In 2020, the American Psychological Association sounded a loud alarm bell. Stress levels among Americans had reached such a high level that they considered it a national emergency.
Stress was an endemic problem in our society well before the pandemic disrupted our lives. The World Health Organization declared it the “health epidemic of the 21st century” in 2017. But the increased uncertainty, health concerns, and significant changes Covid 19 brought with it have only exacerbated the issue.
Although many factors contribute to this mental health emergency, stress at work remains a common contributor. 64% of employed Americans report that their work is a source of stress.
For those in high-level roles, the issue is only amplified. Executives take on increased responsibility and, with it, longer working hours and the pressure of managing the future of their companies and teams, as well as their own workloads.
This demanding work schedule leaves executives at a high risk of stress. And stress is associated in turn with burnout, a recognized condition, with symptoms that include extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and increased negativity.
This work-related stress isn’t only a concern for the mental wellbeing of executives. It also has an impact on their physical health.
Short-term stress can lead to headaches, difficulty sleeping, and digestive issues. Continuing to feel stressed in the long term has even more serious consequences. Research has linked stress with a range of chronic diseases, including:
high blood pressure,
a lowered immune system,
stomach ulcers, diabetes,
If you are experiencing work-related stress, you are not alone. The impact of a demanding job and long working hours leaves many corporate executives under extreme pressure to perform.
There are strategies you can develop that will help you manage stress at work. Some of these are habits you can incorporate into your working day, while others may require changes to your life outside the office.
1. Understand Your Main Stressors
Before you start trying to troubleshoot your work-related stress, take some time to identify where the main pressure is coming from.
Perhaps your workload is simply too much, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Maybe your work schedule has taken over your life to an unmanageable extent, giving you no time for rest, relaxation, or to pursue other areas of interest.
You might feel that your efforts are going unrecognized by your colleagues. Or your daily tasks might feel unrewarding because you are constantly having to deal with problems and setbacks.
Of course, you are likely experiencing a combination of these issues. But identifying which are most pressing can help you prioritize solutions that will relieve some of the strain.
As well as understanding the main causes of your stress, learn to recognize what increased stress levels look like for you. Often it comes with physical symptoms, such as a raised heart rate, tense muscles, feeling hot, or being suddenly uncomfortable.
You may also notice changes in your behavior. Your temper might be shorter, and you might speak more loudly. Or you may be someone who becomes quieter and more distant when your mind is preoccupied with stress.
Being able to recognize when your stress levels are rising helps you to put coping strategies in place.
Don’t forget that this is not a moment to judge yourself or to fight the stress. Acknowledging what you are feeling is a necessary part of learning when you need to make changes.
2. Take a Break
In the face of workplace stress, one immediate solution is to temporarily remove yourself from the situation. This is easier if you are on your own at your desk. But even in meetings, you can request a short break to let everyone regroup.
Stepping away from your workload when there is so much to do can be a difficult task. It is tempting to press on to get as much done as possible.
But stress often clouds our thoughts and stops us from performing at our best. Taking a short break gives you the breathing space to clear your mind and feel calmer, instead of becoming overwhelmed.
Try to schedule regular breaks throughout your working day, including a decent interval of time between meetings. You can supplement these regular breaks with an emergency breather when you notice your stress levels are rising.
According to Forbes, more than 90% of leaders find they manage stress better when they take a short break from what they are doing.
If you can, go outside to give yourself a change of environment. A walk can also help. But even some quiet time spent taking deep breaths can make a huge difference to your frame of mind.
3. Brush Up on Time Management Skills
A demanding workload is a common feature of executive roles. If you’ve identified this as one of your main sources of stress, putting some new time management techniques in place might help you feel more organized and on top of your tasks.
If someone else manages your diary, you will need to involve them with this step. Block out time where you aren’t available for meetings or calls, so you know you will be able to focus when you need to.
You likely have a lengthy to-do list already. But a step many people miss is allocating time to tasks. Make it a priority at the start of your day to work through your to-do list and plan when you will tackle each item throughout the day.
You can use an online calendar to visualize what your day will look like. This gives you an easy tool to map out what you can reasonably accomplish in the time available, including regular breaks.
