Everyone knows about the dangers of stress. This is especially true for executives who frequently work longer hours than anyone else – and under greater pressure.
If stress like this persists, it can lead to “executive burnout“.
This is such a serious condition being experienced by an increasing number around the world it’s now officially recognised by WHO (World Health Organization).
This agency responsible for international public health defines it as a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
WHO states it is characterised by these three dimensions:
A key difference between stress and burnout is that stress usually only lasts a short period. Executive burnout is the result of constant stress, and it can last for a prolonged period.
Suffering from burnout creates a profound sense of disillusionment. All that hard work feels to have been pointless.
Motivation and enthusiasm seem to disappear. Even small chores that should feel like carrying a pebble seem to weigh as heavy as a boulder.
Daily living feels like the life of king Sisyphus who in the Greek myth was punished by the god Zeus. His punishment was to roll a massive boulder up a hill every day… only for it to roll down every time it neared the top. He was forced to repeat this for eternity.
In the early stages, executive burnout causes problems with work projects as well as with professional and personal relationships. Left untreated it can destroy careers and relationships – and life can lose its meaning.
Anyone can fall to burnout, but now it’s causing an increasing number of high-level executives, entrepreneurs and business owners to seek treatment. Along with many other conditions here at White River, we have great experience in treating executive burnout.
Burnout has been around for many years despite it being an increasing modern-day issue.
The main attributes of burnout are:
But people suffering from executive burnout can experience signs, symptoms and consequences in many different ways. This can depend on such as personal characteristics as well as how long it has been going on without being treated.
Emotional symptoms can include:
Physical signs and effects can include:
We have developed a simple yes or no self-assessment as a starting point. It will help to see if you or someone you know might be suffering from executive burnout and in need of treatment.
It includes questions such as:
I take my frustrations out on the people close to me.
I’m not a happy and likeable person to be around most of the time.
I wish I could get away from it all and disappear for a while.
Because everyone is different with unique backgrounds and specific problems, we always offer an individual treatment plan. This will be tailored to a guest’s therapeutic requirements and any needs our experienced therapists establish will help in the best manner.
To achieve enduring benefits from your stay with us this can include effective proven treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, mindfulness therapy, solution-focused therapy and trauma-specific therapy. There is also music and art therapy, adult-child therapy, group therapy, family therapy and an introduction to the Twelve Steps recovery programme.
All of these have helped many people suffering from burnout.
We will also look closely to see if executive burnout is masking something else such as depression. Signs of this could be that even at the weekend or on a holiday the low feelings that seemed to be associated with work do not go away.
Our Wellness & Executive Burnout Program is ideal to help, including the use of a fully equipped private gym. Then in our tranquil spa room, guests can relax with massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and more.
Outside of White River Manor we go on some exceptional excursions to show you some of South Africa’s beauty. We are fortunate to be close to the Kruger National Park, one of South Africa’s largest and most renowned game reserves, where you can see such as lions, leopards, and elephants.
Recovery depends on many factors including each individual’s character and for how long they have been suffering with burnout. What is certain is that being here is the best place for the most rapid recovery.
Because of where we are and the climate there’s plenty of chance to be outside. The great outdoors undoubtedly aids recovery.
Then there’s White River Manor itself. It’s a stunning place with completely relaxing accommodation to ensure you rest well.
This is always our aim – not only to treat anyone but to ensure the treatment is effective into the future.
One simple but often overlooked aspect of burnout is that healthy eating suffers.
So we make sure all our guests get into the habit of eating fresh nutritional food. Not only is this delightful for the tastebuds it’s been scientifically proven that certain foods lift levels of mood, energy and concentration.
Additionally, eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains can reduce the risk of many mental health conditions. Without doubt it is beneficial in avoiding a recurrence of burnout.
We will help guests to realise the importance of such as getting regular sleep again; how to stop over-thinking; to make sure to spend time with friends and family; to cut down or quit drinking and stop taking any recreational drugs.
Our expert team will also show our guests how to be aware of triggers and how to deal with them should something arise.
As well we show guests how to set clear boundaries between work and home; learn how to say no to taking on more than can be efficiently handled; to take regular breaks during working days and to have holidays, and to take up hobbies.
Burnout is a serious mental health condition that rarely goes away on its own. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.Giles Fourie
Addiction recovery doesn’t end when a person finishes at rehab. Recovery is a lifelong pursuit of positive habit building, maintaining mental wellbeing and avoiding negative triggers that may lead to relapse.
