Stephen Sokoler, founder & CEO of Journey.
In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, high-level executives and leaders often bear the weight of immense responsibility. They are expected to make critical decisions, manage teams and drive organizational success. However, amid the pursuit of professional achievements, the mental health of executives is frequently overlooked.
Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work closely with high-level executives and seen firsthand the toll that the demanding nature of their roles can take on their mental well-being.
The Toll On Executives
The general demands of the C-suite combined with the need to maintain a competitive edge often lead to long working hours, reduced personal time and limited opportunities for relaxation and self-care.
A study published in Harvard Business Review found that approximately 50% of top-level executives experience significant levels of stress, with one in five executives experiencing levels of stress that are considered high or extreme. Yet, the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ survey revealed that executives often hesitate to seek help due to fears of stigma and potential negative consequences for their careers.
The consequences of neglecting mental health can be severe. Executives experiencing mental health issues may suffer from decreased productivity, impaired decision-making abilities and strained relationships with colleagues and employees.
Addressing Mental Health: A Win-Win Approach
Prioritizing mental health in the C-suite is not only beneficial for the well-being of individuals but also essential for the success of organizations. By addressing mental health challenges, executives can enhance their overall performance, decision-making capabilities and leadership skills. When leaders are in a healthy state of mind, they can create a positive work environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and employee engagement.
I view promoting mental health in the C-suite as requiring a comprehensive approach that encompasses both individual and organizational initiatives.
I believe executives need to cultivate self-awareness and learn to recognize the signs of mental health challenges in themselves and their peers. Organizations, in turn, can prioritize mental health by creating a supportive culture that encourages open communication and destigmatizes seeking help.
Several high-profile executives have openly shared their mental health experiences, inspiring others to prioritize their well-being.
Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has been candid about his journey with burnout and the importance of focusing on self-care. Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, is another influential figure in addressing mental health challenges in the C-suite. Throughout her successful career, she openly spoke about the pressures and sacrifices that come with executive roles, particularly for women, and emphasized the need for self-care.
Strategies For CEOs
By adopting proactive approaches, leaders can successfully manage stress, improve their overall well-being and set positive examples for others in the C-suite. Based on my experience, here are some effective strategies you can employ:
Executives who prioritize self-care understand the significance of nurturing their physical and mental well-being. They engage in regular exercise, practice mindfulness techniques and prioritize sufficient sleep. These practices help them recharge and enhance their resilience in the face of demanding responsibilities.
For example, I personally have a morning meditation practice. I also try to eat healthy food to nourish myself throughout the day (although I love sweets and snacks too). I go to the gym daily, but am not rigid about it so if I miss a day or several, I don’t beat myself up over it.
Setting boundaries between work and personal life can also help a leader’s mental health. Look to establish dedicated times for relaxation, hobbies and quality time with family and friends. By creating a healthy work-life balance, you can avoid burnout and maintain a sense of fulfillment beyond your professional role.
As a part of this, I personally make sure to spend quality time with my wife and regularly speak to my mother, brother and friends. Find those people who recharge you.
Seeking Support And Mentorship
I believe executives should also actively seek support from mentors, coaches or peers. A mindful executive understands the value of seeking guidance and advice from experienced individuals who can provide insights, perspective and support.
As a part of this, you can engage in executive coaching programs or participate in peer support groups. I’ve found social connection to be very important for my long-term happiness and avoiding burnout.
Executives who successfully manage their mental health tend to foster a culture of open communication within their organizations. They encourage dialogue around mental health, share their own experiences and provide a safe space for employees to discuss their well-being. By destigmatizing mental health challenges, you can create an environment where seeking help and support is encouraged and valued.
Delegating And Prioritizing
Understand the importance of delegation and prioritization. Trying to handle every task and responsibility alone can lead to you being overwhelmed and stressed. Try instead to delegate tasks to capable team members, empowering them to take ownership and share the workload. By focusing on high-impact activities and aligning priorities, you can create a more balanced and manageable workload for yourself.
Once you have people you can trust, try to take regular and complete breaks from work. I like to periodically take walks to clear my head as well as listen to music and read fiction to expand my perspective (I naturally gravitate towards non-fiction so I need to constantly remind myself of this).
Cultivating Supportive Networks
Cultivating supportive networks both within and outside their organizations can also help your mental health. Find ways to surround yourself with individuals who can uplift and inspire you. Building strong relationships and connections with colleagues, mentors and like-minded peers can help you navigate challenges, share experiences and find support during times of stress.
I see addressing mental health in the C-suite as a crucial step toward creating a healthier and more productive corporate environment. High-level executives face immense pressure and are prone to stress, burnout and other mental health challenges. I believe that recognizing and proactively addressing these issues can do wonders for you and your company.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?
Read the full article here