The mind is based on physiology, and every part of the body can influence our minds. The link between the mind and body is a two-way street, and if leaders want to perform optimally, a healthy mind-body system is required. In today’s busy business environment, leaders often forget about the source of their own vitality and resilience.
You can’t expect to eat fast food, sleep for four hours, work twenty-four seven nonstop, and still be a good leader
Recently, I sat down with Dr. Robert Schneider, Dean of the College of Integrative Medicine at the Maharishi University of Management. Dr. Schneider has taught prevention-oriented natural medicine for over thirty years, and his work has examined the link between transcendental meditation and stress reduction. Needless to say, I was excited to include some of his wisdom in our documentary.
When I spoke with Dr. Schneider, he pointed out that cardiovascular conditions are a leading cause of health care costs and disease in modern society. But fifty years ago, contagious diseases were more prevalent. What caused this change?
Heart attacks, strokes, and other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all tied back to stress. While genetics and lifestyle factors such as diet also play a role, stress seems to be a common theme for cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Schneider offers hope, however, as there are techniques and practices that can decrease your stress levels and also decrease the risk of these conditions.
“Leaders who practise transcendental meditation have higher levels of brain functioning and physical functioning. They live longer and do better overall.”
Dr. Robert Schneider
You may ask yourself, what does this have to do with my leadership skills? The answer is, literally, everything! Your state of mind and your state of stress influences your body dramatically. You can’t be a good leader if your mind and body aren’t
Integrative medicine takes your entire being into account. Instead of just focusing on symptoms, integrative medicine puts your well-being in the center and considers your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Four things you can do to relax and be a stronger, more vital leader
You have to be the one to take the first step. If your leadership skills and personal relationships are suffering because of stress, you can make things better. While an easy, overnight fix isn’t possible, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by how small changes can have a profound effect on your life. Your employees, peers, clients, friends and family members deserve the best YOU, and you deserve the
best you, too!
- Control your anxiety and depression.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects around a third of adults in the United States, and anxiety and depression have been linked to the development of hypertension. The risks are actually similar to physical inactivity and obesity, so understanding how your anxiety and depression are genuinely affecting your health and seeking appropriate treatment is critical (Sanford, 2011).
- Exercise and move your body. Be physical.
You may silently protest here. When do you have time to squeeze in exercise? Maybe you just need to get creative! Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the coffee shop instead of driving, and leave out that calorie-laden creamer. You can even sneak in exercises in your office. A quick ten-minute workout from YouTube a couple of times a day will get your blood pumping & your brain active.
- Eat right.
You are what you eat, and your brain needs the right nutrients to thrive.
While an occasional treat (as long as it really is occasional!) won’t hurt you, keeping your diet under control is a quick way to resolve a multitude of medical issues. Your body needs fuel, and so does your brain. Overindulging in treats and overly processed food will not give you the push to make it through a busy day. A balanced diet including proteins, healthy fats, and lots of fruits and vegetables will keep your brain and heart and gut happy. And step away from the soda!
- Consider transcendental meditation.
You may shrug at this, especially if you’ve never heard of it. Neuroscience has examined the role of meditation and yoga in recent decades on overall health, and transcendental meditation (TM) is the most widely researched. Instruction requires someone who is certified in the technique, and it involves taking your attention to finer states of thought, until thought is transcended and the mind experiences true awareness (Rainforth, 2007).
There is no better time than now to become the leader and person you really want to be
If you take a step back and look at all the different aspects of your life, how much vitality is stress taking away from you? Are you short-tempered and cross, or are you joyful and enthusiastic? Are you creative and innovative, or are you stuck in a rut, doing the same routine? This is your life, and it’s time to take control and lead the kind of life you want. You can be the best you possible, and in turn, the best leader, partner, friend, colleague, or parent.
dr. Robert Schneider IN ‘MAKE ME A LEADER’
Make Me A Leader is a feature-length documentary on how leaders can optimise brain and body performance to thrive in the 21st Century.
Watch my interview with Dr. Robert Schneider, Dean at the College of Integrative Medicine, Maharishi University of Management, USA.
Nidich, S. I., Rainforth, M. V., Haaga, D. A. F., Hagelin, J., Salerno, J. W., Travis, F., … Schneider, R. H. (2009). A Randomized Controlled Trial on Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Blood Pressure, Psychological Distress, and Coping in Young Adults. American Journal of Hypertension, 22(12), 1326–1331.http://doi.org/10.1038/ajh.2009.184 Rainforth, M. V., Schneider, R. H., Nidich, S. I., Gaylord-King, C., Salerno, J. W., & Anderson, J. W. (2007). Stress Reduction Programs in Patients with Elevated Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.Current Hypertension Reports, 9\(6), 520–528.