Executives who leave rehab and enter back into their fast-paced, overwhelming and stress-induced work environments, though, may have a hard time avoiding relapse.
It can be easy to slip into old habits and get caught up in the culture that created an addiction in the first place.
This is especially true given that rehab is a safe and comfortable place to be – it’s designed to help people in recovery slow down, take stock and make space to overcome their unique challenges.
Leaving, then, can pose new challenges in the recovery journey.
Here’s how executives can stay sober beyond residential treatment programs.
It’s a tough transition to go from a safe and secure environment and back into the real world.
You may find yourself faced with common triggers or situations that spark bad habits. Old friends, certain family members and burnout at work, for instance, are all things you’ll likely face as you return to normality, and these may be the things that caused an addiction to form in the first place.
Knowing how your ‘real life’ affects you and how to spot the signs of negative habit forming, then, will help you protect yourself against relapse.
To help with this, there are a few things you can begin to do when you leave a residential treatment program, including:
Whatever it is, your life after rehab shouldn’t look the same as your life prior to it. After all, it was this old routine that caused you to feel burned out, unhappy and unfulfilled, and this led you to rehab in the first place.
Instead, encourage new and healthier habits to form, and set firm boundaries with those around you to ensure that you’re focusing on becoming your best self and not falling into old routines.
Sober living homes (or halfway houses) are becoming increasingly more popular. They’re an effective middle ground between rehab and real life, and they allow you to loosen the reigns of specialist support and manage those negative triggers that still exist in your everyday life.
By attending a sober living home, executives can slowly begin to return to the workplace and venture back into the real world, all while learning how to apply the tools and techniques from rehab into their everyday environment.
Halfway houses add a layer of stability and insulation for executives recovering from addiction, and they help them avoid relapse. What’s more, they’re a great way to form social connections with others who have experienced addiction and form a strong support network prior to going home.
A strong support network is one of the best things you can establish as you’re leaving rehab.
After all, humans depend on humans to make good decisions and maintain healthy habits. We’re creatures of influence, and it’s easy to fall back into old addictions. Without good people around you, it can be difficult to remain sober when rehab ends.
And the benefits of remaining sober are too good to miss out on.
Besides the health benefits and the feeling of being in control of your life again, sobriety helps you:
Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do (much harder than the 80 hours a week you were working way back when). It’s a lifelong commitment, and by making the effort, you can find yourself with newfound strength and fulfilment in your life.
In turn, you can find yourself happy once again.
To find out how White River Manor can help you stay sober, contact our specialists today.Giles Fourie
Stress is a state of mental and emotional tension that comes when we are facing or in a challenging situation. To a certain extent, it can be useful to help motivate and focus us.
But all too frequently it becomes a debilitating condition. This is because it is not meant to be a state of being that is with us for too long.
For some people, stress becomes their normal condition every day. This is unsustainable and not a good way to be.
The word itself is very revealing. “Stress” is from Middle English stresse and it’s a shortening of “distress” and partly as well from Old French estresse meaning “narrowness, oppression”. That’s based on Latin strictus meaning “drawn tight”.
“Distress” means “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain” and is based on Latin distringere that means “stretch apart”. Isn’t that so often the cause of stress and how it feels: there’s just too much to do or even think about and so we feel completely stretched apart?
What are the signs of stress?
It’s not that you will necessarily have all these signs, but certainly, if you have a few of them, it could indicate you are stressed.
From a physical perspective alone, that’s not healthy for anyone.
But it also means we will underperform and not be able to make the best decisions. Thankfully, there are many ways of coping with stress and anxiety.
These are a range of physical and mental/emotional practices. Those who have the greatest success with them have found they work best if devoted to on a daily basis. That means to keep doing them even when things are going well, and life doesn’t feel stressed.
Although some planning and preparation have to be done in life and at work, it’s beneficial to try being more conscious of the task in hand.
Worrying about the future doesn’t change anything. The only thing it guarantees is to ruin the moment.
There’s plenty that can be done to deal with stress. The sooner it is recognized and dealt with, the better.
Leaving it too long and not dealing with it will often lead to mental health problems as well as physical issues.
The longer stress is left untreated, the progressively worse it will get.
The executive burnout recovery program at White River Manor is tailored to a client’s specific needs.
We practice a holistic, person-orientated method which focuses on burnout symptoms within the individual.