Not only does this keep you organized, but it also saves you from having to decide which item to work on next.
Muting your email notifications is another useful technique to maintain focus and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
If your workload is consistently more than you can accomplish in the time available, you may need to look at delegating some of your tasks. There may be members of your team who would relish the opportunity to increase their skills and responsibility.
You may also need to have an honest discussion with other members of the management team about the resources available. If they are also feeling overwhelmed, there is a wider strategic issue that needs addressing.
4. Reclaim Your Life-Work Balance
The rise in home-based and online working has meant the separation between work and home life has quickly become blurred. If you were working overtime before the pandemic, you might find that your hours have only increased.
If work is causing you anxiety and you do little else, it makes sense that your stress levels will become harder to manage.
Studies show that having a poor life-work balance is linked to occupational stress, fatigue, and depression. Reclaiming your leisure time is an essential step in managing your stress at work.
Pushing back on long working hours can be tricky, especially if your workplace culture expects people to go above and beyond. But you are likely to be more productive in the time that you are at work if you are rested and fulfilled by your non-working hours.
If you are working at home, give yourself a cut-off point where you will shut down the computer and mute your work emails. If you are in the office, make it a habit to stop working when you leave. And then make sure you leave at a decent time.
It isn’t only about working shorter hours. What you do with your leisure time can also have a significant impact on your stress.
There is evidence that people who spend time enjoying their hobbies are less likely to experience stress and depression. This includes music, art, crafting, sport, or spending time in nature. Socializing with friends and family can also help to reduce stress, provided it doesn’t become just another item on your to-do list.
5. Prioritize Your General Health
When work-related stress is occupying your mind, it is easy to let your physical health slip too. Making the time to eat well, get enough sleep, and move your body regularly might feel impossible when you have so much to do.
These are basic things, but they make a significant difference to your ability to manage stress, both at work and at home. So, they need to be a priority, even if that feels unreachable at first.
Exercise brings many benefits to your physical and mental health. Stress reduction is one of them. According to Harvard Health, even a 20-minute walk can help to decrease your stress levels and clear your head.
Getting enough sleep can be hard when circling work pressure stops your mind from switching off at night. But research from the American Psychological Association suggests that a good night’s sleep can reduce stress, especially in those whose stress levels are high.
It can take some time to build healthy habits and then see their effect. However, you’ll find you are better able to cope when your basic needs are met.
Breaking Free of Work Stress
No one’s work is completely stress-free. But feeling continuously overwhelmed by your workload is worrying news for your health, as well as your productivity.
The suggestions in this article can help you to find a better balance. However, sometimes your stress has remained so high for so long that you need a proper break to rejuvenate.
If you are struggling with work stress and would like to talk through your options, contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.
Does it seem like you feel fatigued, irritable, and on-edge all the time? Do you become overwhelmed easily or struggle to perform basic tasks?
If you said “yes” to these questions, you may be dealing with mental exhaustion. Read on to learn some mental exhaustion warning signs to watch for. You’ll also find some tips on how you can overcome this issue and improve your mental health.
What Is Mental Exhaustion?
Mental exhaustion occurs as a result of prolonged stress. It’s also known as mental fatigue and burnout.
It helps to think of mental exhaustion in the context of a “stress bucket.”
Everyone has a stress bucket that gets a little fuller every time we experience some kind of stressor in our lives. If we don’t regularly engage in practices that help us to empty that bucket, it will overflow, and we’ll start to exhibit signs of mental exhaustion.
Warning Signs of Mental Exhaustion
What are the signs of mental exhaustion?
This condition looks different for everyone. However, the following are some of the most common symptoms one might experience if they’re feeling mentally exhausted:
Feeling physically tired, no matter how much sleep you get at night
Sleeping more than usual
Struggling to fall or stay asleep
Aches and pains (headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain, etc.)
Less emotional resilience (getting upset more easily than usual)
Constantly feeling stressed or anxious
Being irritable with others (including people with whom you usually get along)
More frequent arguments with family members and loved ones
Being easily distracted at school, work, or while spending time with loved ones
Coping with substances like alcohol or drugs
Having trouble remembering
What Causes Mental Exhaustion?
