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
Buzzwords such as ‘stay home’ and (even more recently) ‘stay alert’ have sparked off their very own movements in recent months.
This aside, how are people coping psychologically amid the pandemic and crucially, how can they manage their mental health during this unprecedented time?
The Spanish flu that erupted in 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide with similar parallels to the Coronavirus. At its peak, 1,200 people died each day from the Spanish Flu and populations were also a lot smaller a century ago.
Interestingly, how people ‘coped’ back then is similar to how many of us are coping now. Self-isolation booths in 1918 may not have been as high-tech as they are today, however, quarantine rules were strictly imposed on a global level as was social distancing, rationing and panic buying.
The difference between history and what’s happening today largely boils down to two things: technology and mental health awareness (and in the case of the Spanish flu lack thereof).
If we were to draw any positives from the Coronavirus, it would probably be the advancement of technology and scientific research methods.
Essentially, technology has the power to create awareness and as we’ve been taught many times before: awareness saves lives. Unfortunately, since science and medicine were vastly underdeveloped in the 1918’s, medical professionals simply didn’t have the tools to develop a vaccine to treat the virus.
Not forgetting the lessons that can be learned from history. And although most of us had never heard of the terms ‘social distancing’ and ‘self -isolation’ pre-Covid19, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. Equally, being privy to past knowledge puts us in a stronger position as we have something to draw on.
Another important factor when it comes to pandemic survival is the role it plays in mental health.
Decades ago the stigma attached to mental health was much stronger than it is today. And research into the Spanish Flu pandemic shows just how deprived mental health initiatives were back then.
Historical demographer, Svenn -Erik Mamelund, PhD, conducted research into asylum hospitalizations in Norway from 1872- 1929. The study found that the number of first-time hospitalized patients experiencing mental disorders attributed to influenza increased by an average yearly factor of 7.2 in the 6 years after the pandemic.
Mamelund reported that Spanish flu survivors experienced sleep disturbance, mental distraction, dizziness and an inability to concentrate at work. Many also reported feelings of depression and anxiety, and in the years between 1918-1920, the US suicide rates were positively and significantly related to the Spanish flu pandemic.
Fortunately, support and awareness surrounding mental health issues have drastically improved with the emergence of rehabilitation treatment centres and movements such as Mind and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
If history teaches us anything at all, it is the lessons we can learn from the past, including what to do (and crucially what not to do) amid a global pandemic.
With the world currently experiencing varying levels of grief, it’s important that mental health professionals continue to spread the message surrounding grief and the many ways it manifests.
The unfortunate death toll that has emerged because of Covid-19 is devastating and has triggered it’s very own grief pandemic. Grief has always been somewhat of a taboo subject. Although when one experiences the death of a loved one, it is expected for them to go through the grieving process. But what about grief that is spurred on by a pandemic?
There are many levels to grief and how one copes is subjective to the individual. Some might turn to substance addiction as a way of coping, while others perhaps turn to other forms of self- destructive behaviour. Grief recovery experts define grief as being:
‘’The normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind.’’
If the above statement has any truth to it, the dramatic changes the pandemic has brought to our lives means that we are all grieving to some degree. Ever since the Coronavirus, rehabilitation centres have reported concerns particularly for patients in recovery from addiction.
Recovery from addiction largely involves a connection with others and sharing challenges with people who understand. Experts have become increasingly concerned about the impact that isolation will have on patients and their recovery.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently reported an increase in alcohol use as a coping mechanism during the Coronavirus lockdown, and have labelled it an ‘unhelpful coping strategy’. Relying on alcohol to curb anxiety and cabin fever ‘’can only make things worse’’.
There are several ways in which people can effectively manage stress and anxiety during lockdown which include:
Routine is essential to our daily lives. It provides us with structure and purpose and helps us to keep things in order.
For those working from home, it can be tempting to opt for a more relaxed routine, such as getting up late or lounging around in your pyjamas for half the day, but this can quickly turn into a vicious cycle.
The best advice is to follow a similar routine from the pre-quarantine days: get up early, shower, eat breakfast and do some exercise (if possible).
Since Covid-19, peoples’ lives have been thrown into disarray and sticking to a routine provides a bit of structure, it also helps to minimise a ‘fear of the unknown’. The more predictable your daily schedule is, the less likely you are to feel anxious.