At White River Manor, our dedicated professional specialist team has great experience helping people to reduce and beat stress. Get in touch to see how we can help you or someone you care about move towards a stress-free and more peaceful life.Giles Fourie
Stress brought on by an anxiety disorder can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities and affects those around us in obvious and observable ways.
High-functioning anxiety, however, is not as detectable, mostly because those living with it continue their day-to-day life and appear to be fine on the outside.
Internally, however, things are often much more complicated with struggles of unwanted anxiety.
An individual living with high-functioning anxiety may appear to be calm and engage in life activities without the effects being easily visible.
In fact, most people probably wouldn’t have a clue about the daily challenges faced by someone living with a high-functioning anxiety disorder.
That’s because they can make their lives appear anxiety-free, albeit suffering in silence.
People with high-functioning anxiety tend to be high-powered and successful professionals who propel forward. Punctual and proactive, constantly busy and working long hours, creating routines and planning ahead.
These are some of the characteristics that are often thought of as positive, with daily routines helping create certainty in life.
On the surface, these routines may come off as ambition, but in reality, the anxiety takes control. What powers life isn’t the drive to succeed, so much as the fear of not succeeding.
Functional anxiety tends to reveal itself in the form of over-achievement, perfectionism or controlling, strict behaviour. Many of these behaviours are often coping mechanisms for underlying anxiety.
But when routine planning derails, the disruption also means being unprepared and the fear of losing control leads to anxiety taking the reins.
The compulsive use of these coping mechanisms isn’t healthy and can often heighten feelings of anxiety, leading to more complicated mental health disorders.
Managing high-functioning anxiety is challenging, almost like another task on an already long to-do list. Left untreated, the effects of high-functioning anxiety can cause considerable potential side effects and have an impact on physical and emotional well being.
For some sufferers, relying on emotional crutches such as alcohol or substance abuse as an unhealthy coping method may result in damaged relationships and reduced overall quality of life.
Attempting to self-cope and hold things together may lead to thinking that there is no need for legitimate concern or support. After all, high-functioning anxiety is not a recognised mental health diagnosis.
Because of this, sufferers may be more reluctant to discuss their deep feeling of concern or acknowledge and deal with their issues.
However, living with fear and anxiety is not something anyone has to accept.
Acknowledging there is a problem is one of the first steps on the road to improvement. Seeking treatment is a big deal if you have high functioning anxiety, but the good news is that it’s treatable.
Making some simple lifestyle changes can also make a big difference in the quality of life and reducing anxiety.
Embracing symptoms and talking about worries is a vital part of getting the help needed. Whether reaching out to friends, family or a medical expert, talking can help maintain good mental health and wellbeing.
Opening up about mental health may also pave the way for those still struggling in silence.
Although there is no miracle diet that can cure anxiety, watching what we eat and drink can certainly help make a difference in general mood or sense of wellbeing.
Eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients is essential for overall physical and mental health.
Mood-boosting foods such as complex carbohydrates can increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which has a calming effect.
Since Omega-3s appear to affect neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, it makes physiological sense to also include omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, walnuts, seeds and dietary supplements.
Staying hydrated – particularly during stressful times is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy and is essential for delivering nutrients to the brain. Even mild dehydration can affect one’s mood and have negative effects on cognitive performance.
It’s not uncommon for people to resort to the consumption of alcohol to deal with their anxiety.
More often than not, people turn to alcohol when stressed in an effort to relax and reduce anxiety. While alcohol can reduce anxiety temporarily, frequent use may exacerbate an anxiety disorder.
Practising deep, calming breathing techniques is a tried and tested form of anxiety relief. Deep breathing can reduce blood pressure, regulate sleep and decrease anxiety.
What’s more, it only takes a few minutes, can be done anywhere and easily incorporated into existing daily routines, such as teeth brushing.
Yoga, which focuses on breathing exercises, meditation as well as physical postures is a great way of easing anxiety and improves feelings of wellbeing.
Regular exercise and good mental health go hand in hand. Exercise is a powerful medicine for many mental health challenges, including anxiety.
It’s a great way to relieve tension and stress and enhances wellbeing through the release of endorphins – “feel good” chemicals in the brain.
A lack of sleep is a common symptom of high-functioning anxiety. The more stress in your life, the less likely you are to fall or stay asleep easily. When it comes to quality and quantity of sleep, almost every system of the body is affected, especially the brain.
Sleep and anxiety have a strong relationship, so it’s important to take a step back and take care of yourself by resting and getting the ideal amount of sleep.