There are lots of reasons why someone might start showing signs of mental exhaustion. The following are some of the most common causes:
Working a high-stress job (EMT, teachers, business executive, etc.)
Working long hours with inadequate time off
High levels of job dissatisfaction
Caring for someone who’s ill or elderly
The death of a loved one
Having a baby (especially if you don’t have adequate support at home)
Lack of friends and social support
It’s important to note that these are common causes of mental exhaustion, but they’re not the only causes.
Even if none of the situations mentioned above apply to you, you could still be dealing with mental exhaustion. Your feelings and symptoms are still completely valid.
How to Overcome Mental Exhaustion
Identifying the source (or sources) of your symptoms is the first step to overcoming mental exhaustion. There are other strategies you can implement to improve your mental health and start feeling better, though, including the following:
Change Work Conditions
Work is a common source of stress and can often contribute to (if not directly cause) symptoms of mental exhaustion. If you suspect that work is playing a role in your poor mental health, look for ways to change your situation.
Can you ask for some time off? Can you reduce your workload? Can you delegate some of your work to a colleague so there’s less on your plate?
Of course, not everyone can change their work conditions. However, if you have the option to lighten your load, at least for a while as you work on your well-being, you should take advantage of it.
Remember, it can be worth it, in the long run, to take a break or reduce your hours.
When you improve your work-life balance and start managing your mental health, you’ll have an easier time carrying out your responsibilities. You’ll make fewer mistakes and increase your productivity, too.
Ask for Help
Are issues in your personal life contributing to your mental exhaustion? Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of parenthood, for example?
If so, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help from your spouse or partner, family members, or friends can take some of your stress away and give you the space you need to take care of your mental health.
Seeking support doesn’t make you lazy or a bad parent. In fact, it does the exact opposite.
When you ask someone else to help you out with your kids, you’ll have more energy and will be in a better mood when you do spend time with them.
Children can sense when something is off with their parents, even if they’re too young to verbalize what they’re picking up on.
If you’re trying to do everything yourself and constantly feeling overwhelmed, your kids will notice. As ar result, they may start to feel overwhelmed and stressed out themselves.
Prioritize Physical Health
Often, when we make physical health a priority, our mental health also improves. Taking care of our bodies can help us to feel happier, more energized, and more resilient to stress.
The following are some of the best practices you can implement to improve your physical (and, by default, mental) health:
Exercise causes your body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are chemical messengers that help you to fight stress and feel happier. They can also reduce pain (including headaches and chronic pain).
Your workouts don’t have to be long or strenuous to be effective. Going for a walk or taking a gentle yoga class can make a big difference to your mental health and well-being.
When you’re stressed and mentally exhausted, the last thing you probably want to do is prepare and eat a healthy meal. Eating nutritious food can make a big difference, though.
When you fuel yourself appropriately with fruits, vegetables, quality protein sources (meat, eggs, fish, etc.), and whole grains, you’ll have more energy to handle your stressors.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, too. Water keeps you hydrated and helps you to feel energized and focused.
You might be tempted to turn to sugary sodas or alcoholic beverages when you’re dealing with mental exhaustion. These drinks are full of empty calories, though, and will likely leave you feeling worse.
Get Enough Sleep
Do your best to prioritize sleep during this time, too. Sleep difficulties are a common sign of mental exhaustion, but there are some steps you can take to address them.
For example, you can stop consuming caffeine by early-mid afternoon so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. You can stick to a strict bedtime routine, too, and avoid blue light exposure when it’s time to rest (blue light keeps you feeling wired).
Meditation can be a powerful tool to shield you from the effects of prolonged stress.
Meditating helps you to be more present and can increase your mental resilience. It can help you to respond to stressors more appropriately.
Practicing meditation can teach you how to check in with yourself and monitor how you’re feeling, too.
When you get better at doing this, you’ll have an easier time picking up on the signs of mental exhaustion early. When you notice the signs, you can address them and protect yourself from spiraling into full-on mental exhaustion as a result.
How to Get Started with Meditation
Remember, meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to sit on a cushion and chant (unless you want to, of course).
You can start meditating right now, in fact. Simply sit or lie down on the couch or the floor, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Focus on the way the air feels as it enters and leaves your body.
There are lots of guided meditations available online or through meditation apps, too. You can also attend a retreat for extra instruction.
Research shows that practicing gratitude can help to reduce your stress. It can also improve your happiness and overall sense of well-being.
When you make gratitude a priority, your physical health can improve, too. You’ll get sick less often, and you’ll get to enjoy better sleep (this is great for when you’re starting to show signs of mental fatigue!).
Seek Professional Treatment
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional treatment. Working with a therapist or counselor can help you to get to the bottom of your mental exhaustion symptoms.
Therapists and counselors can teach you healthy coping mechanisms, too. That way, when you start to notice signs of exhaustion creeping up, you can stop them in their tracks.
Some people benefit from mental health retreats, too. Taking some time away to focus on your well-being and remove stressors from your life can give you a chance to reset, learn some effective coping mechanisms, and come back feeling stronger, healthier, and more resilient.
Time to Take Charge of Your Mental Health
Are you tired of feeling mentally exhausted? If so, the tips outlined above can help you to make a positive change in your life.
If you’re looking for more help from a team of professionals, we’re here for you at Tikvah Lake Recovery. Contact us today for more information on our high-end residential recovery programs or to speak with an admissions counselor.
Approximately 77 percent of workers have reported feeling burned out at some point in their current job. Forty-two percent have also said that they’ve left a job because of burnout.
Do you suspect that you’re struggling with burnout? If so, read on to learn more about what it looks like and what you can do to prevent and combat it.
What Is Burnout?
The term “burnout” was originally coined by Herbert Freudenberger, who wrote about it in his book, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement” in 1974. Freudenberger defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive.”
Burnout is most commonly referred to in the context of one’s job. For example, if one is constantly feeling stressed out about work, to the point where they feel exhausted, cynical, and incapable of doing their job well, they may be dealing with burnout. In these instances, burnout might also be called executive burnout or executive stress.
It’s possible to experience burnout in other areas of your life, too. A single mom may start to feel burned out from all the responsibilities that come with caring for her children. An adult child may also develop caregiver burnout after handling an elderly parent’s medical care as they age.
Severe stress in one area of life can also contribute to burnout in another. Perhaps, when everything is going well at home, you can handle the stress of your job without any issues. When you have a lot on your plate at work and you’re caring for a sick parent or the demands of single parenthood, though, you might be more susceptible to burnout.
Signs of Burnout
The sooner you can spot the signs of burnout, the easier it is to deal with them. The following are some of the most well-known burnout warning signs to watch for:
When dealing with burnout, it’s common for people to see their jobs (or the specific part of their life that’s causing the burnout) as stressful or frustrating. This perception, in turn, can cause them to become cynical.
Eventually, they might start to distance themselves from others and develop a negative view of their job or other responsibilities (such as caregiving).
Poor Physical Health
Burnout can contribute to a variety of physical health problems. People in the throes of burnout might experience more headaches or stomachaches, for example. They might have pain in their next, shoulders, or back, too.
When you’re burned out, you’ll likely feel exhausted mentally and physically. You might struggle to stay awake or alert during the day, or you may find that it takes you longer to solve problems or take care of tasks that were once easy for you.
Burnout can hinder your ability to handle everyday tasks and carry out your responsibilities at work. It can also get in the way of your ability to care for family members. You might develop a bad attitude when dealing with these tasks, or you might struggle to concentrate or solve problems effectively.
Burnout vs. Depression
Burnout can often look very similar to depression, and people who are experiencing burnout might also be depressed. There’s are a couple of key differences between these two conditions, though.
First, depression causes people to have negative feelings and thoughts about all aspects of their lives. Burnout is typically limited to just one area, such as work, caring for a family member, etc.
Depression also comes with other, more serious symptoms. These include prolonged sadness and thoughts of ending one’s life.
Burnout Risk Factors
Anyone can develop burnout, no matter what kind of job they hold or what’s going on in their personal life. However, some people might be more susceptible to burnout than others.
Here are some risk factors that may increase your chances of becoming burned out:
Being a Perfectionist
Being a perfectionist seems like a good thing at first. When you always demand perfection and don’t allow room for mistakes, though, you set yourself up for extreme stress and potential burnout.
