Stress Affects Employees At All Levels—Even the Executives

Stress shows no boundaries. It hits everyone—not just the patient in your waiting room, or the parent who says they’ve hit bottom and don’t know where else to turn, or your staff person working endlessly to meet deadlines and improve the bottom line. Economic pressures, unrelenting competition, never-ending work hours and shoestring budgets can take a toll on the high level professional or executive as well.

“We know that stress has physical and emotional effects on people and can create positive or negative feelings,” says Dr. Robin Arthur, Chief of Psychology at Lindner Center of HOPE. “Stress can help compel us to action,” she says. “But stress can be brutal and cause health problems such as anxiousness, depression and addiction issues. Often when leaders are stressed they look for ways to help them cope and those ways aren’t always healthy,” says Dr. Arthur. Busy executives self-medicate with alcohol or sleep aids or experience deteriorating relationships, irritability and isolation.

Research conducted by global business management, Towers Watson which surveyed HR professionals at 316 US organizations identified “opportunities for promotion” as the top reason that high performers would leave a company.  In a separate survey of 10,000 employees across the country, results indicated that the number one reason high achievers leave a company is because of—stress.  Interestingly, out of the five potential causes cited by HR professionals that top-performing employees would leave, not one of the reasons included stress.

Most business executives, care providers and other high level employees are conditioned to not show their stress. So symptoms manifest in anger, increased substance use, depression and difficultly at home or with relationships. But when the culture of an organization permits their executives to acknowledge their stress and its subsequent reactions, only then can progress and wellness take place.

“Balance is the key,” Dr. Arthur said. “The goal should not be to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and use it to our benefit. Finding the optimal level of stress can be motivating without being overwhelming.” Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. All require working toward personal change – changing the source of stress and reactions to it.

Tips for Managing Stress:

  • Become aware of stressors and emotional and physical reactions
  • Focus on strengths, recognize what you can change, pursue realistic goals
  • Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions
  •  Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress
  • Exercise; eat well; avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine and other stimulants
  • Develop supportive relationships
  • Create a game plan and think things through

About Lindner Center of HOPE:

Lindner Center of HOPE provides patient-centered, scientifically-advanced care for individuals suffering with mental illness. A state-of-the-science, free-standing mental health center and charter member of the National Network of Depression Centers, the Center provides psychiatric hospitalization for individuals age 12-years-old and older, outpatient services for all ages, research and voluntary, residential services. The Center’s clinicians are ranked among the best providers locally, nationally and internationally.