Having a high-profile job often comes with a lot of responsibility and pressure to always perform at the top level. Mark* worked for a global international company as the General Manager and also Vice President of Marketing – two senior positions which required him to give everything to the business.
Although he loved his job, Mark started to find that the constantly high level of stress was having a very negative impact on him and his life.
His mental health started to deteriorate and the problems came to a head when he returned from a business trip for a new marketing campaign, which involved travelling to 28 countries in just 30 days.
International travel was a large part of his role due to the company’s global operations, so jetting across the globe for work each month wasn’t out of the ordinary for Mark.
Mark said: ‘Travel was a big part of the job. Not only did I have to travel to 28 different countries in a month, but there were also different locations in those countries that I had to travel to in a single day. I spent so much time travelling and working, that I forgot to eat, I forgot to hydrate myself and I wasn’t sleeping very much.’
Mark was concerned that the high-pressure nature of his career was occupying most of his time. This, along with an immense feeling of pressure to support his family to the standard they were accustomed, led to Mark feeling completely overwhelmed. With some reluctance, he stopped work. He felt that he was unable to continue in his job and he couldn’t see a way forward.
Mark continued: ‘I started to become aware of the strain that my career was putting on me and my family. I’d spend little time at home and when I was at home, I was snappy, irritated and not present with my family. I’d continue to work throughout the night and would take calls and send emails over the weekends. My lifestyle was not healthy at all, so I needed to step back from my career to figure out how to improve my well-being.’
After taking a year out of work in this fast-paced industry, Mark felt that, although he was less stressed, he had lost his sense of purpose. His job had always given him an incredible sense of achievement. This loss of identity started to have a negative impact on his mood and feelings of self-worth.
His wife referred Mark to Kate Meads Associates (KMA) in order for him to get back into a daily routine, develop some meaningful activities and to improve his overall mental health. The plan was to eventually transition successfully back into work.
KMA is a leading occupational therapy consultancy and often works with global companies to promote company wellbeing and stress management, as well as helping individuals overcome current mental and physical health issues in order to return to work.
Kate Meads, Managing Director of KMA, worked with Mark over a period of five months. A key aim was to develop coping strategies which would enable him to manage his mental health and well-being more effectively.
Kate Meads said: ‘It was clear that Mark had extremely high expectations of himself, which he didn’t feel that he was meeting. Because Mark took time out of work, he perceived this as failing. Mark was in a rut. His family life was being compromised due to his unhealthy working habits, and although his time off provided him with short term relief, his wife was extremely concerned that her husband would fall back to his usual unhealthy working habits if he didn’t get the help he required to make a sustainable return to work.’
The KMA approach is to look at the individual as a whole. Personal life, work life, and all aspects of mental and physical health are taken into account. By focusing on his goals, barriers, functional skills, strengths and limitations, strategies were established to enable Mark to be more tuned-in to his mental health.
Mark was provided with new ‘tools’ to learn how to recognise and overcome challenges. Kate also provided techniques and recommendations which included the development of problem solving and self-reflection skills.
Mark’s previous inability to maintain a healthy work/life balance was also identified as a cause for concern.
Kate Meads said: ‘Increasing the separation between Mark’s professional and personal lives was paramount for ensuring a better quality of life. In order to achieve this separation, we had to establish a healthy daily and weekly routine to focus Mark’s attention on his personal life – not just his work life.’
After working with Kate Meads for five months, Mark reported a significant improvement in his mood and self-confidence. This was attributed to Kate helping develop Mark’s own understanding of his mental health and well-being.
Mark said: ‘Kate’s help has been priceless. I’m living a very different lifestyle compared to two years previously. I have now successfully returned to my job as Vice President of Marketing having been supported by Kate to engage in a sustainable graded return – allowing me to slowly transition rather than jump straight back into full working hours and duties.’
Now back in his full-time role, Mark has noticed a reduction in the pressure he felt under before. He is better able to identify sooner when this strain occurs and also has the ability to manage it in a healthier way. Mark also stated that the techniques and routines developed with Kate have improved his work/life balance in a positive way. He feels these changes have optimised his long-term wellbeing and allowed him to spend more quality time with his family.
Kate Meads said: ‘Mark’s transformation in just five months has been remarkable. He is a much happier individual and now recognises the importance of his mental health and wellbeing.
‘Unfortunately, we regularly see other cases just like Mark’s. People in professional careers need to protect their mental health and be aware of the consequences of toxic levels of stress on their overall sense of wellbeing.’
*To protect client confidentiality, the client’s name has been changed.