Why Leaders Keep Putting Mental Health On the Back Burner

burnout Oct 13, 2022

Speaking from experience, too many of us are waiting way too long to make changes or seek help.  It seems like we are waiting until we have health crisis or burnout from exhaustion or depression or both before doing something.  

Looking back at my career, I looked past all the signs.  Why?  So many reasons.  Maybe they apply to you as well. 

Living In Denial 

I'll do it later.  I'm too busy. I don't have time.

Do any of these thoughts run in the background of your mind?  They did for me. 

I would put off setting appointments to see my doctors, skip workouts, and claim that I did not have the energy to meal plan or make a healthy lunch.  Instead, I ate on the run and even though I tried to choose wisely, I often had to go with the lesser of lots of evils.  On the run food is not exactly the healthiest. The results?  Weight gain, inflammation, poor sleep, and tons of moodiness.  

Believing My Thoughts

We all think that our view of the world is the correct one. For ages, I never questioned my own thoughts.

That resulted in some narrow mindedness and sticking to old habits.  I kept doing what I always had even though some of those habits were not serving me at all. 

I just never called out my own thoughts.  I didn't even know that was a thing that I could or should do.  I took them all as truth and did not challenge myself to think differently.  My blinders kept me from seeing what I was creating for myself.

Same habits, no change.

Blurry Boundaries

Most of the time, I was making sure that things got done and feeling like I had better not let up the slack or I would fall behind.   

I would work late, take on more even when my plate was full, respond to emails and texts from home, and even took calls in the evenings, on weekends, and on vacation from time to time.  Looking back, I see how I was contributing to my own exhaustion and keeping myself from focusing on my mental health.

Putting Mental Heath On The Front Burner

Like you, I already knew what to do.  It was not about educating myself to honor my downtime, eat healthy, or sleep well. The trick is to actually do these things and that means challenging what the brain automatically pops up.

If I had to do it all again, here is what I would do differently to make mental health a priority for both my team and me.

  1. Determine what is the desired result.  I had to clarify what I want for my health.  With the benefit of hindsight, I teach my clients to think long-term.  The effect of putting mental health in the back burner is gradual.  You might not see it now but your body is taking on stresses that will result in any number of issues for you down the line. 
  2. Question those thoughts.  Just because you have them does not mean they are true or even what is best for you.  When I really understood this, my questioning resulted in some unlearning of old habits that I had to do to make way for the new habits that I needed for my overall health.
  3. Set those boundaries.  If you are having a hard time doing this, check out my Overcoming Burnout mini course for guidance and tools.  Especially if you are in a leadership role, it is on you to set the tone and model for the rest.  As the leader goes, the rest of the team goes too, especially when it comes to mental health.










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