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Forbes Coaches Council
Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.
It's not easy being the boss. In fact, some research shows that depression among CEOs could be double the national level of 20%. While it's no secret that the life of a CEO is a high-pressure job, many CEOs simply feel they have to "push through" the hard times. In the process of supporting others, they often isolate their own struggles.
We asked professional coaches of Forbes CoachesCouncil what their best advice was for C-suite executives struggling with feelings of burnout and depression. Here's what they said.
1. Slow Down And Face The Current State Of Being
What matters the most in these situations is to slow down and take the time to acknowledge the current situation. Many executives fight depression instead of embracing the opportunity to slow down and explore what might be the "rock in their shoe." Looking at depression as a way to reset and realize we have accomplished so much, often against what could give meaning in our life, is a major step. - Belinda MJ Brown, Equanimity Executive, LLC
2. Reconnect With Your Past Self
It’s easy to periodically “get the blues” during a C-suite career. It’s often lonely on top, and this may cause an internal disconnect with the person you “used to be," triggering situational depression. Ask an old boss, co-worker, employee, even a college buddy to coffee or dinner. Reconnecting with past, positive people may lift your mood and help you feel more connected with your past self. - Michelle Riklan, Riklan Resources LLC
3. Find A Peer Group
The C-suite can be a lonely place. One way to find solace is by joining a professionally facilitated peer group with executives in non-competitive industries. Find a group that either meets regularly in person or even one that networks primarily online with meetings occurring through video chats. Once you join, dedicate yourself; share honestly, and give genuine, constructive feedback to others. - Sarah Beth Aubrey, A.C.T. Aubrey Coaching & Training
4. Retrace Your Steps
Take note of when your depression first began and what factors have contributed to it. Retracing your steps will help you to identify the things that are contributing to the depression, and then you can work on developing strategies to cope with and reduce it. I recommend consulting with a professional who can get you on the right track to reset and re-charge your inner happiness. - Wendi Weiner, JD, NCRW, CPRW, CCTC, CCM, The Writing Guru
5. Focus On What You Can Control
Examine internal (you) and external (environmental) drivers of the depression. Clarify what is within your circle of control and where you can make specific changes. For example, physiology is vital to our mental health. What can you change in your diet, sleep, exercise, hydration, meditation, peer group, etc. Make and measure concrete changes to both empower and change your state. - Camille Preston, PhD, PCC, AIM Leadership, LLC
6. Seek Help From A Professional
Does authority lend itself to depression? Extensive work hours, high pressure and mental strain can lead to depression. Yet, executives are the least apt to seek therapy. If therapy is rejected, reduce the risk by hiring an executive coach with a background in psychology. As a licensed clinician and executive coach, we are able to spot and triage concerns that have a psychological root quickly. - Debora McLaughlin, The Renegade Leader Coaching & Consulting Group
7. Change Your Perspective
Assuming it's not clinical depression but more of discontent, it is time to get real. You must muster up the courage to change your perspective. Do you really hate your job, or have you complained about it so much to others that you think you do? Remember, you are not your circumstances, these circumstances are real, but they are not you. Remember your future is fine and your present isn't final. - Dean Miles, Bridgepoint Coaching & Strategy Group
8. Explore The "Hard Truths"
A title is not an excuse to avoid the “hard truths” associated with depression. If clinical intervention is required, get help. If it is career related, determine what’s missing or is in standing your way. Push ego aside and communicate needs/concerns to those who can help. And it’s not a sign of weakness to look inward at what would fulfill you. Then, proactively take steps toward positive change. - Kim Monaghan, KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC
9. Be Honest, Intentional And Create New Habits
Nothing works if you are not honest with yourself. Know the symptoms of clinical depression. If this is you, get professional help ASAP. Not clinically depressed? Then implement a daily mindfulness practice — whether five minutes to focus on thankfulness, deep breathing exercises, or speaking positivity to self/others. Identify something physical and do it at least three times a week (even if it is a walk). Be intentional to create new habits. - Michelle Braden, MSBCoach, LLC
10. Get Support Understanding The Nature Of The Depression
Seek support to understand if the depression is clinical in nature or caused by work-related stressors. A clinical depression should be treated by a mental health professional. Even if the depression is situational, speaking to a professional can provide needed perspective, to feel more hopeful and in control of your situation. Be willing to commit to the process, even if it is uncomfortable. - Richard Orbe-Austin, PhD, Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, LLP
11. Assess, Get Help, And Stay Communicative
First, determine what's driving the depression (is is situational or something else?) before working with a therapist on identifying a treatment plan. The next step is crucial: Be honest about what you're going through. Mental health issues still face a stigma, but open communication (within your comfort zone) is crucial. - Emily Kapit, MS, MRW, ACRW, CPRW, ReFresh Your Step, LLC
12. Ask For Help
Ego is the enemy of support. Depression can quickly derail an executive career, because it is certain to affect behavior. Leaders cannot be reluctant to seek professional support. This is why many companies have employee assistance programs that include access to licensed counselors on a confidential basis. We would seek treatment for a heart problem. Why not seek treatment for a mind problem? - Patrick Jinks, The Jinks Perspective
13. Discreetly First Get A Coach To Plot Your Path
Since this is specifically depression at work, then it's a clear indicator that something is wrong in this executive's work environment. It could be dissatisfaction with company culture or frustration from lack of getting traction. It could be burnout or overwork. An executive coach can help figure out the changes needed and map a strategy to get back on track or guide to deeper therapy if needed. - Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors international