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How to prevent executive burnout

burnout and stress

For many of today’s executives, the pressure to perform is always on.

But taking on heavy workloads and trying to keep up with unrealistic expectations over prolonged periods can often lead to a breakdown. 

After years of commitment and doing whatever it takes to excel, even the best of us can face burnout.

What is burnout?

Officially recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO), executive burnout is a medical syndrome specifically tied to chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. 

Stress in the workplace is not uncommon but when left untreated it can lead to burnout, this, in turn, can lead to more serious health issues.

Individuals suffering from burnout can experience a total loss of motivation and energy, they can become negative, cynical and less effective at work. 

In the process of climbing to the top, the constant demands and long working hours find many executives fighting a losing battle with fatigue, stress and anxiety.

Not wanting to admit defeat, the drive to achieve perfection and the fear of not being in control can trigger a downward spiral in job performance.  

Working around the clock is bad for health. The number of hours we are required to work has an influence on our mental and physical well-being.

Excessive working hours can also have a detrimental effect on the quality of sleep – a contributing factor to fatigue, exhaustion, anxiety, and reduced performance.  

Avoid burnout before you’re burned out 

work burnout and stress

Burnout in the workplace can be identified by three components: feelings of depletion or exhaustion; feeling negative or disengaged from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout syndrome is a gradual process, which can creep up on you, so it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms as early on as possible. By being mindful and actively reducing your stress, you can prevent eventual burnout.

The first step to preventing burnout is knowledge. It’s important to recognise some of the warning signs and know what to do about them.

Physical and emotional symptoms can include:

  • chronic fatigue
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • shortness of breath
  • lack of focus, dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • low immune system
  • early stages of anxiety and/or depression

Behavioural symptoms can include:

  • low mood
  • detachment
  • procrastination
  • family or relationship problems

More serious side-effects can be seen in addictive behaviours, such as increased consumption of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, and a change in appetite: binge eating or not eating enough.

Burnout is not to be ignored.

If you can self-identify with these symptoms its essential to create a self-care commitment.  

How Should You Self-Care?

Learn to sleep again. Poor sleep, or a lack of it, is extremely bad for your health. Most adults require six to nine hours of sleep every night so it’s important to have a regular bedtime routine. 

If you’re an over-thinker – clear your head by writing down all your to-do’s in a diary. 

Make your bedroom a relaxing environment. Don’t take your phone or tablet to bed with you. Electronics and TVs in the bedroom strongly impact your quality of sleep.

Ditch ready-made meals and fast food, and practice the art of home cooking to anchor you into the present. Focus on foods that nourish your body – especially during times of stress and burnout. Boost your mood, fight fatigue and improve your sleep by introducing more Omega-3´s, fibre and dark leafy greens into your diet.

Make more time to enjoy your friends and family. Pick up the phone and call a loved one, just to chat and catch up – texting or messaging doesn’t count!

Set clear boundaries between work and home. Setting boundaries between the two can increase efficiency at work as well as reduce stress and improve your personal life. The reward is more relaxation and less burnout. 

Learn to say no to taking on more responsibilities and things that will only add to your stress level.  Delegate! Make time each day to create a plan of action. Effective delegating can free up more time and prevent stress and burnout. 

Take regular breaks during your workday and don’t work straight through lunch. 

Listen to your body, spend time in silence, meditate, do yoga, stay hydrated and stay away from alcohol. 

Have some fun – find joy in life, take walks in natural surroundings, take time out, learn to breathe,  book a holiday, and LOVE YOURSELF. 

By practising self-care your physical, mental, and emotional health will benefit – in return, you will reach your optimal performance.  So stop those long hours, put yourself first, and make time for rest and renewal.

We offer a 10-day executive treatment program aimed especially aimed at busy executives. Contact us today for more information.

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Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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