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  • Debbie Petropoulos

Fostering Resilience: How High Performing Leaders Manage Stress and Prevent Burnout Amid Pandemic

Updated: Oct 12


Burnout is reaching an all-time high. When was the last time your calendar was free from a barrage of meetings and To-Do’s? Sometimes what we need is space. Time to unplug. Breathe. Just Be. Taking time off is critical to our well-being. Our ability to restore balance affects how well we perform.


Workaholic or Workload?

Recently I attended a beautiful wedding in Lake Geneva. While talking with a friend at the reception, she shared how disappointed she was that she couldn’t stay overnight and enjoy the weekend. She had to drive back home so she could be at work early Sunday morning.


As we talked, signs of stress and burnout were apparent. She was feeling pressured to get the work done so team members could do their tasks. The heavy workload had exceeded her capacity to effectively get the work done during regular working hours. And, without a break to disconnect during the weekend, rest and recovery were not happening.


Maybe you can relate to this too.


Stress and burnout can make us feel irritable, exhausted, frustrated, unappreciated, and unaccomplished. It can creep in subtly over time. When it goes unaddressed, it can negatively impact our thoughts, actions, physical health, and the bottom line for the companies we work for.

Should I find another job?
Is it time to retire?

We may start to question whether we’re in the right job or with the right company. Overwhelm can trigger thoughts of whether we should quit, find something else, retire, or just stay on and push through the frustration day after day. Knowing what the right next step should be is not always an easy decision. It can be helpful to gain another perspective.


As an Executive Leadership and Life Coach, I work with high-performing leaders in Global Pharmaceuticals and other industries who are experiencing workplace stress and burnout. We work together to assess whether their current job situation is salvageable, or whether it’s time to begin planning an exit strategy to support a transition to a different opportunity, or to plan for retirement.


What is Workplace Burnout?

The signs and symptoms of workplace burnout can often be felt emotionally and physically. If not addressed, the effects can be impactful. According to the World Health Organization “occupational burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress, with symptoms characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.”


Many professionals I coach have shared that working remotely during the prolonged pandemic has left them feeling isolated and detached from their coworkers and teams. They often express dissatisfaction with their work environment, lack of fulfillment in their work, and uncertainty as to how to improve the situation. Some are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to progress in their career.


Effects of Burnout

In March of 2021, Indeed published an Employee Burnout Report: COVID-19’s Impact and 3 Strategies to Curb It (indeed.com). The findings reflect:

Employee burnout has only gotten worse over the last year: more than half (52%) of respondents are feeling burned out, and more than two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic.
Those who work virtually are more likely to say burnout has worsened over the course of the pandemic (38%) than are those working on site (28%).

Job Burnout Solutions

Several best practices were shared based on the survey data that can help employers prevent burnout. Employers should:

Create more flexibility in scheduling and encourage time off for leaders and direct reports.
Emphasize the importance of work-life balance and model the positive behaviors within the workplace.
Encourage and support unplugging during paid time off, holidays, and off-hours.
Re-evaluate employee perks and benefits.

Causes of Stress and Burnout

There are many causes of stress and job burnout, and the causes may be different for each of us. You may be experiencing one or more of these:

Loss of Control With Your Schedule
High Workload
Organizational Change
Unclear What’s Expected
Poor Work Culture
Work / Life Imbalance

One of my clients shared they’ve had a new manager every year for the last seven years. When there’s constant organization change, you may be unclear of what’s expected. That lack of clarity can cause increased frustration.


You could be experiencing a poor work culture. The attitudes and morale of those you work with can impact your satisfaction with your job.


Maybe you’re experiencing an imbalance between work and life. You may be feeling resentful your personal life is impacted because you’re investing all your energy and time with work.


Some of the leaders I coach are managing the high-pressure demands of a global organization. Their levels of engagement are so high, that being overworked has become the norm. Like them, you may be finding yourself emotionally and physically exhausted.


Positive Shifts and Prevention

Through One True You, LLC coaching, the professionals I work with learn new ways to navigate their challenges. Many who choose to remain in their current positions find renewed satisfaction and fulfillment in their roles. Others may discover the gap is too great and decide it’s time to transition to a new role or company, or to prepare for retirement. One True You, LLC Coaching provides guidance through these career and life transitions.


Apart from what your employer can do to reduce burnout, there are changes you can make that may help to reduce or remedy your workload stress. Consider ways you can make positive shifts in planning your workload, clarifying priorities, delegating, saying ‘No’, resetting expectations, or establishing boundaries.


If you’re ready to move away from functioning in a constant state of reaction, rushing to do the next thing, and feeling overwhelmed, consider these questions:

1) How can I better plan my workload?
2) What are my work priorities?
3) What tasks can I delegate?
4) What do I need to say ‘No’ to?
5) What expectations do I need to set and communicate?
6) What personal/professional boundaries are needed?

Learning to recognize the signs of burnout and making positive shifts can help reduce job stress. You can also prevent burnout from happening when you:

Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Focus on your strengths not weaknesses.
Let go of perfectionism.
Make self-care a priority.
Take time for exercise, yoga, meditation, a walk in nature, healthy eating, and restful sleep.
Reconnect with activities that create joy and happiness.
Take regular breaks during the work day.
Re-evaluate your emotions. Read: Learn How To Shift Your Mindset and Enhance Your Life
Seek support from a therapist, coach, mentor, employee assistance program, co-workers, friends, or family.

Small changes can have a significant impact on your current situation. Maintain an awareness of your needs. Look for opportunities to make positive shifts that will help you to re-center your mindset, replenish your energy, and renew your well-being.


Reach out if you’d like to talk about a challenge you’re currently faced with, or a change you’d like to make. I invite you to Schedule a Complimentary Clarity Call.


One True You, LLC Career and Life Coaching provides guidance to help you reduce the overwhelm and imbalance so you can:

Foster Resilience and Live Your Best Life!

About the Author:

Debbie Petropoulos is a Transformational Career and Life Coach and Owner of One True You, LLC. Debbie understands how important managing stress and preventing burnout are. She held corporate senior leadership positions in Global Pharmaceuticals for three decades at Abbott and AbbVie where she mentored, coached, and developed high performing teams. Debbie founded One True You, LLC in 2015. She is an accredited life coach through the International Coach Federation. Debbie helps guide professionals through leadership and life transition challenges so they can lead more fulfilling lives. Read more about the professionals Debbie works with, their challenges, and their personal stories of successful outcomes.



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