This is especially true for those in addiction recovery too, as they can continue (as much as possible) to practise the principles learned from the 12 – step recovery program.
The language people use and their inner dialogue is an important aspect of mental health.
When it comes to lockdown if we consciously affirm: ‘’I’m enjoying being at home and doing all the things I couldn’t do before’’ instead of ‘’I am isolated indoors’’ it’s likely that over time, your brain will start to respond to the positive narrative it’s being fed.
Almost like ‘rewiring’ the brain, the use of positive language is a very powerful tool in the management of anxiety and stress.
Those that suffer from anxiety attacks are often advised to use positive affirmations in order to control their breathing during an attack and this approach usually works on both a physiological and emotional level.
Lately, the outside world has served us with enough chaos to last a lifetime, it’s important then, that we keep our home environment as chaos-free as possible.
This might prove more challenging to those who have children, but maintaining a calm environment when everything else seems out of control, allows us to put specific techniques into practice such as taking up home yoga or meditation.
Essentially, being able to shut the front door and step into a calm, tranquil environment will work wonders in the minimisation of stress – meaning that people are less likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol and other substances.
While it’s important to know what is going on in the world, excessive news coverage, especially at the current time, will only add to peoples’ stress and anxiety levels.
The advice would be to stay informed about any changes in rules and the pandemic in general, but not to the point where you are excessively news watching or reading about the pandemic on social media.
Too much negative exposure can create nervous tension within the body and what happens when people become overly nervous? They turn to ‘something’ like alcohol to get rid of the anxiety. A good rule of thumb would be for people to minimise any news exposure to once a day.
Those who happen to be isolating alone are more at risk of anxiety and feelings of loneliness mental health experts advise.
Long-term disconnectedness from others can often lead to self-destructive behaviour such as excessive drinking, smoking and other forms of addiction. That’s why staying connected to family and friends is important during this time.
Fortunately, with social platforms like Zoom, Webex and other messaging apps it’s a whole lot easier for people to stay connected compared to a century ago.
Interestingly, recent research has shown that those who are isolated with family members and partners are also at risk of loneliness regardless of sharing a household with others. For those people, checking in with themselves regularly and staying connected to people outside the house-hold can be extremely cathartic, especially when cabin fever starts to kick in.
The benefits of physical exercise are endless. Mainly because exercise helps to:
Regular exercise can have a positive profound effect on anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders such as ADHD and the reasons for this are limitless:
Feeling overwhelmed at times is part and parcel of being human. But when things seem unmanageable or you feel as though you can no longer cope, then it might be time to seek help from a professional.
There are plenty of mental health organisations out there and whichever one you decide on, will depend largely on where you live and your symptoms. An individual might be offered tailored therapy or something more intense.
If someone is living with high-functioning anxiety, for example, they might demonstrate a range of symptoms such as: controlling or strict behaviour, perfectionism and the need to over-achieve all of which mask underlying anxiety.
Often people tend to ‘accept’ anxiety as a way of life, but fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Rehabilitation centres offer a variety of treatments designed to help people manage stress and anxiety through specific therapy packages and wellness programs.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 may have noticed that what you eat and drink can lift or lower your spirits. It affects how we feel, think and even how we behave.
Some foods are known to lift your mood, concentration and energy levels, while others can have the opposite effect.
For example, eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains can help reduce your risk of some mental health conditions.
Whereas a diet high in sugars and saturated fats are considered detrimental to cognitive function.
Nutrition is one of the most obvious yet under-recognised factors in the development of mental health.
To stay healthy, the brain requires varying quantities of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and even water.
Our brain is made up of mostly water (about 75%) and so drinking the recommended daily consumption helps with brain function and connectivity in a number of ways.
Water helps balance your mood and emotion, improves cognition and concentration, increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and also helps reduce stress.
A fully hydrated brain will help the exchange of nutrients and toxins to become more efficient, thus ensuring better concentration and mental performance.
Our brain works hard around the clock, even when we are asleep, and requires a constant supply of fuel – primarily obtained from a balanced diet rich in nutrients.
Those of us who chronically under-eat or regularly skip meals can experience blood sugar decreases, causing our brain to become sluggish and foggy.