The inability to say “no” is another struggle in the day to day life of someone with high-functioning anxiety.
You might be a people-pleaser and afraid of letting others down, but it’s important to focus on you and yourself. Learn to be more protective of your time, and don’t be afraid of offending others.
Shift your attention away from the stress and anxiety and do something you enjoy. Be selfish – “do you”!
Many people living with stress and anxiety learn to ‘simply’ cope. But this is highly toxic for your physical and mental health.
When your anxiety starts to affect your career and personal relationships, and take over your life in unhealthy ways, it’s time to seek professional.Giles Fourie
You’ve missed the train and will be late for an important meeting. Your deadlines are getting tighter, your hours longer, and you’re always under pressure to perform at peak level.
All of these scenarios can cause us to feel stressed out. Most of the time, that’s okay, as stress is a natural reaction to events that happen during the course of our lives.
It can even be beneficial to health, helping us to cope with difficult or dangerous situations. This is called the ‘fight or flight response’ or the acute stress response. In a stressful situation, our bodies react by activating our sympathetic nervous system, which releases hormones which prepare the body to deal with the threat or run for the hills!
When we are in fight or flight mode, our bodies emit signals, such as a rapid heart rate and breathing, dilated pupils, trembling and we either go pale or get flushed.
These signals are a response to help protect our bodies in an emergency. When the emergency passes, we revert back to normal levels within 15-20 minutes.
There are many situations that can cause high levels of stress, such as high-pressure executive careers, financial problems or difficult relationships. Often one may lead to another leading to a cumulative effect, with each stressor building on top of the other.
When we feel constantly stressed, our bodies remain in a hyper state of tension. This prolonged period of stress is known as Chronic Stress and can lead to serious psychological problems.
In turn, we may find ourselves in a state of progressive depression, coping with substance abuse or having suicidal thoughts.
Psychological and emotional signs that you’re stressed out:
Whilst some people only experience psychological effects, many of us also feel the physical toll of stress on the body.
Mild symptoms such as headache, muscle tension and heartburn, are common, but prolonged bouts of stress can put a lot of pressure on the major systems in our body and cause damage to organs and tissues, leading to serious health problems.
Physical signs that you’re stressed out:
When you feel completely overwhelmed with stress and anxiety for a prolonged period, it becomes difficult to cope with even the smallest daily tasks, let alone try to address the underlying feelings of stress and helplessness. However, it’s important to put some discipline into place and to make positive changes before things spiral out of control.
The first thing to do is to identify the root of the problem, which is causing you to feel stressed. Finding the connection between feeling stressed and the pressures you are facing will help you move towards a less stressful life.
What are you doing when symptoms of stress are triggered? Are you at work, home, or calculating your financial situation?
Start to recognise the symptoms and note down where you are and what you’re doing when they come on.
When you have an idea of what’s causing the problem, you need to decide whether the factors are self-manageable.
If there are practical solutions to your problems, it’s time to implement them.
Here are some examples:
Delegation: If you are taking on too much at work, speak to your team about delegating some of your tasks.
Prioritisation: Do you need to prioritise a relationship over your work or work over a relationship to get the situation under control? Decide on your priorities and put lesser tasks or issues aside for now.
A great example of this can be found in the Coronavirus lockdown situation:
We are working from home and homeschooling our children. Attempting to keep both ourselves and our families focused. But to maintain order in a chaotic world can be highly stressful.
This is a key time for prioritisation and perhaps putting aside the rules that we might have insisted upon at home during normal times.
Organisation: How can you re-organise areas of your life so that they are handled in a more relaxed fashion?
Scheduling time between tasks and free time, time off from emails and social media, and not allowing colleagues to jump into your space for improvised meetings will help you to become more organised and focused.
Often when we find ourselves in stressful times, we turn to unhealthy habits. Using short-term fixes to feel better is a typical way of dealing with stress. You’re not alone.
Some of these habits might be harmless in the short-term, such as drinking too much caffeine or switching to watching endless YouTube videos instead of focusing on work.
However, if our stress is prolonged, these quick-fixes turn into seriously bad habits.
It’s essential to be more aware of those moments when you reach for an unhealthy fix to your problem. When you feel like having one drink too many or starting an argument with your partner, why not try to connect with someone you can talk to instead.
It might not be easy at first, but as they say: a problem shared is a problem halved.
