Executive burnout – a resilient response

Working in a high-pressure environment invariably creates stress.

Stress itself is not the issue. Good or helpful stress (called ‘eustress’) is that degree of stimulated effort, energy and focus (called ‘arousal’) that enables individuals to perform at a high level and get the job done. Some, like sports stars, get paid well to reach peak performance for regular short bursts and ‘win’. Ideally that form of stress should be coupled with a sense of ease which has been termed ‘being in the flow’.

It is not always so. Less helpful stress (call it distress?) can happen to experienced and competent managers and executives when they are either bored by too little to do or burdened by too much to do. Not only can this create a deep sense of frustration, but it can prompt questions about performance. This can add to the ‘distress’, result in a dip in self-confidence and lead on to unhelpful coping mechanisms such as depression and addictions, including ‘workaholicism’. Bouts of unprecedented anxiety and anger often accompany distress.

It is not difficult to imagine that in today’s challenging business environment that all executives will experience stress. The degree to which it becomes distress will depending on many current factors including health, self-efficacy, life circumstances and how well developed the individuals coping mechanisms are.

Those coping mechanisms are often referred to as ‘resilience’ and comprise of the abilities to ‘bounce’ back, weather the storm or reset following a shock. These days resilience is considered an important part of an executive’s presence or leadership qualities. For this reason, managers and executives often choose to undertake a resilience building workplace counselling program either as a defence mechanism to high levels of stress, as part of their ongoing continued professional development or because there has been a traumatic experience that simply needs to be recovered from. Exogenous shocks happen to individuals just as they happen to businesses!

A good program will help the executive identify and understand the nature and various sources of stress, to assess their innate coping resources and provide a means by which they can audit their ongoing resilience levels. A simple and regular check enables regular resilience maintenance to be undertaken. This keeps the executive fit for purpose and in the flow, the business and its staff will benefit from that too.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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