All across America, in companies big and small, executive burnout is on the rise. It should be no surprise, given the frantic, wild economic fluctuations, intense competition, businesses folding left and right, trying to squeeze as much productivity out of every employee as possible and cutting costs \u2013 and sometimes corners \u2013 just to stay afloat or break even. But the human costs of burnout add up to so much more--consequences that can be incalculable. Whether you are the executive in the midst of burnout or are concerned about burnout affecting your employees, you really need to pay attention to how to deal with this problem. Burnout vs. Stress Burnout and stress are related, but they\u2019re not synonymous. Burnout, according to author Beverly Potter, Overcoming Job Burnout: How To Renew Enthusiasm For Work, is a type of job depression caused by a feeling of powerlessness. It is stressful, but stress doesn\u2019t cause burnout. Stress is the condition where your body is overly taxed. Nevertheless, executive burnout is often characterized as a stress-related illness. This is because stress is the body\u2019s reaction to an accumulation of increased pressure to perform, putting in more hours to keep up, trying to jump-start profitability in the face of declining resources, and other mounting concerns. Signs of Executive Burnout When you\u2019re stressed, your body reacts physically. Your heart may race uncontrollably, your digestive and immune systems may shut down, or your body may produce adrenalin and cortisol to counteract the need to act and act now. These powerful chemicals were not designed for sustained performance, produced by the body for emergency situations. Over time, continued stress can lead to the following physical and psychological symptoms: \tAnger \tAnxiety \tChest pains, shortness of breath \tClenched jaw, teeth grinding \tDepression \tDecreased sexual desire \tEating problems (overeating or not eating enough) \tEmotional displays (on the brink of tears, overreacting emotionally) \tFaintness or dizziness \tFatigue, low energy levels \tInsomnia, erratic sleep patterns \tLack of concentration \tMuscle cramps \tNervous twitches \tProfuse sweating \tStomach problems When burnout occurs, the individual feels: \tPowerless \tOverwhelmed \tDepressed \tDispirited \tNo motivation \tNo sense of control over what\u2019s happening In addition, executive burnout frequently leads to associated conditions such as: \tAlcoholism \tDrug abuse \tChronic depression Before you self-diagnose yourself as having executive burnout, it\u2019s important to get a thorough check-up by your doctor to either rule out or take into consideration any other contributing factors. In other words, you may have an underlying or aggravating condition that needs attention in addition to or before any treatment for executive burnout. 11 Life-Giving Steps to Deal with Executive Burnout Assuming that you\u2019ve gotten a relatively clean bill of health from your doctor, and you\u2019ve pretty much concluded that what you\u2019re suffering with is actually executive burnout, here are some things you can do about it. While they may sound easy, they aren\u2019t. If they were, you probably would have already done them. Nevertheless, if you want to avoid further complications from executive burnout, it\u2019s time to take action \u2013 for your own good. \tInsist on time for yourself. \tWhen was the last time you enjoyed a family outing, took your spouse to a romantic dinner or weekend getaway, or participated in your favorite hobby? If you even have to think about this, you know your work and home life are way out of whack. Exhaustion, overwork, too much stress \u2013 classic signs of executive burnout \u2013 has taken its toll on the other part of your life. You\u2019re not in balance, by any stretch of the imagination. You need to carve out time - block it out on your calendar, if that\u2019s what it takes - to spend time on your family and interests outside of work. And make sure that work doesn\u2019t creep into that time away from the job. \tSolution: Ditch the cell phone, PDA and laptop. When you\u2019re away from work, be really away \u2013 mentally and physically. Make it a practice to spend quality time with family and friends on a regular basis. \tMake reasonable to-do lists. \tWe all have our lists of things to do. Some tasks on the lists are easily accomplished, such as taking the dry cleaning in or picking up medication or walking the dog. When it comes to work-related tasks and projects, however, the daily lists executives make seem to get longer and longer \u2013 and fewer items ever get crossed off. As a major executive, you probably have multiple projects to oversee at one time. It\u2019s not unreasonable for a corporate executive to have 50 to 100 concurrent projects \u2013 each requiring considerable oversight and attention. Too much to do and not enough time or resources to do them equals burnout. \tSolution: Whittle down the endless to-do list into something more manageable. It isn\u2019t a sign of weakness. It\u2019s a sign of strength. By concentrating on fewer simultaneous projects, your output will be more focused and productive. \tFactor in reasonable deadlines \tStop promising and over-promising when a project will be completed. Sure, you\u2019re under pressure to perform, or to have your employees perform. However, constantly whacking off hours and days to beat the deadline will inevitably have its consequences. When you promise your higher-ups that you\u2019ll have the project done in the shortest possible time, this means you have to cram that tight and impossible deadline down the throats of the people who work for you \u2013 the people who actually have to do the work. This is unreasonableness in the extreme. You not only shortchange yourself and your employees, but the end product may be inefficiency, poor results and highly frustrated employees. \tSolution: Set more realistic timetables for work to get done. Start by establishing a deadline that allows for leeway of a few extra weeks, days, or hours, as appropriate. \tEnsure enough resources to do the job. \tOften the downside of promising too much in too little time is the fact that there simply aren\u2019t enough resources to get the job done. Maybe you haven\u2019t properly calculated the overall cost, or underestimated the number of people that will be required, or the materials and availability \u2013 all of which impact the project delivery. \tSolution: Before setting a delivery deadline for the project, find out what additional resources will be required and put them into place. Consult with your employees to find out what they really need to get the job done. \tLearn to say \u201cNo.