Aside from getting bad habits under control, there are lots of things we can do to move towards a healthier and more stress-free life.
Daily physical exercise, even if it’s only 20 minutes a day, is a positive habit to introduce and is scientifically proven to decrease tension and elevate our mood. Even light exercise and fresh air, such as a daily walk around the neighbourhood will do you the world of good.
Eat for health:
When we reach for sugary snacks or junk food, we are feeding our stress. Recent research suggests that certain foods affect our state of mind.
When we eat healthy foods, we get adequate amounts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals and have positive feels of wellbeing. When we eat unhealthy food, we feel negative about ourselves almost immediately after doing so, and we are increasing the risk of contracting a diet-related disease.
Mindfulness & Meditation:
You’ve probably heard something about mindfulness, but in your stressed state, you’ve dismissed it in favour of another glass of wine or a line of coke. However, mindfulness is an excellent method to help build inner strength and better manage stressful situations.
Both mindfulness and meditation teach us to become more aware of our thoughts and how to step back from them, so we don’t immediately react to certain situations. You also become more sensitive to the needs of your body, which helps reduce bad habits.
At White River Manor, we incorporate mindfulness therapy into our executive burnout and addiction programs.
The most stressful thing about being stressed is blaming yourself when things don’t go according to plan.
In times of stress and worry, it’s important to keep perspective and remember that you’re not the only person to have a bad day.
Instead of beating yourself up, be kind and supportive instead. Take some time each day to appreciate yourself and if you are going to critic yourself, don’t always look for your faults, instead look at the bigger picture.
You’ll be amazed out how much is actually out of your control in these situations – especially with work-related stress.
When stress is prolonged, and your symptoms list grows longer, it’s time to take a step away and focus on self-care. Taking time off from work and yourself out of the routine is the best way to put things into perspective and make positive decisions about your future.
“I don’t have time for a holiday” is so often the excuse we use for avoiding ‘me’ time, in which we should be making healthy decisions about our future.
However, regular breaks are essential if we want to strike a healthy work-life balance. And they will do the world of good for our mental health.
Whether you stay at home and practice self-care, take a well-earned holiday, or book yourself into a recovery centre like White River Manor, the sooner you take action the quicker you’ll be back to your optimum self.
We can’t avoid it altogether, but it’s important to accept that holding onto stress is a detriment to our health.
Avoiding bad habits and keeping a healthy balance between work and play, helps us to live longer and stronger, be more successful at work and enjoy more fulfilling relationships.Giles Fourie
You have been working at maximum velocity. Long working hours mean you have little time to rest, exercise or sit down to a healthy and relaxed meal. When you do finish work, there is peer pressure to head out to play as hard as you have worked.
This has been happening over a period of time now, and you feel physically drained and mentally exhausted. You feel overwhelmed by your workload and are starting to lose the ability to think creatively. In your position, the pressure to perform is great and you may have turned to drugs, alcohol or both to keep you going.
At some point, you’ll reach the breaking point: mental exhaustion, burnout and potentially substance addiction. This is not a great scenario to be living and one that you can’t sustain forever.
Serious-stress syndrome or executive burnout is a work-related illness that affects many thousands of executives and entrepreneurs every year.
It’s important to realise that burnout doesn’t happen overnight, it’s an accumulation of ongoing stress, and it’s not unusual to see high performing executives and entrepreneurs pushing their mind and body to this stage.
When they do, there are key symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.
Ideally, a person suffering from two or more of these symptoms will seek professional help, especially if they are starting to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
As human beings, we are intricately woven into our community of family, friends and workplace. And to really understand the root of any mental health disorder, it’s important to understand the society and circumstances from which we come.
We are influenced by so many factors, such as age, gender, culture, language, heritage, faith, life experience, relationship status, sexual and gender identity, and our beliefs.
At White River Manor, we practice a holistic approach to burnout treatment. Using a combination of traditional therapy methods, cutting-edge science, and ancient philosophy.
When a client first arrives, we spend time learning about the intricacies of their life. What is their community, and what are the circumstances surrounding their burnout? We then personalise the recovery programme around individual needs.
To do this, we move beyond traditional therapy methods.
Bringing together psychotherapeutic treatments, mindfulness, creativity, nutrition, exercise and positive experiences, trips and activities.
A holistic approach doesn’t just focus on the condition or mental health aspect; it also takes into account a person’s wellness.
