According to World Health Organisation, mental health is “the state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to her or his community”.
Mental wellness is now under attack, especially for leaders. Many leaders are struggling with mental health challenges and yet, hardly seek help or acknowledge any issues. In many cultures, leaders are expected to be strong and not show any vulnerability and this is driving leaders to worse mental spaces. Mental health challenges can take an individual from being competent to simply trying to survive. This affects leaders as individuals, their families, and the organizations they lead.
Here are some of the mental health challenges facing leaders.
There is so much uncertainty in the workplace and this is becoming stressful for managers and leaders. With the recent pandemic, for example, no one knows what new issue will sprout and leaders are facing anxiety. This is especially because the occurrences such as a pandemic are way beyond a leader’s control and they can’t do anything about the situation. As a result, they develop anxiety, which can lead to physical problems such as hypertension.
Anxiety from distractions
We live and work in a very distracted world. There is a barrage of messages, chats, calls, and online meetings. This causes anxiety as the distractions are exhausting and often lead to poor performance and burnout. Our work environment has become a place where everyone is required to stay connected. Should one go offline, they could miss out on opportunities and leaders have to be reachable by their workforce which makes them more prone to anxiety resulting from distractions.
It is lonely at the top and many leaders can attest to that. Working long hours is expected to have all the answers and having to take care of everyone can be exhausting. Leaders sometimes feel isolated and feel that they cannot show their weaknesses and struggles to their employees. This loneliness is mentally exhausting and many leaders turn to habits such as alcoholism to cope.
There is so much to do with so little time, especially for leaders. Everyone is looking up to leaders for solutions when they face challenges. Many have little time to take care of themselves, recuperate, and often suffer burnout from the stresses of work.
Balancing demands outside the workplace
Leaders are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends. Leaders have demands outside their places of work that they need to meet. Juggling work demands and home demands can be too much for some and it often leads to stress and the feeling that they can’t do it all.
How to help leaders who are suffering from mental health challenges?
To appropriately deal with mental health issues facing leaders, we first need to destigmatize mental health. Leaders also need to drop the mindset that they can “tough it out” since ignoring mental health issues will not make them go away. When we make it a norm that even the best of us can suffer from mental health challenges, the stigma dissolves and many will be open to seeking help. By encouraging leaders to be more vulnerable, we admit that are all human and we are bound to face challenges now and then.
Secondly, organizations can open channels through which leaders can seek help. There are mindfulness programs that help leaders address their mental health problems. These programs help us become centered and explore within ourselves to understand what we are going through and what we can do about it. When leaders model the behavior of seeking help, the rest of the workforce will be open to the idea as well.
Uncertainty, anxiety, loneliness, and burnout are some of the leading causes of stress among leaders. Traditionally, leaders are expected to have it together and not fall apart or ask for help. Thankfully, that school of thought is being challenged and leaders are being perceived as humans who have weak moments and can seek help. By reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, we can all seek help and learn techniques to help reduce stress and burnout.
The Destiny Team