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Managing Stress At The Top Of Your Game

What is Executive Burnout?

Corporate burnout has taken out far too many top executives.

It seems there is always a little more room on the schedule to take on “one more thing”, then one day, it takes you out. Often happens gradually. It often begins with expanding the projects you’re working on and slowly taking on more responsibilities for the company.

To meet the demands of these new tasks, you begin to extend your working hours to get it all done. You’re tired, but Long hours and insufficient work-life balance, along with a high drive for perfection and success can be a recipe for disaster.

Stress affects everyone, but the hi-test variation that corporate executives face rises to another level.

When your daily decisions have the power to impact the company’s success and longevity, it is a lot of weight to carry.

Since you are only human and therefore can’t be immune to stress, and you don’t want to lose everything because you went belly-up into the land of burnout, try some of these survival tips for managing stress.

Tips for Managing Stress

There is no singular way to deal with stress. Fortunately, there are countless ways to keep those overwhelming feelings at a manageable level.

Observe the signs:

Pay attention to your red flags for stress. The mental signs of distress and anxiety are only the obvious ones. The sneaky physical signs of stress and burnout can include a variety of other physical symptoms that accumulate over time. Keep an eye on your blood pressure, sleep quality, digestive health and physical discomfort such as bodily aches and pains.

Even changes in sex drive can stem from high stress, as well as teeth clenching and decreased immunity. The emotional signs of stress can include  challenges with decision making, feeling edgy, irritable, feeling numb or checked out and an overall moodiness, forgetfulness and lack of focus. Often the physical and emotional signs of stress creep up slowly.

Stay mindful of your bodily sensations:  

Use mindfulness skills to check in with your physical health. This will help you recognize what your baseline is. By checking in with how your body feels several times per day, you will know when your shoulders begin to get too tight, or when you are clenching your jaw. Use progressive muscle relaxation to help reduce tension in the moment and consider professional massage on a regular basis to help keep tension under control on a regular basis.

In order to make sure it happens, schedule it for the same day and time and book ahead for at least six months so it becomes a consistent habit. Consider joining a fitness program with a personal trainer. Being accountable to a trainer may help you stay motivated to make it a priority. Protect that time and keep it blocked out in your schedule.

Consider it carved in stone; don’t steal time from it to attend to work needs. You will benefit from the endorphins and dopamine that you will get from paying attention to these physical needs.

Check in with your thoughts and feelings during the day.

Being mindful of thoughts and feelings doesn’t involve a lot of hard work and self-analysis. It simply requires you to stop and ask yourself a few questions several times per day. If you are concerned that this is too much to track (along with everything else you do), consider a simple phone app to help remind you to be mindful. Or, you may remember to check in with your feelings if it is something you do each time you pick up the phone, or use the restroom. Scheduling it in this artificial way gets the habit in place so that the self-check in becomes more natural and automatic over time. Ask yourself:

  • If I were to categorize my emotions in this moment, what feelings would I describe? (Sad, angry, anxious, content, relaxed?)
  • If I rated these feelings from 1-10, (ten being most intense) what number would I give these feelings?

How To Avoid Corporate Burnout

Burnout is a choice, it doesn’t have to be your fate. Some people get caught in thought-traps, or Cognitive Distortions and this is what keeps them stuck on a track destined for burnout. Keep an eye on your thoughts. Perhaps you feel as if you are the only person on your team who can complete a project or make the connections required for success; maybe you blame yourself if an aspect of the company is under-achieving.

It is important to remember your identity outside of the corporate world. You are not defined by your career. It is a part of who YOU are, not the other way around. The success or failure of the company is important, but it is not as important as you and your wellness.

Delegate tasks to others on your team. Learn to trust that others can do great things within the company; it doesn’t always have to be you.

The professional self is an important part of identity, but it doesn’t tell the full picture and isn’t ultimately life-fulfilling.

Try to broaden your out-of-work self. Honor the parts of yourself that need time with friends and family, and the parts that need to lay in a hammock and take a nap. Learn to value those parts of yourself just as much as the corporate self.

Perhaps you are striving for success because you value your loved ones and want to make a better life for them; to leave a legacy of your success. If you expend all your time, energy and attention on that single aspect of yourself, being successful in business may be the only legacy you leave behind.

While being successful is a worthwhile legacy, what else do you want for yourself? Setting limits on your work demands and attending to your physical and mental wellness can help you broaden your horizons beyond the boardroom and into a rich, rewarding life of balance.

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