Why even the most successful leaders are struggling right now | Mantle
Mantle Leadership Lockdown Stress

26 Oct 2021

Why even the most successful leaders are struggling right now

Whether you’re in Auckland, or elsewhere in New Zealand, chances are that right now you’re feeling the effect of heightened emotions. Life may feel a bit meh, even exhausting. Lockdown, at any alert level, can make us feel this way.

Lacklustre emotions aren’t a sign of weakness

When we feel fatigued or lack motivation, it’s not a sign you’re failing. Instead it’s due to our brain’s instinctive response to uncertainty. The definition of stress is a state of mental, emotional strain, or tension, resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. And, it doesn’t get much more demanding than these unprecedented times.

Why our brains respond this way

We are naturally programmed to respond to threat (whether real or perceived) by moving into a state of ‘fight or flight’. In a lockdown, we don’t have this option. We must stay put.

  • When we cannot distance ourselves from the issue at hand, our autonomic nervous system may shut down as a coping mechanism. That leaves us tired.
  • Despite our fatigue, we may not sleep well because the threat is still ever-present.
  • As the stress is ongoing (or chronic), the fatigue continues to build.

Our ability to cognitively function well becomes impaired. This sense of languishing isn’t due to a lack of resilience, it is simply that our brain has engaged a biological coping mechanism.

Why we feel so fatigued

Fatigue is the feeling of being continually tired, even after sleep. This state of physical and/or mental exhaustion often brings about:

  • Forgetfulness – and ‘brain fog’
  • Lack of focus – you may struggle to concentrate on the most basic of tasks
  • Problems with learning and absorbing new information
  • Inability to make decisions – you are likely to second-guess yourself or just make poor decisions (which seemed like a good idea at the time – or produces a ‘what was I thinking?’ moment)
  • Change in mood – you may experience irritability, de-motivation and a sense of hopelessness

It is common to feel fatigued in times of chronic stress – particularly if you are having to juggle work and family, manage a change in financial circumstance, along with the impact of having to plan and constantly re-plan due to constant uncertainty.

It’s natural to experience some form of worry

Along with the realities of leading a team in the workplace, there is also the impact of our heightened emotions. We are naturally worried about the future. We are also impacted by the responsibilities at home and in the workplace, managing the well-being of our teams.

Feeling anxious is emotionally and physically exhausting. It may literally prevent us from sleeping well (causing yet more fatigue).

You may also be going through a grieving process (and, yes, it is natural to grieve about your intended plans for the year being left in upheaval).

The emotional support you may usually depend upon may not be easy to access (particularly if you are distanced from friends and loved ones). This can prove hard for even the most seemingly positive of people.

Why you shouldn’t ignore the impact of stress

Whether work-related or not, chronic stress can be debilitating. It can potentially:

  • Trigger physical or mental health issues
  • Impact productivity
  • Impair performance
  • Increase incidents and injuries – as well as encouraging absenteeism and staff turnover

When we are involved in emotionally demanding situations, with chronic situational stresses over a long period, we experience a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. If it continues unchecked, we may reach burnout.

Practical ways to help your well-being in times of stress

When we’re under stress, we are likely to try to manage our emotions in ways that can impact our mood – and our sleep. Despite craving ‘downtime’, we may struggle with the ability to simply sit and get the rest that our body so desperately needs.

A circuit breaker is needed to switch away from the debilitating impact of sustained and chronic stress. In our upcoming blog, we’ll be sharing some simple and effective ways that could support you and your leaders.

Ways to help your well-being

If you could benefit from (or think you need) some support, there are experts available to help you now. Check if your organisation has EAP, or contact any of the following confidential services available to give you support.

Please remember that asking for help doesn’t mean you are failing – it is a side-effect of the times and it’s a sign of your strength.

You could also speak to your trusted healthcare professional. Telehealth services are available for those in Auckland.