Stress and Anxiety

Do I have Executive Burnout?

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.

Executive burnout or depression or both?

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.”

Burnout and addiction

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.

Are you suffering from 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

Do you need professional help?

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.

Posted on April 13th, 2020 by

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