In the rush and pressure of modern life, busy schedules mean stressful times and often leave us eating in a frazzled state with little to no time to sit down to a healthy meal – or drink the recommended intake of water for a hydrated body and mind.
Lack of time has a direct impact on our food choices and we are often found compromising a well-intended diet for quick-fix snacks and stimulants – leaving you zapped of energy both physically and mentally.
Corporate leaders and high flying executives working long hours in a competitive environment accept stress as a normal part of life.
For some, it’s not uncommon to self-medicate in order to cope with the stress brought on by running a fast-paced company and the pressures of leading at the top.
But behind closed doors, challenges and vulnerabilities are faced and often they believe the actions they are participating in are helping, not harming them.
There’s a high expectation to perform at peak levels and much rides on their success and behaviour. But how aware are high-powered individuals of their mental health?
Lifestyle factors such as demanding work roles, unhealthy diet, drugs and alcohol, and lack of sleep can all affect your mental health.
Ongoing stress can start to affect our mental health and turn into more serious problems – such as anxiety and Depression.
We have all almost certainly experienced anxiety at some point; it is perfectly normal. The right amount of anxiety can help us do our best in situations that involve performance.
However, the ugly side of anxiety can cause emotional distress and at worse develop anxiety disorders and depression – impacting on our lives as well as our physical and mental health.
Eating is one of life’s pleasures. So why are so many of us rushing through it?
Our diet and the foods we eat can make a difference when it comes to brain health and function.
Many of us rush through meals or even skip them. You may think it’s not a problem to skip a critical meal, eating fewer calories -what’s the harm-right?
Missing a meal, particularly breakfast, or not eating for long spells can lead to blood sugar decreases, which cause interruption in your ability to think straight – this leaves you feeling irritable, confused and fatigued. In turn, your body starts to increase the production of Cortisol, leaving you even more stressed.
The same can be said about skimping on carbohydrate foods. The term “carbs” may have become a taboo word, and its reputation put into question, but our bodies need carbs to produce serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical that lifts your moods and has a calming effect.
Your brain needs glucose for energy, and this is obtained from carbs when broken down.
Avoiding carbohydrates can actually have negative effects on your brain, and a diet low in carbs can be detrimental to your memory and your ability to learn and think.
Think ‘good’ complex carbs and not ‘bad’ simple carbs.
The good: vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains
The bad: cookies, cakes, candy bars and all high sugar options are very easy to breakdown but cause a spike in blood sugar resulting in a crash and low mood.
In order to remain healthy, the brain needs other nutrients such as omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Specific fats are a key component in the structure of cell membranes and play an important role in neuron development and function.
For example, omega-3 fatty acids help build and regenerate brain cells, and antioxidants minimise cellular stress and inflammation, which are associated with brain ageing and neurodegenerative disorders.
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are vital for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life. Found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel) they improve memory and mood. They can also be found in soybeans, flaxseed, nuts and other seeds. Low levels of omega-3s may accelerate brain ageing and brain function deficits.
For those who fall short of their recommended fish intake, fish oil supplements may be a convenient alternative.
Antioxidants are particularly important for brain health since the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, a condition of imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants, that is thought to contribute to age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Antioxidants are found in most fruit and vegetables but in general, the brighter the colour, the higher level of antioxidants. Berries – whether strawberries blackberries, blueberries are the ideal antioxidant fix and can help improve concentration and memory.
In particular, blueberries are considered to contain the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables. Make sure to have a place on your plate for brightly coloured fruits and vegetables with every meal.
Catch up on those zzz’s. Sleep and health are strongly related; getting a good night’s sleep helps to repair and restore body and mind whereas poor sleep can have a negative effect on our health.
Sleep is vital for maintaining good physical and mental health. Simple lifestyle adjustments can benefit the quality of our sleep. A lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep can affect our energy, mood and concentration levels.
Taking time out to relax and let go of any worries or concerns is vital for mental wellbeing.
Relaxing gives your body and mind the time to recover from everyday stresses. Stop, breath and take time out for yourself to de-stress and rejuvenate, book yourself that well-deserved getaway without hesitation, take up a yoga class and learn to breathe again.
Breathing exercises can genuinely help, its one of the best ways to reduce tension and lower stress. A perfect tranquil environment will benefit your mind, body and soul.
Sleep well, eat well, exercise and make time for you – Healthy life, Healthy mind!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
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.