It looks at the whole person, taking all factors into consideration, such as a patient’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
Each of our situations is unique. And our feelings and experiences around burnout and how we cope are exclusive to us; therefore the path to recovery must be adapted to the individual. The only solution is a holistic approach which focuses on our whole being.
When choosing a programme, it’s essential to find a specialist team who can listen and interpret your situation and offer a wide range of treatments which work on the whole person, not just the mind.
Your treatment should follow a holistic and personalised approach because the benefits of treating the whole person are endless.
The executive burnout recovery program at White River Manor is tailored to an individual client’s specific situation.
We practice a holistic, person-orientated method which focuses on burnout symptoms within the individual. We first look at the root of the problem and treat from the inside out.
This approach helps to shift the sense of overwhelm and to help you break out of the vicious circle that’s impossible to do when you’re stuck in a daily routine.
Our purpose is to get you back on track for a positive and healthy lifestyle, one where healthy habits replace unwholesome ones, and you walk away with a clear mind ready for a more optimistic and successful future.
During a stay at White River Manor, our client’s can participate in a range of treatments. Our approach combines a comprehensive therapy programme with wellness treatments and activities.
Each treatment plan will include individual and group therapy time. Our world-class team has decades of experience. During your stay, you will have access to addiction specialists, clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, a professor of psychiatry, a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) expert, and a behavioural specialist.
The programme features a wide range of therapy sessions. None of the sessions is obligatory, but all offer huge benefits to your mental health and wellbeing.
As important as nourishing our minds, our bodies also need healthy nourishment. When we are working to the limit and prioritising work, we forget the enjoyment that comes with physical activity and experiences that take us out of the norm.
Eating healthily and undertaking regular exercise, getting enough hours of sleep and steering away from negative activities and enjoying positive experiences, all help improve our mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing.
At White River Manor, our wellness program is as important as our therapeutic one when it comes to treating executive burnout. During your stay, we aim to put back balance into your life and restore your motivation through fun and healthy activities.
During your stay, we’ll also focus on nutritional health. Many of our clients have got used to eating on the go, eating unhealthy food, or not eating at all. This is especially prevalent for those suffering from substance abuse.
At White River Manor, our in-house chef team prepares every meal from scratch using fresh local produce and whole foods, which support the fight against mental exhaustion and stress.
Our aftercare plan is the final block in our 360-degree holistic recovery program. We understand that changes you make during your stay at White River Manor will often be difficult to replicate when you get back into the pattern and routine of work and daily life.
Towards the end of your stay, we’ll work together to create an action plan that aims to stop you regressing back to bad habits and where possible we’ll refer you to local professionals when you need added support.Giles Fourie
The road to success is not without its potholes. Long hours and high demands placed on executives and business owners can lead to considerable stress and ultimately executive burnout.
Although many of us think it’s possible to live on pure adrenalin alone, sadly it’s not the case. A 2018 Gallup study of 7,500 employees found that a significant 23% reported feeling burnt out at work very often or always, and 44% feel burnt out at work sometimes.
These figures tell us that there is a considerable problem in the workplace and that whilst many companies foster employee engagement programmes and promote a culture of care and collaboration, there is still a high demand placed on executives, especially those managing teams, and this often leads to physical and mental health issues.
As far back as 1897, executive burnout was recognised as a problem, when Murray Finch-Hatton, the 12th Earl of Winchilsea wrote to his fellow board members at the Great Horseless Carriage company:
“Gentlemen — I believe you are aware that about three months ago, as the result of overwork, my health suddenly broke down, and Sir William Broadbent . . . ordered me at once to go to the Riviera.”
Unfortunately, Murray Finch-Hatton’s rehabilitation was unsuccessful. On his return, he was deemed unfit to work and had to step down from his role. A year later, at 47, he was dead.
Executive burnout can affect us in a number of different ways:
One of the biggest concerns of executive burnout is self-medication.
Using drugs and alcohol to get through busy or stressful periods can negatively impact our daily lives and may lead to a substance abuse problem.
When work-related stress leads to drug and alcohol abuse it has a major effect on our work quality and productivity levels.
Feeling stressed and self-medicating to get through these periods is not a weakness on the part of the employee. Light use of drugs or alcohol are commonplace in the executive world.
They are seen as necessary supplements to push through physical and mental boundaries and perform at the highest level. However, when we are pushed to this limit it’s time to get our priorities in order.
Companies must also take responsibility for the health and well-being of employees because the cost of replacing good team members is expensive.