\u201d \tWhen was the last time you turned down a project? To most executives, this is anathema. They believe it\u2019s the kiss of death to their careers. In reality, no one can do everything. No executive can handle everything the higher-ups send down the pike. Despite best intentions, projects fall off-track, never get done, come in way over budget, or are total disasters \u2013 all because the executive-in-charge failed to take a close, hard look before accepting the responsibility. \tSolution: Start getting a handle on executive burnout by saying \u201cNo\u201d the next time your boss hands you an impossible project in an unrealistic deadline. By the way, you can also say no to meetings that you don\u2019t really need to attend. You can say you don\u2019t have time to talk when someone barges into your office unannounced. You can say you are in the middle of something if you\u2019re constantly interrupted by the phone. Just practice saying no instead of an automatic yes every time someone else wants something from you. \tPlease yourself, not everyone else. \tWhy do some people feel they have to please everyone all the time? You probably fall into this category, whether you realize it or not. Because you don\u2019t want to disappoint others, you feel that you have to over-perform at all times. Your very image is caught up in how much you can accomplish, faster than anyone else, better than anyone else. When you continue on this course of action, it inevitably catches up with you in the form of lost productivity, and emotional and physical exhaustion. \tSolution: Do a job or project that gives you satisfaction and a sense of well-being, not out of sense of duty to please others or perform to their expectations. \tEmbrace change. \tThe current situation has gone on for far too long. You\u2019ve become used to the frantic pace, the sleepless nights, the constant hurry up and get-it-done syndrome. In fact, you probably believe this is a normal pace. But it\u2019s not. Continue down this path and you\u2019re in for a serious world of hurt. \tSolution: Recognize that you need to make some changes. Learn how to deal with stress. Learn how to package and compartmentalize your life so that you have time for yourself. Do what it takes. \tSee the positives. \tMaybe you believe that there aren\u2019t any solutions to your current workplace burnout. Maybe you\u2019ve given up hope that things can change. This is a mistake. When you give up belief in solutions, you lose hope. When you lose hope, you stop looking for ways to make things better. You feel trapped. It\u2019s a vicious cycle \u2013 and it\u2019s an excuse. \tSolution: Adopt new strategies for dealing with issues. This gives you the impetus to move forward and again be productive \u2013 with appropriate energy. \tEnvision a more self-reliant you. \tYour image of yourself may be threatened by the thought of change. You may feel that your job will be jeopardized if you rock the boat or insist on some job or project modifications. Your influence, power within the organization, your bonus, or even your career could suffer. This is doomsday scenario predicting \u2013 and totally without basis in reality. Why? It doesn\u2019t take into account all the positive and productive things you could do to potentially alter what may, or may not, happen in the future. \tSolution: Concentrate on today, on the things, processes, procedures and conversations that can make your job \u2013 and that of your employees \u2013 less stressful and more enjoyable, productive and self-actualizing. \tHave confidence. \tYou didn\u2019t get to your executive position because you lacked intelligence, skill or ability. In fact, these are critical elements for successful executives in any company or organization. Don\u2019t be afraid to make changes because you feel it won\u2019t work. Maybe you tried to make some changes in the past and it failed, and you don\u2019t want to fail again. Maybe you fear that you won\u2019t make the right changes and therefore refuse to try. This is self-rationalization. To beat executive burnout you need to be ready and willing to confront it head on. \tSolution: Make a plan to deal with executive burnout and have the confidence to believe that it will work. \tTake action. \tInaction breeds repetition of the same mistakes. \tSolution: Create a plan. It\u2019s time to do something about your executive burnout. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. Now, it\u2019s time to focus on doing something about it. Goals of Your Burnout Plan There are books, tapes and professional treatment programs to help manage executive burnout. Before you embark on any of these paths, consider the following: \tCreate new outcomes - Things haven\u2019t been working right for quite some time. You know you want a different set of outcomes. \tLive a balanced, healthy life \u2013 Stop living a life of too much for too many others. Concentrate on the goal of living a healthy and balanced life. If substance abuse has become a part of your life, get help now. \tDecide to change \u2013 Make the all-important decision to change, whatever it takes. Recognize that this won\u2019t be easy for a hard-charging, powerful executive. But, you can do it. \tBe open to what\u2019s new \u2013 Once you start making changes in your life, you\u2019ll find that there\u2019s always something new to learn \u2013 new tips, techniques and strategies to employ that can keep you focused on your well-balanced life. Bottom line: executive burnout doesn\u2019t have to wreak any more havoc on your life. You can do something about it \u2013 beginning today.