Executive Fatigue and Burnout

Executive fatigue and burnout is a 21st century reality

It is a term used to describe adrenal gland fatigue brought on when someone can no longer respond adequately to the demands of their work-life.

 

More than 90% of middle and senior level executives complain of constant fatigue and lack of motivation from time to time. Are you also one of them them? Read on…

1. Have you become overly introspective?

2. Do you/have you started exercising vigorously?

3. Do you feel a drop in libido that is not age related?

4. Do you have a recurring and unexplainable body aches?

5. Is non-specific stress wreaking havoc in your personal life?

6. Have you recently developed ridges and vertical lines on your nails?

7. Are the 24×7 demands of your work leaving you fatigued and depressed?

8. Have you, in the recent past, gained weight, especially around the mid rift?

9. Are you experiencing a host of physical ailments without any specific reason?

10. Has maintaining a relationship with people, friends and family become a chore?

11. Normal break or holidays from work are not helping you overcome this dull daily living?

12. Are you getting hooked to stimulants like vigorous exercising, sexual preoccupations, recreational drug use or other thrills?

13. Do you have joint pains, cravings for sweets, pain in the low back area and have excessive thirst or craving for sweet and salty foods?

Changed sleep pattern is one of the main symptom for Adrenal fatigue and Burnout

1. You’re drowsy in the middle of afternoon again,
2. But suddenly feel a burst of energy by 6 pm.
3. Slumber starts grabbing you again at around 9 pm
4. And if you resist it, the second wave comes back around 2 hours.

Also look for the following symptoms for Adrenal fatigue and Burnout

1. Unexplained hair loss
2. Poor memory and brain fog
3. Increased desire for sweet and salty food
4. Are your hands and feet cold, most of the times
5. Feeling of lightheadedness after getting up from a sitting or lying down position
6. Increase in PMS or Menopausal symptoms like Nervousness, irritability and anger

 

If you identify with at least some of these questions, you are standing on the brink of a perilous 21st century medical hazard looming large – Adrenal Burnout.

Also known as the Executive Burnout, the issue is rarely taken seriously in the corporate world where working for 18-20 hours a day with minimum sleep has become a norm.

A recent study on business executives by the Harvard Medical School faculty revealed that 96% of the senior executives consistently feel burnt out. Among them, one-third stated their burnout as extreme.

 

Adrenal fatigue and burnout is a major breakdown of the energy producing systems of your body

The adrenal glands – known as the ‘glands of stress’ – prepare you to deal with stress coming from your work or personal life. Under normal stressful situations, the adrenals produce adequate amount of stress hormones necessary for the body. But when you go through chronic stress, they become overworked leading to adrenal fatigue. If stress continues to remain unmanaged, it results in depletion of the adrenals, causing Adrenal Burnout.

Adrenal Burnout syndrome is also often confused with normal fatigue. But there’s a stark difference – while usual fatigue can be overcome by proper rest and sleep, Adrenal Burnout isn’t that easy to cure.

Adrenal fatigue is the allowance of stressors to influence and perhaps take control of your life…

Strangely enough, the mainstream medical community has rebuffed Dr. Wilson’s theory citing that it doesn’t have any scientific validity. However, Adrenal Burnout can disrupt the hormonal, digestive and detoxification systems of the body – a crucial reason behind the most traumatic health hazards.

Research suggests that in the US around 80% of the adult population suffers from adrenal fatigue during their lifetime, but it continues to remains one of the most under-diagnosed diseases of the country.

Our lifestyles have changed, but our bodies have not – Dr. Wilson.

Adrenal Burnout affects Senior Executive, more…

Upheavals in the economy, discontent shareholders, management of the workforce and delivering targets in the face of growing expectations trigger chronic stress among the high-level executives. The fact that they are always expected to perform flawlessly and set an example for the employees makes matters worse.

