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Executive Wellness Coaching ‒ A Smart Resolution For 2023

Written by: Dana Gionta, Ph.D., Senior Level Executive Contributor in collaboration with John M. O’Brien, Ph.D

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

What Is Executive Wellness? “Executive wellness” is a term describing strategies to support health and wellness that are designed for the unique stresses and pressures faced by executives. One resource for enhancing executive wellness is provided by executive coaches who have this niche area of practice. These coaches have specialized training to work with leaders at the highest level of organizations, while also possessing a depth of training in wellness and self-renewal.

A recent Gallup poll found that people worldwide are more stressed than ever before. In fact, 4 out of every 10 adults worldwide reported experiencing “a great deal of worry and stress.” Executives are no exception. As leaders, executives face considerable performance pressure from the Board of their organizations and other stakeholders in an increasingly competitive world. Many leaders are seeking out stress management programs of various kinds to help them manage the psychological and emotional impacts of their jobs.


Why Is It Important? The Benefits of Executive Wellness


Leaders need to be centered, focused, courageous and responsive, not reactive. One of the most effective ways of cultivating each of these qualities is through prioritizing their mental, emotional, and physical wellness. Other key benefits include:

  • Enhanced performance. Increasing research shows a significant relationship between wellbeing and performance

  • Increased and more consistent energy

  • Greater ability to set effective workplace boundaries to protect their time and commitment to their priorities. Learn more about workplace boundaries here.

  • Healthier and more positive relationships as they can bring their best self to them

  • Powerful modeling for their employees, and a key factor in creating a workplace culture that supports wellbeing.

Our Top 5 Executive Wellness Strategies: The Fundamentals


Below are the wellness fundamentals we discuss with each of our coaching clients at the start of every engagement. We have found these to be critical cornerstones of leaders’ overall wellbeing and high performance.


1. The Pillars: Nutrition, Exercise and Sleep


In her book, From Stressed To Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You, Dr. Gionta refers to the “pillars of stress management and self-care” which serve as an important foundation for wellness.


Nutrition: Balancing our diet is critical to our health and well-being. If you lack energy, have digestive issues, arthritis-like symptoms, or get colds frequently, consider taking a food sensitivity test to see what you may be sensitive or allergic too. Many of us are sensitive to dairy and/or gluten, sugar, and alcohol and are unaware. Also, resources like Ombre and Zoe to have your gut health evaluated can be invaluable. Our gut health is a key factor in our overall health and immune system.


Exercise: Is another essential element of health and wellness. The World Health Organization recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activities throughout the week.


Sleep: Ganesh and colleagues (2018) examined stress levels in executives and found that those executives with difficulty sleeping were at the greatest risk for high levels of stress, as well as a lowered immune system. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours per night of sleep. Getting consistently less than this amount of sleep contributes to mood fluctuations and impaired functioning at work and in life. The positive news is that there are effective strategies we often use to improve our executive clients’ sleep, and overall physical wellbeing.



2. Workplace Boundaries


Boundaries are essential for healthy and effective relationships at every level within an organization. They serve 5 key functions. They help to protect us, clarify what is and isn’t our responsibility, preserve our physical and emotional energy, create clear professional expectations, and live our values and standards. Not having healthy workplace boundaries contributes to increased stress, burnout, decreased performance and voluntary attrition. Learning to set effective boundaries is an invaluable skill that unfortunately, we are often not taught in school or the workplace. In her article, Dr. Gionta shares the key signals to know when to set a boundary, and a valuable step-by-step process to use as a guide.


3. Healthy Relationship with Substances


Caffeine and alcohol are two key substances that are important for executives to consider which impact well-being and physiological balance. Both substances can be used in moderation and provide a “pick-me-up” or “calm-me-down” desired effect at certain times of the day. Too much, however, can cause a rebound effect and become a source of anxiety that contributes to greater reactivity and stress.


4. Trustworthy Support


“It is lonely at the top.” Many of our executive wellness clients describe experiencing loneliness as they rise to higher levels within an organization. They have few or no peers, and often no one in whom they can confide. This isolation can lead to increased stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as a lack of honest feedback about their behaviors and decreased confidence when a negative setback occurs. Receiving diverse perspectives and consideration of multiple options in an important decision is often limited by such isolation.


