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Executive Burnout and Addiction

Sep 25, 2023

High stress, heavy workloads, and complex decision-making can become a recipe for disaster if an executive neglects self-care. You may recognize it now in the exhaustion you feel and in your struggle to perform at the highest levels. When your well-being is threatened, coping can come in the form of substance use. In this blog post, we’ll explain how to recognize executive burnout and where to find help with recovery steps before it impacts your role, your career, and your company.

Executive burnout is characterized by a combination of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that result from chronic stress and excessive job demands. It can increase vulnerability to developing a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) as a means of self-medicating or escapism from the demands of the executive role. Avoiding executive burnout can come from proactively scheduling breaks, using time management, delegating duties to others, and seeking support. Headwaters offers help in a program personalized for the executive who is ready to restore their well-being and protect their career and reputation.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-270-1753.

What Is Executive Burnout?

“Executive burnout” is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion faced by high-level executives and business leaders. It is the outcome of constant, severe stress and relentless job expectations of leadership positions. Long working hours, high-pressure decision-making, continuous multitasking, and the expectation of always being available are all characteristics that contribute to executive burnout.

Signs & Symptoms of Executive Burnout

Burnout can result in lower productivity, higher absenteeism, strained relationships at work and home, and many other consequences. It’s crucial for executives to recognize these signs early and take proactive steps to address burnout. If left unchecked, executive burnout can show up as any of the signs and symptoms in the following list.

Chronic Fatigue: Executives suffering from burnout frequently experience continuous fatigue, both physically and psychologically, even after a good night’s rest or a short vacation.

Cynicism and Detachment: Executives may develop a negative and cynical attitude toward their work, colleagues, and organization, leading to emotional detachment.

Difficulty Concentrating: Executives may battle with focus, memory, and decision-making, making it difficult to accomplish their jobs with efficiency.

Increased Absenteeism: Burnout can result in more frequent and unexpected absences from work, whether due to medical sickness or the need for mental and emotional relief.

Irritability and Mood Swings: Burnout can include irritation, mood fluctuations, and a reduced ability to handle daily stress.

Loss of Motivation: A lack of purpose and drive in one’s employment might lead to a lack of passion for work responsibilities and a diminished sense of vision of the future.

Neglected Self-Care: Executives may disregard self-care activities, including exercise, eating healthy food, and relaxation, increasing their level of burnout.

Physical Symptoms: Burnout is frequently accompanied by physical health conditions such as headaches, stomach disorders, and sleep disturbances.

Reduced Job Performance: Despite working long hours, a drop in job performance and productivity is a classic symptom of executive burnout.

Strained Relationships: Due to increasing stress and emotional tiredness, burnout may spill over into your personal life, hurting relationships with family and friends.

Correlation with SUD

Without healthy coping strategies for all the demands of the executive career and lifestyle, burnout can lead to frequent use of alcohol or drugs. Executives suffering from burnout may turn to substances to cope with the tremendous stress, mental exhaustion, and physical exhaustion that comes with their demanding roles. When they are overwhelmed by feelings of sadness or anxiety, they may use substances to self-medicate.

Drugs or alcohol might provide a brief break from the pressures and duties of being an executive. Burnout can affect thinking and decision-making, increasing the likelihood of reckless behavior. A lifestyle that includes networking meetings, company activities, and social gatherings that might involve alcohol makes it easier for executives in recovery to relapse into substance abuse. Prolonged use of substances as a coping mechanism can also increase tolerance.

10 Tips to Avoid Executive Burnout

Leaders in executive roles can take proactive steps to avoid burnout and maintain their well-being. Here are 10 things you can do regularly to reduce your risk of reaching the point of self-sabotage due to exhaustion at work.

1. Set Boundaries: Set distinct lines between your professional and personal life. Set aside particular periods for work-related duties and make time to relax and recharge.

2. Delegate Responsibly: Delegate tasks and responsibilities to team members who are capable. Trust your staff to do their jobs well to avoid relying on micromanagement.

3. Prioritize Self-Care: Self-care should be a non-negotiable priority. Integrate regular exercise, a healthy diet, enough sleep, and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or mindfulness into your day.

4. Learn Time Management: Using effective time management skills, such as task prioritization, goal setting, and avoiding over commitment, allows you to limit the hours devoted to work.

5. Seek Support: When faced with increasing exhaustion at work, seek help from outside mentors or professionals in the mental health field to learn how to reduce stress and manage demands in healthy ways.

7. Schedule Breaks: Take breaks throughout your workday to rejuvenate and avoid burnout, as even small periods of relaxation can increase concentration and productivity.

8. Foster a Supportive Workplace Culture: Promote an accepting and welcoming workplace environment where staff members are respected, acknowledged, and given tools to handle stress.

9. Use Regular Check-Ins: Evaluate your personal stress and well-being on a regular basis. Self-awareness is essential for identifying burnout early and taking the appropriate steps.

10. Set Realistic Goals: Set attainable objectives for you and your team to avoid the risk of chronic stress and burnout developing from unrealistic expectations.

Getting Help for SUD Related to Executive Burnout

Headwaters offers private help in a confidential setting for the executive whose burnout has become destructive to their personal and professional lives. In a program personalized for your specific needs, you can learn coping strategies for managing the symptoms of burnout that led to substance use. Evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can be accessed to help you reshape your patterns of thinking about your reliance on substances and the value of your own well-being. In addition, Headwaters provides numerous amenities chosen to make you feel comfortable during your stay.

Tour Headwaters
Bedroom at HeadwatersHanley Foundation’s Headwaters is a non-profit addiction treatment program for executives, public figures, other affluent individuals, and their loved ones. Headwaters offers leading-edge, personalized clinical care for mental health and substance use disorders, and our professional and compassionate staff can help you achieve holistic wellness. To start your healing journey, call 561-270-1753 today.

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