The Resilient Leader

Burnout – A Sign of the Times:  How Can You Recapture Resilience?

Resilience has become front and center given the times.  On the one hand, people are forging closer relationships because they’re working from home and they’re really having a sense of family that develops out of this. On the other hand, there are so many people that are just clearly overwhelmed. They’re having to deal with this constant change, taking on new things whether it’s a new job, working from home, homeschooling their kids and all of that just adds up. It’s like walking around with a low grade fever. It just begins to wear you down time and time again.

Some folks, particularly those with younger families at home, may be struggling a little bit more because not only do they have their work to take care of, they also have all the family duties at home. More meals to cook, more dishes to wash, relearning eighth grade algebra or whatever the case may be. And so, they’re being thrust into a world that they hadn’t planned for and that no one had, and so having to scramble to figure out how do we make all of this work. And some other folks who maybe have older families or people who have left the house already, that they seem to be perhaps a little bit easier, but of course they’re getting nervous about retirement.

A clinical definition of fatigue is when you’re at the end of your tether or you just have too many demands and depleted of energy.  If you don’t take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically, you may do damage to yourself and become vulnerable to a downward spiral.

If you’re really heading towards fatigue or exhaustion, you’re going to have either more pronounced symptoms or new symptoms. Whether it’s having trouble sleeping, overeating or under eating or other swings away from your normal behavior.  These swings are signs – symptoms that you’re not adjusting well.

Your Body is Like an Instrument Panel. But Are You Aware Enough to Read the Signs?

A client was a C-level officer in one of the largest companies, it’s very well known. And she was preparing for a global conference that she would share. And one day she had gone to her doctor’s office for a visit. She had a headache, but went on and made her plans to travel there to the conference. Her doctor called and said, “Do not get on an airplane.” And she said, “Well, why?” He said, “If you do, you will die.” It turned out that he had found that there may have been some thrombosis or some embolism potentially. “You cannot go in the air because of the air pressure.”

That precipitated a series of life changes for her that ultimately caused her to look at her life and say, “Is this a healthy life giving, life affirming way of being in the world?” Ultimately, she left her relationship, left that company, and left where she lived. She had been in a high rise and now she lives on a marshland overlooking a giant bay and she’s never been happier in her life.

Be intentional. Be in Control.  

  • While you’re on the phone, take a 60 second pause.  Breathe.  Even before you get on the phone or video call.
  • At the micro level, ask yourself “What do I really like?” Is it a particular food? Is it a particular scene? Is it a particular TV program? What is it? Make sure you’ve built that in at a regular interval into your life.
  • Ask yourself, “What is it that you used to love to do as a child, something that brought you great joy that you’ve let slip away?”  and then ask yourself, “And what would be the implication if I brought that back?”
  • Try using this acronym with yourself and if the answer is yes to any one of them (not necessarily all of them), take a step back from your life – Pause: H-A-L-T – never become too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Any one of these can be a trigger to start creating stress and ultimately create what could be a downward spiral if not addressed.
  • Walk. It could be a walk around the house or the neighborhood, even between calls or between meetings, just to re-energize get the blood flowing, the oxygen flowing again. Even five minutes can be a dramatic difference from before to after.
  • Have a supportive community, whomever that may be.  It could be family, friends, animals, and the natural environment can be part of that. Have something beyond yourself that you can find resources and fall back into and say, “Okay, I’m going to be held by something, someone’s greater than me.”
  • Write down three things that you’re grateful for. Based on a scientific viewpoint and the way our neuron connections in our brains work, catching ourselves doing well or catching opportunities with positive replaceable behavior gives us a different mindset.
  • Make people feel heard, valued and understood.  You’ll make them feel better and yourself as well.
  • Don’t automatically make video calls or meetings an hour.  Can they be done in 30 minutes instead? 
  • As a leader, go first and model that way.  Even if a meeting is scheduled for an hour, as a leader say, “I’m stopping the meeting. We’re going for 50 minute meetings” or, “Hey, I went for a walk around the block.”
  • It’s okay to be overwhelmed and be real about it. Don’t be a martyr.

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