What makes you lie awake at night?

Contributors to executive stress and burnout. Or “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Nietzsche


Everyone is at risk for burnout these days. Senior leaders however seem to be particularly vulnerable. Sadly, many of the factors that contribute to burnout have basically become part of the executive job description. These include:

· Repetitive or prolonged stress

· Tremendous responsibilities

· Standards that are nearly impossible to achieve

· The need to hide emotions such as fear, compassion, helplessness, or pity to maintain a strong façade of leadership

· Expectations to solve conflicting, complicated situations even when the impact of doing so is minimal on the organization’s bottom line.


In response, senior leaders are left feeling:

· Exploited

· Guilty and inadequate

· Alone in their sacrifice

· Concerned for their health


Clearly, too many senior-level leaders are burning out or on the verge of such. Here are some early warning signs to watch for.

· feeling cynical and/or critical at work

· becoming irritable or impatient with customers, co-workers, or clients

· feeling attacked or overwhelmed

· letting hair-trigger emotions take control

· not having the energy for productivity

· having trouble concentrating

· losing satisfaction even in the face of job-related achievements

· losing sleep

· headaches, neck pain, stomach aches and other physical symptoms

And many more…


The burnout formula is a combination of

· too many job demands

· too few job resources

· too little recovery


Psychological stressors contributing to burnout include

· fear

· uncertainties

· criticism

· unsolved problems

· optimism / pessimism / self-criticism


Our way into burnout. The following factors may contribute to job burnout:

· interplay between societal / environmental and personal factors

· many years of work or emotional overload (hyperactivity)

· a heavy workload and work long hours

· mobbing

· perfectionism

· Lack of feelings of self-worth and / or self-confidence

· lack of psychological safety

· struggle with work-life balance

· helping profession, such as health care

· little or no control over your work


Consequences of job burnout

Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including:

· Excessive stress

· Fatigue

· Insomnia

· Sadness, anger or irritability

· Alcohol or substance misuse

· Heart disease

· High blood pressure

· Type 2 diabetes

· Vulnerability to illnesses

· Depression

Does this sound familiar? Then you might need to seek help sooner rather than later.


Prevention is better than cure. If you are exhausted and feel that you might be close to burnout, or are already experiencing burnout, get help. From an executive coaching perspective, I work with the “12 steps of burnout prevention”, focussing on what you can build on, what you could improve and finding meaning. This includes a lot of reflection, focusing on your self-talk and behaviors, building of new skills and habits, working on personal resilience, decluttering, destressing and getting rid of toxicity in your life… amongst others. Trying to get in touch with the proverbial "work-life balance".


Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it.” J.D. Stroube



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