A recent article in the Huffington Post suggested that losing good team members can cost an average of $25,000 dollars in the hiring of new staff, and it doesn’t stop there. There is also a loss in productivity, with time spent on training up new employees, which put costs nearer to $50,000.
Aside from the financial costs, losing a good employee has a negative effect on staff morale and can lead to a loss of motivation amongst the rest of the team.
It’s much better to invest in employee health and wellbeing, and nurture their growth in the long-term.
The UK charity minds@work is doing just that: mentoring companies through storytelling and events to eradicate the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.
As individuals suffering from executive burnout, one of the most successful ways of repairing the damage caused by over-stress and substance abuse is to seek alternative counselling and therapy.
Whether it’s coupled with substance abuse or not, once executive burnout takes hold it’s vital to get help as quickly as possible, as we’ve already acknowledged that high levels of stress can lead to physical and mental health issues.
One of the best ways to do this is to step away from routine and participate in an executive rehabilitation programme. Here at White River Manor we offer specialised treatment for executive burnout and substance abuse in an idyllic location.
Our executive treatment centre is located in a picturesque setting, nestled along the White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa. We are just 17 kms away from Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves and home to the Big 5.
White River Manor offers a safe and protected environment where you can completely disconnect from environmental factors, such as career stress, peer influence and personal relationships, and focus on YOU and the road to recovery.
When you choose to make the changes that will improve your life, it’s important to surround yourself with people who understand your problem and have the experience to support you through the recovery period.
We have a dedicated, on-site team of experts with decades of experience working with high profile business people who have been through exactly the same situation as you.
A stay at our five star recovery and wellness lodge means you get to step away from negativity and win back your purpose. Outside of the therapy programme you can participate in new and exciting experiences which can help you to see the world from a new perspective.
Clinical research shows that social and cultural constraints can lead people to have thoughts or feelings, or behave in a specific way which increases stress levels.
One such pattern is that executives tend to normalise stress as they want to appear infallible. They appear to be resilient to 80 hour weeks and are connected 24/7, but on the inside, our bodies often can’t cope with this amount of pressure.
To understand and help an individual with executive burnout a qualitative and holistic approach is necessary.
At White River Manor our team of psychologists take time to explore the characteristics of each client, taking every element of the client’s life into consideration, and help them to find a healthy balance within all areas of life.
We look at factors, such as the psychology and emotions of a person, together with their physical well-being and the spiritual aspects that tie these all together.
We put a high emphasis on daily exercise and a healthy diet during a client’s stay, both of which are essential to obtaining and maintaining long term balance.
If a person can learn to love themselves they will in turn begin to look after themselves. Finding healthy outlets in life are key to dealing with the stresses of modern day living.
Of course, we understand that not all clients are able to disconnect completely from work and family life.
Our luxury recovery and wellness centre incorporates a business centre with Wifi and video conferencing facilities giving you the freedom and flexibility for when you need to stay in touch.
There are a range of comfortable suites which provide comfort and privacy for your stay. All set within a beautiful 100-year-old garden with a swimming pool.
You can also enjoy a gourmet chef, Milk Bar, Café and delicatessen. Everything you might enjoy from a five-star luxury hotel environment but with a dedicated team of professionals prioritizing your health and welfare.
At some point in life nearly all of us need a White River Manor. A place to reconnect and refocus with ourselves. But this is especially the case for executives going through burnout.
They say a change is as good as a rest. At White River Manor you will enjoy both: time for healing and a change of perspective.
Contact us today for a free and confidential conversation with one of our highly trained professionals.Giles Fourie
Harry arrived at White River Manor seeking help for executive burnout. It had been a hard, exhausting year with excessive stress building up month after month. A short stint in a calm, tranquil environment was what he needed to escape the relentless pressures of work and get back on track physically, mentally and emotionally. Healthy meals and exercise would do the trick. So he thought.
In the first week, Harry acknowledged he was drinking more than usual to unwind and occasionally using cocaine when the going got really tough. Later he confronted the fact that what he’d glossed over as “occasional use” was in fact regular use and he was likely dealing with a serious drug addiction.
When it came close to leaving at the end of his 28-day stay, Harry opted to stay on longer and fully explore the dark underbelly of his drug addiction. Working closely with our professional team and peeling back the layers, Harry was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This life-long affliction is not welcome news for anyone but we were all relieved that the real work needed for Harry’s recovery could begin.
