Recently, after the suicides of a prominent global CEO and CFO, many of our clients have reached out to us in concern. Their concern ranges from the lessons that can be learned, to their fear that the feelings of depression and helplessness are more prevalent than even reported. Often they share personal stories of colleagues they have known who have rusted out, burned out, and sadly some who have even made the final tragic choice of suicide.
The fact is that when these tragic events occur, the ripple effect is huge. We have personally seen team morale get destroyed, boards get dismantled, and co-workers get permanently scarred by the suicide of a leader or team member who was once a high performer. While we certainly don't pretend to understand the specific details of the most recent senior suicides at Zurich Insurance and Swisscom, we would be completely remiss to not address the overarching issue from a Tignum perspective.
There is no denying that the demands placed upon executives are growing. We see many companies becoming more frantic, more reactive, and much more demanding. Also, as we wrote about in a previous blog, it is very lonely at the top. Still, even among all of this chaos and overload, we believe that one of the most important choices an executive can make is to habitually employ their own Sustainable High Performance strategies. It frustrates us that smart people ignore the impact that a lack of Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery has on brain function, decision making, emotional state, and unfortunately - even suicide.
When you allow your mind to focus on those things out of your control, it creates self-talk and stories that, although are untrue, will consume your thinking and actions. They make the brain feel there is no hope because the brain knows there is no solution. This causes a huge release of cortisol and deepens the feelings of hopelessness. Similarly, when we don't purposefully control this inner dialogue, we reflect back on our performances and our day and all we see are our shortcomings and failures. This destroys our self-image which alters our brain chemistry.
When the food we eat is absent of the necessary essential amino acids and nutrients, our brain can become depleted of dopamine and we simply can't think clearly. When we are deficient in Vitamin D3 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids, our mood may be effected, our pain and inflammation can increase, and again our brain can't function clearly. Even something as simple as being chronically dehydrated significantly enhances brain fog which blocks our ability to stop the downward spiral of our own negative thinking.
When we sit for long periods of time and don't move, our own natural mood enhancers are never released and we begin to feel down. Similarly, when we are sedentary we increase inflammation and pain, we shut down neurological circuits built to create balance and stability, and we feel worse about ourselves.
Finally, when we fail to recover from our day to day stresses and challenges, we accumulate fatigue. This causes our HPA (hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal) axis to be thrown off alignment which contributes to mood swings, sleep issues, brain fog, food cravings, and many immune dysfunctions. Commonly, executives who ignore their Recovery develop chronic sleep deprivation which leads to depression, memory loss, impulsive behavior, and poor decision making.
The bottom line is that rust out, burn out, and suicide are truly tragic. We don't pretend that all of these can always be prevented (although we are desperately trying one client at a time). We realize that Sustainable High Performance is a choice. It is created by the total integration of Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery habits. The opposite is too sad to bear and too often preventable.
We really appreciate all of you who shared your stories and concerns and we hope we have helped you see the importance of the total integration of Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts.
By Jogi Rippel (CEO), Scott Peltin (CPO), Patti Milligan (Partner & Director of Nutrition)