At Step 1 Recovery, it has become apparent that highly successful and motivated professionals aren’t vulnerable to developing dysfunctional patterns of behaviour in order to cope with the pressures of their roles.

The modern workplace can make it difficult to avoid executive burnout. The rise in social media influencers preaching about the importance of following your passion does not lessen the impact of work upon our physical and mental health. In fact, becoming engrossed in work is one of the classic warning signs of burnout, and setting boundaries is helpful in reclaiming enthusiasm.

A number of prestigious publications, including the Harvard Business Review, have drawn attention to workplace stress levels, showing how high achievers often struggle to find an ideal work-life balance. Avoiding burnout is becoming a primary concern in many industries, as organisations face new pressures to offer agile working arrangements and improved benefits packages.


What is workplace burnout?

Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive exposure to stress and undue pressure. Work contributes to burnout by encouraging long hours and creating a sense of responsibility that takes advantage of our insecurities about being unemployed. In this regard, jobs can feel overwhelming, placing people in a difficult situation of relying on overachievement to survive.

It can sometimes be difficult for colleagues to spot the signs of executive burnout. Increased irritability and short-temperedness can occur, but the worst symptoms of burnout often happen behind closed doors, witnessed by family and friends who must deal with the aftermath of another exhausting day.

If you are feeling tired, pessimistic and demotivated at work, burnout may be a realistic cause of your struggle. Seek professional guidance and rediscover your passion for achievement with structured boundaries in place.


How to avoid executive burnout

To prevent burnout, you must first analyse your workload and responsibilities. Effective delegation can help relieve the burden, so it is important to spend time each day asking whether specific tasks actually match your job requirements. If they do not, engage a colleague who will offer support.

A qualified executive coach will teach you about spending periods of time away from your desk or outside the office entirely, redressing the balance between work and recreation. Those lessons can be vitally important, helping you find new energy and a fresh perspective with which to attack the day.

Alternatively, many people turn to stress rehab to treat their chronic experiences of burnout. Though often overlooked, this is a focused form of rehabilitation that will teach you to prioritise and compartmentalise your responsibilities, streamlining your approach.

We have gauged the opinion of a couple of industry experts, to ask them what their advice would be on how they would advise someone who fears they may suffer from burnout…

Dr Andrew D Wilson is an ecological psychologist who also has a popular blog about theories of psychology. He suffered from work burnout himself and gives some actionable advice…

“My burnout is best understood as a ‘moral injury’, a framing suggested by Simon Talbot & Wendy Dean. My values (about how I think I can best teach and support my students) ran headlong into a system (embodied by management) that didn’t share those values, and I lost the argument. It took a couple of months, though, and so the stress of the clash had time to settle in and create a genuine injury.

What I did to recover is I took time; as much time as I could. I took 3 weeks off when I tipped from stressed to burned-out, and I used the rest of my leave over the summer for a 6 week break in which I actively ignored work and focused on myself and my family. I was very lucky to have the ability to take this much time, but I needed it. I turned off my email, and for the first week or so, I did nothing. I slept, I watched TV, and I practiced not thinking about work. This got me from exhausted to just tired, which helped immensely. I also knew, though, that doing nothing wasn’t enough and that I needed to actively replace the stressors with other things. So once I had slept a bunch, I played more with my kids, tidied my home, read a book, and walked outside every chance I got (thanks, Pokemon Go and Roundhay Park!)

That first three weeks reset me enough to cope with the rest of the semester, just. The summer break gave me the time and space to actually heal, which I wasn’t sure would ever happen. So while I definitely still carry a scar, time spent doing good things that weren’t my stressors allowed me to get back to a place where I feel I can do my work again.”

Additionally, we spoke to Fraser Smith who is a psychological therapist and international speaker for the British Psychological Society…


Where can I find help for burnout?

Here at Step One Recovery, we offer a tailored stress rehab package that helps patients identify triggers and manage subsequently associated behaviours. Stress is a very changeable condition, driven by environments and expectations that are unique to each individual. Therefore, we take time to understand your career trajectory, placing burnout in its correct context. This makes our treatment plans more accurate and, ultimately, more successful.

If you are struggling with workplace stress, burnout or other mental health complications, contact our qualified team for more information on how you can access help. Sometimes, in the daily grind of contemporary life, we forget to take care of ourselves. We are here to give you that respite and provide the tools for professional revitalisation.