1. Reports suggest that over 60% of the executives experience chronic stress and anxiety on a regular basis.

2. The average tenure of a global chief executive has dropped from 8.1 years to 6.3 years in the last decade.

3. UK economy has to shell out £4 billion in lost workdays resulting from stress, anxiety and depression.

In the late 2011, António Horta-Osório, the CEO of Lloyds Banking Group, suffered from extreme fatigue due to high stress and took a two-months leave from his job within a year of joining. As soon as he left, the shares of the bank started dropping and the trend continued for the next few weeks. This case brought to focus the instability a company runs in when its top executives are distressed.

 

Some of the main causes for Adrenal fatigue and Burnout

1. Excessive Stress. Inability to control situations

Relentless work pressure, excessive physical activity, financial worries, hostile situations at workplace, family tensions, emotional upheavals are some of the causes for Adrenal fatigue and Burnout.

Instead of dealing with Stress we start worrying about it and this unhealthy response to Stress puts more burden on the glands and the present symptoms get magnified, leading to complete adrenal fatigue and burnout.

It has been seen that 95% of the adrenal fatigue cases result from chronic emotional stress

2. Unhealthy Diet pattern

Lack of right nutrients and unhealthy diet patterns, during stressful situations, can also cause Adrenal fatigue and Burnout. The adrenal glands require essential nutrients like protein, vitamins A, B-complex, C and E, manganese, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium etc. to fight stress hormones.

Most people lose the grip over quality of food intake and diet discipline, when under stress. This can disrupt the subtle balance of body chemicals thereby triggering an adrenal stress.

3. Chronic inflammation. Allergens and allergies

Chronic and unmanageable inflammation in your body for long periods stresses your system and put pressure on the adrenals.

4. Under Active Thyroid

Hypothyroidism or under active thyroid is another common hormonal cause leading to Adrenal fatigue and Burnout. As the cortisol level in the body goes up, the thyroid level is regulated down. So a person having high cortisol level will have thyroid hormone level lower than the ideal triggering Adrenal Stress.

5. Use of Stimulants. Alcoholism and addiction

The common stimulants like caffeine, sugar, alcohol and drugs can give us momentary high due to the secretion of high amounts of adrenal hormones, BUT over a time, they harm the adrenals and result in adrenal fatigue. Even the emotional stimulants like excessive anger, rage, hatred, loud music and fearful news can weaken the adrenals.

6. A few other VERY important causes for Adrenal fatigue and Burnout
  • Rampageous and dysfunctional workplace dynamics
  • Unclear and immediate job expectations
  • Insufficient social support
  • PMS and Menopause
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • HIV and Hepatitis C
  • Mild depression
  • Sleep disruption
  • Low Immunity
  • Dental Health
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Herpes

 

Science behind Adrenal fatigue and Burnout

Adrenal glands; two thumb-sized glands are located above the kidneys. Often called ‘shock absorbers’, they produce a number of essential hormones that prepare our body to respond to stress. These hormones include adrenalin (epinephrine), noradrenalin (norepinephrine), cortisol and DHEA, among others.

These hormones regulate many of your body activities, such as…

1. Activating the body ‘fight or flight’ response to stress.
2. Producing energy from carbohydrate, protein and fat.
3. Managing blood sugar and blood pressure.
4. Controlling the strength of the immune system.

Among all the hormones produced by the adrenal glands, the two most important for fighting stress are cortisol and DHEA.

However, when the ‘fight or flight’ stress response of the body continues for a period beyond the biological capacity of the hormones, they become overworked. They start failing to produce any more mechanism needed to fend off stress and depression. It is at this point that adrenal fatigue creeps in, ultimately leading to Adrenal Burnout.

 

Common sources of stress that cause adrenal fatigue and burnout

1. Overwork leading to physical and mental strain.
2. Chronic pain.
3. Emotional stressors.
4. Poor lifestyle choices.

Adrenal fatigue and Burnout does not happen in a day. It goes through three stages…

Stage 1 – You are going through a lot of stress and your cortisol levels are very high. At times, it can be positive since you enjoy the stress and feel more charged to perform.

