is overflowing, your neuroconnections in your brain automatically wire to the primitive limbic part of the brain.  This is the part of the brain that gives you three parameters of anxiety, anger and/or depression. This part of the brain is also negative, it will always see things from the worst possible perspective.   It’s also an obsessional brain playing the same thoughts, worries and negative thinking over and over on repeat.

Why every leader needs to make sure they get enough sleep

The effect on sleep for leaders in business can be greatly affected by this because the mind keeps you awake or causes you to wake up during the night. You need to be prioritising a full night’s unbroken sleep. It’s the most important thing that leaders can do right now to make sure their mental health is a priority.

It is during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that the mind empties the stress bucket. It’s the brain’s natural way of moving any emotions and negative events from the day from the stress bucket and the primitive limbic brain up into the Intellectual mind and left prefrontal cortex where they have less emotion and meaning. However, REM sleep only accounts for 20% of your night time sleep pattern. When you don’t get enough sleep, wake up during the night or wake up too early due to morning anxiety your stress bucket is not being emptied. You then begin your day from a place of anxiety, anger and/or depression depending on how it shows up for you. When you have a full stress bucket, you can not access the Intellectual mind and you spend all day stuck in the primitive anxious, angry and depressed part.

Why understanding how your brain works is key

Intellectual mind control allows you to be motivated, calm and able to deal with what new events and challenges your day will bring. As a leader you need to be operating from the intellectual mind where your mental health is good and where you are able to rationalise and not allow other people’s negative thinking, worries and criticism to fill your stress bucket.  Organisations are full just now with everyone operating with full stress buckets and the primitive negative part of their brain. It is a recipe for increased blame culture, the cause of low retention, poor performance and absenteeism due to mental health.

Understanding how your brain and your mind works is key in being able to manage your own mental health and show strong leadership.

To summarise, the two most important things you can do right now as a leader is…

  • Get a full night’s sleep
  • Learn how to manage your own mind and stress bucket

If you want to find out how to do this then please email me at [email protected] or visit:

Lyn PenmanAbout the author

Psychotherapist Lyn Penman is registered with the National Council of Psychotherapists and works with a range of corporate and professional clients, using her unique Now Step® method to achieve amazing results. Lyn runs a successful membership-The Female Mind Retreat-for professional women, is an experienced speaker at corporate events and is also working on her debut publication, The Now Step® -the latest solution to your mental health,’which is due for publication September 2022.

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