It’s an example of how important dual diagnosis is at a recovery centre where co-occurring disorders are relatively common. It’s the difference between treating the symptoms versus getting to the bottom of what’s causing them.
This is the burning question that’s regularly dealt with at a recovery centre like White River Manor. Is the general diagnosis of executive burnout masking something more serious?
If you’re feeling more and more burned out and you can’t tell if it’s executive burnout or if you’ve slipped into depression, here is a description of executive burnout from Dr Michael Meyers that’ll throw some light on the subject.
Source: Dr Meyers is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and the author of 7 books that deal with mental health issues. He also serves on the Advisory Board to the Committee for Physician Health of the Medical Society of the State of New York.
“Executive burnout is a sense of emotional exhaustion and decreased personal achievement, among other things. It’s an occupational illness; a state of fatigue and frustration brought about by devotion to a cause or a way of life that is failing to produce the expected reward. It’s not just tiredness; it’s an erosion of the soul in people with ideals and commitment.
If this feeling of physical, mental and emotional burnout is unifocal and restricted to work commitments, it sounds like burnout. If your energy and mood picks up on weekends when surrounded with family and friends or when you’re on holiday, it sounds like burnout.
However, if you’re unable to shake the heavy feeling of ‘doom and gloom’ away from your work environment and the black cloud continues to hang over your head no matter how hard you try to reconfigure your work/life balance, you may have mild or clinical depression.”
Executives suffering from burnout all too often “self-medicate” with alcohol and drugs to relieve the symptoms. There’s nothing like a few beers or glasses of wine every night to take the edge off your irritability, anxiety or feeling of emptiness. Or a few lines of cocaine to anesthetise yourself against life’s woes.
Cocaine enhances alertness and helps you maintain a high level of performance. It’s a quick fix but not the answer to your problems. The same applies to prescription medication used to cope with the physical symptoms of burnout such as insomnia, muscle or joint pain or racing heart.
Executive burnout has three components: loss of energy, loss of enthusiasm and loss of self-confidence and self-belief. Alcohol and drugs work wonders in the short-term to raise your flagging spirits and attention span. But what does executive burnout combined with alcohol and drugs cost you in the long run? Your career, your marriage and family and your health. Sadly, if you’re burnt out enough, you may not even care.
The slippery slope from executive burnout to alcohol and drug addiction is short and fairly rapid. Insomnia, racing thoughts and heart palpitations are just a few of its symptoms. It’s easy to see why people turn to alcohol because it acts as a sedative and drugs like cocaine act like jumper cables for your life’s dead battery.
You’re looking for something to keep you awake and alert or put you into a deep and restful sleep because you wake up anxious and overwhelmed and go to bed the same way. Coffee just doesn’t cut it with executive burnout.
This simple self-assessment is a good place to start if you suspect you’re suffering from executive burnout and need help to rebalance your physical, mental and emotional health.
I always feel tired and lethargic even when I get enough sleep
YES / NO
I feel detached from my colleagues and family and don’t care about their problems and needs
YES / NO
I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep because my mind is racing
YES / NO
I used to love my work but I’ve lost interest and can’t get enthusiastic about anything anymore
YES / NO
I don’t feel I’m working hard enough or fast enough to cope with the demands of my job
YES / NO
I feel used and unappreciated by the people I work with and people close to me
YES / NO
Small things trigger my temper and I get easily frustrated and irritable
YES / NO
I’m not getting through my work load and I don’t really care if I do or don’t
YES / NO
I’m eating and/or drinking too much and making unhealthy life choices but I can’t do better
YES / NO
I take longer now to make decisions than I used to
YES / NO
I’m often sick; I pick up anything going around the office like colds and flu and stomach bugs
YES / NO
I don’t enjoy going out and usually make an excuse to avoid seeing friends and family
YES / NO
I take my frustrations out on the people close to me
YES / NO
I’m not a happy and likeable person to be around most of the time
YES / NO
I wish I could get away from it all and disappear for awhile
YES / NO
If you’ve answered YES to the majority of the questions above, it’s highly likely you’re suffering from executive burnout or may even have slipped into clinical depression.
Located in the lush Mpumalanga Province of South Africa, White River Manor is a world-class treatment centre offering busy executives the time and space needed in a safe and tranquil environment to recover from whatever is dragging them down physically and emotionally.
Working with a team of highly qualified professionals with years of experience in the field of executive burnout, depression and alcohol and drug addiction; together we can get to the bottom of whether you’re dealing with simple executive burnout or something more serious.