Stage 2 – When your cortisol levels remain too high for too long a period, they begin to fail and you enter the second stage. You start experiencing health problems like weight gain or sleeplessness.

Stage 3 – In the final stage, the adrenal glands are completely burnt out and your cortisol levels are low all the time. If you stay long enough in stage two and fail to give proper rest to your adrenals, you enter stage three.

In severe cases of Adrenal fatigue and Burnout, the activity of the adrenal glands are so diminished that the person may find it difficult to get out of the bed for more than a few hours every day.

Adrenal fatigue and Burnout, if not checked and treated in time can lead not only to mental trauma, but also subject the body to a number of health hazards.

 

Few of the serious Health hazards due to Adrenal fatigue and Burnout

1. Addison’s Disease – It is characterised by extremely low adrenal activity. The symptoms include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, low blood pressure, decreased tolerance to cold, changes in skin colour and anorexia.

Addison’s disease sometimes happens due to severe shock to the body system. The US President John F. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s disease. During the Second World War, his patrol boat was crashed down by a Japanese destroyer. Most of the crew died but Kennedy survived, the shock affected his body and he developed Addison’s disease.

2. Cushing Syndrome – The adrenal glands are marked by over activity. The symptoms are moon face (large chin and forehead), obesity in the trunk, prolonged wound healing and weak muscles.

3. Cortisol Reversal – The production pattern of cortisol hormones changes. In the morning, the cortisol levels are low when actually they should be higher. They increase as the day progresses and are too high in the evening and night.

 

Dealing with Adrenal fatigue and Burnout

Much like all stress-related problems, Adrenal fatigue and Burnout too doesn’t get cured overnight. It takes time for the adrenal glands to burnout and it takes even longer time to get them back to a normal state. Recovery from extreme burnout and burnout involves a complete rebuilding of the body’s energy system. However, making a change in your lifestyle and dietary patterns can set you on the road to wellness.

Optimal adrenal health is one of the major keys to the enjoyment of life – Dr. Wilson.

1. Devote a minimum of 30 minutes every day to exercise

Follow the exercise pattern that suits you. Meditate every day. Go for detoxification procedures such as taking a sauna, a relaxing hot bath with soft music and candles or even a massage.

Get more exposure to sunlight and fresh air. It is not only good for your mind but for your adrenal glands as well.

2. Manage time and prioritise

Time management is one of the crucial factors. We often find ourselves running out of time during a day’s work, whether at home or at office. The key is to prioritise as to what is important and finding time to do that job. Taking time out and making a ‘to do’ list at the beginning of the week or month and revising it frequently will help you to be in charge of your time.

3. Retreat

Try and take regular breaks and vacations. Frequent a movie hall, if you have a taste for them. Try re-reading your favourite book. Have a long walk in the park. Munch your favourite snack from the nearest stall. All these simple tips could prevent you from work related burnout and prolong your career days.

4. Delegate

According to the study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, USA in 2007, 78% of working professionals feel that their managers continue to perform tasks that they could well have done. Delegation is probably one of the most under-estimated factors while considering a proper work-life fit. Most of us take upon ourselves even the smallest of things that could be delegated to others. We are, at times, afraid that if we delegate what we do, there could be errors or even compromise in the quality of completed work.

A London Business School study found out that only 30% of the managers’ feel they can delegate their duties well. Out of these, their subordinates treat 33% as good delegators. This means that only 1 manager in 10 really wants to delegate his/her duties and empower others to perform the same tasks.

As a result, at the end of the day, we find ourselves staring at the pending important tasks on our desks. Obviously, we either postpone it or stay back late in office to finish the pending work.

Prepare a list of all the activities you do in a day. Think and reflect over it and find out what can be delegated. And do delegate it

5. De-Stress

The key to recover from Adrenal fatigue and Burnout is to address the root problem – Stress. Yes! It is not possible to get rid of stress altogether but it is necessary to learn how to deal with stress in the correct manner.