Being a Pessimist
A pessimist is more like to view the world as a threatening place. They’re more prone to worrying about things going wrong, and they expect bad things to happen.
Pessimistic people, as a result of these views, tend to experience higher levels of stress than optimistic people. This prolonged stress, over time, can contribute to burnout symptoms.
Being Easily Excitable
An excitable person is someone who is easily triggered during stressful situations. They might become anxious quickly or be “jumpier” and more nervous than their peers.
Understandably, excitable people are more likely to experience chronic stress than those who are more relaxed. These tendencies also make them more susceptible to burnout.
Being “Type A”
People with Type A personalities embody many of the traits mentioned above.
They tend to operate from a place of urgency, too, and are more impatient than other personality types, for example. They’re more competitive, as well, and are likely to draw correlations between their self-worth and their achievements at work or in their personal lives.
Type A personalities are more likely to experience cardiac arrest (heart attacks). This is probably because they’re more prone to chronic stress and burnout.
Misalignment of Values
If your job doesn’t align with your values, you might also find that you’re more susceptible to burnout. When you’re spending 8-plus hours per day doing something you don’t enjoy or don’t believe in, it’s a lot harder for you to weather the difficult times and cope with stress in healthy ways.
Consequences of Burnout
If you don’t address signs of burnout or take steps to prevent it from happening, you could be setting yourself up for some more serious health issues. The following are some potential consequences of unmanaged burnout:
Increased risk of elevated cholesterol
Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Worsened chronic pain
Increased frequency or intensity of headaches
Increased alcohol consumption
Strained relationships (at home or at work)
If you’re dealing with burnout at work, specifically, and experience a decrease in performance, you also run the risk of being penalized or possibly fired.
How to Avoid Burnout
What can you do to prevent burnout? Here are some strategies you can implement at home and at work:
Communicate Your Needs
Often, people who experience burnout have a hard time asking for help. They might struggle to acknowledge that they’re having trouble juggling everything, instead preferring to pretend everything is fine.
By communicating your needs and asking for help when necessary, you can prevent your stress bucket from overflowing.
Delegate When Possible
In addition to asking for help, it’s important to also delegate whenever you can. Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself, especially if it means putting your physical or mental health at risk.
By handing over tasks to others, you give yourself space to do a better job with what’s left on your plate, which is better for everyone in the long run.
Prioritize Physical Health
Do your best to take care of your physical health, even during stressful times. Exercise regularly and eat healthy meals. Get enough sleep each night, too, and try to reduce your intake of harmful substances, such as alcohol.
Prioritize Mental Health
The practices mentioned above are also great for your mental health. Some other steps you can take include writing in a journal or talking to friends, family members, or colleagues about how you’re feeling. You can also take up practices like meditation or yoga to reduce your stress.
How to Treat Burnout
Are you already experiencing signs of burnout? If so, consider doing some (or all) of the following to manage your symptoms and improve your well-being:
Identify the Source
Take a step back and try to pinpoint the cause of your burnout. What part of your job feels like “too much?” Did you recently take on a particular task right before your symptoms started?
Talk to Someone You Trust
Go to someone you trust and share how you’re feeling. Talk to a manager, a supervisor, someone from HR, etc. They may be able to help you come up with a plan to lighten your load.
Sometimes, burnout happens because we’re not setting clear boundaries. If we’re working all hours and never turning off our phones, for example, we’re creating a recipe for disaster.
Seek Professional Help
Don’t underestimate the benefits of working with a professional, either. Consider seeing a therapist or even spending time at a residential treatment center.
This can give you a chance to relax, learn how to cope with stress in helpful ways, and come up with an action plan so you don’t experience burnout again.
Get Help with Burnout Today
Now that you know more about burnout, what it looks like, and the long-term consequences it can have, what do you think? Could you be suffering from burnout? Could you benefit from some burnout treatment?
If so, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our services and what we can do to help you manage your stress and feel your best.
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
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:
loss of appetite
shortness of breath
lack of focus, dizziness
low immune system
early stages of anxiety and/or depression
Behavioural symptoms can include:
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.