A coach serves as both a confidante and advisor, providing their executive clients with both strategic and emotional feedback and support that enhances their skill and confidence as a leader.


5. Effective Management Of Our Stress


It is often quite difficult to accurately assess our stress level due to the phenomena Dr. Gionta calls “tolerance to stress.” This refers to the tendency we have in thinking we’re handling our current stressors and increased demands well enough. Unfortunately, we are at times like a frog in a lukewarm pot of water. Because the temperature rises slowly – like our stressors slowly piling up – the frog doesn't detect the increasing heat until it’s too late.


As humans, we often underestimate our true level of stress, thinking it’s a 4 or 5 on a scale of 10 (highest), when it really is a 7 or 8. It’s not until we develop physical symptoms of stress that we realize how much stress we have likely been experiencing. We provide an Assess Your Stress and Wall of Wellbeing coaching assessments to our executive clients to help them more accurately identify what zone of stress (green, yellow or red) they are currently in at the start of Executive Wellness Coaching.


Why Hire A Coach to Help With Executive Wellness? Here Are Some Top Reasons:


1. Accountability


Some leaders are highly motivated to change behavior and can keep themselves on track. They are, however, more likely to be the exception. Most of us have trouble keeping ourselves focused on self-development goals. A coach can help an executive maintain continued progress toward a desired wellness outcome and problem-solve when barriers emerge, and competing demands arise.

2. Shift from isolation to support


Many leaders and those in the C-suite feel lonely in these higher-level positions. Whether the issue is trust, image, a yes-oriented team surrounding them or other concerns, it is a very common challenge many leaders face. Executive coaches provide consistent and valuable support and the space for executive clients to regularly share concerns, ideas, people issues, stress, and systemic organizational issues. It is also a uniquely confidential, direct, compassionate, and honest relationship.


3. Objective thought partner


Executive coaches can be effective thought partners in problem-solving complex situations with leaders. Unlike a colleague, peer or friends, a coach serves as an objective sounding board as well as an astute questioner – helping leaders expand their perspective, avoid blind spots, and connect with their wisdom, values, key data, and their intuition on how to best proceed.


4. Great leadership requires courage


Often courageous action is required by leaders to address complex organizational issues. A strong coaching relationship provides valuable support, strategies, and at times, an important reminder to be the courageous leader they desire and are capable of being.


Executive wellness is a foundational component of being an effective and high-performing leader. Take a few minutes to reflect on your own level of executive wellness and leadership performance. If something we shared resonated with you, or you recognize that you would benefit from addressing one or more areas of wellness, connect with us to learn more about how we can help.


Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website for more info!


 

Dana Gionta, Ph.D., Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine in collaboration with John M. O’Brien, Ph.D

Dana Gionta, Ph.D. is an executive coach, psychologist, motivational speaker and author spanning over 20 years. She is the founder of Dana Gionta Coaching, and specializes in boundaries in the workplace, leadership development, employee wellbeing and organizational performance.


With a diverse professional background in business, psychology, and health, Dr. Gionta provides coaching and consulting to senior leaders and high-achieving professionals in small to larger Fortune 500 organizations. In her life coaching and psychology practice, she works with individuals on areas related to relationships, career challenges, boundaries, wellbeing, burnout, and midlife transitions.


Dr. Gionta is the co-author of the book From Stressed to Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You, and has been featured in Strategy and Business, Inc., Psychology Today, Inverse, PsychCentral, Expert Beacon and Lawline. She speaks nationally on topics related to workplace boundaries, employee well-being, work/life balance, burnout, and self-renewal. You can learn more about her services at: www.danagionta.com

Sign up for my biweekly email letter on Boundaries, Wellbeing and Courageous Change, and/or connect with me for a complimentary session to explore how I can help here: https://linktr.ee/danagiontacoaching


John M. O’Brien, Ph.D. is an executive wellness coach with Activate Success. Building on his 25+ year career in the mental health field, John helps both leaders and their employees create workplaces that work. He provides coaching and consulting to businesses around executive assessment, leadership development, well-being, practical mindfulness and managing incivility. You can find out more about his services at: www.activatesuccess.org.

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