  • Spend more time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Focus more on what you like about yourself and less about what you don’t.
  • Meet a friend and go for a movie. Take your family on a day-trip. Call up your closed ones and have a heart-to-heart chat.
  • Laugh heartily. Join a laughter Yoga club.
  • Do something fun that brings a smile on your face.
  • Spend a few minutes every morning after waking up thinking about a memory of a time you felt loved. Do the same at night before going to sleep.
  • Be Selfish. Let go off thoughts, emotions and people who don’t matter.
6. Sleep it out

The most effective approach to deal with the Adrenal fatigue and Burnout is to give your body enough sleep. Since burnout causes insomnia, your adrenals need optimum amount of rest to rebuild them.

  • Get between 7-9 hours of sound sleep every night.
  • Sleep until 9 am in the morning if possible.
  • Getting to sleep before midnight is more beneficial for the restoration of adrenal glands than sleeping late at night.
  • Lie down and take rest during your work breaks, preferably between 10-11 am and around 3-5 pm.
7. Eat Healthy

Follow a healthy, balanced nutrient rich diet with adequate amount of protein and minimum sugar.

  • Eat regular meals and avoid any kind of fasting or untimely diet.
  • Eat within the first hour of waking up and eat before you become hungry.
  • Chew well while eating.
  • Avoid junk food and stimulants like coffee or alcohol.
  • Eat small meals at regular intervals to maintain normal blood sugar level.
  • Make sure your food contains unrefined carbohydrates, vitamin C and protein.
  • Take vitamin B-complex, magnesium and calcium supplements.
  • Eat more vegetables and add sea salt to your diet.
  • Supplement your diet with licorice root extract.
8. Experience the power of Meditation

Meditate to free your mind of the depressive and destructive thoughts. Meditation, when done regularly and appropriately, can put the Meditator on the road to recovery. A small session of diaphragmatic breathing or a 30-minute long pranayama session everyday day can do wonders for a healthy mind.

9. Work from home

You can try working from home, if your organization allows so, on specified days. This will allow you to be close to your loved ones and manage tasks at home.

10. Avoid distractions

With the rising number of smart phones, the quantum of distractions in the workplace has seen a surge too. If statistics are to be believed, an average mobile phone user checks his phone around 110 times a day. It could be very well true that our constant peeping into our phones adds up to the already increasing work related stress.

An SHRM member poll revealed:

  • 21% of the corporate houses have a formal policy that regulates the use of wireless communication devices during nonworking hours.
  • Of these companies, 27% make a mention of the work-life balance issues in their formal policy.
  • 26% of the organisations have informal policy to regulate the use of wireless communication devices during nonworking hours.

Try and keep a fixed time to check your personal e-mails. Don’t feel compelled to reply to all status messages of your friends in social media.

Adrenal fatigue is life’s wake up call to us

It shows that our life has gone out of balance and we need to restore it. But dealing with burnout shouldn’t be done in a hasty manner as it increases the risk of further damage. Coping with Adrenal fatigue and Burnout often makes a person understand his body and mind from a much deeper and spiritual perspective.

It takes time for the adrenals to heal and you should make the best out of the time for yourself. After all, life isn’t just about living, but staying alive to every moment.

 

Must Read

[1] Workplace Burnout… My true story!

Internal Links

[1] Serotonin – The Happiness Hormone
[2] Ways to increase Serotonin Happiness
[3] Hormones influencing emotions
[4] Natural remedies to manage Mood Swing
[5] Adrenal ‘The Executive’ Burnout
[6] Science behind Depression
[7] Yoga impact on Hormonal health

Aashish Nanda

I am not a Spiritual Guru. I am not a Healer. I am not a Coach. I am not a Transformer. After trying to define myself, with various labels, I realized that I am simply a Mirror - A CLP Guide.

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