Can Anxiety Impact the Executive Director’s Ability to Succeed?

Anxiety and the Executive Director

stress - cat with got stress written on itAnxiety can be a daily companion for an executive director.  The expectations are high and the resources few.  Boards can be very demanding.  Staff may not appreciate the intensity of the position.  Clients see problems. And . . . then . . . there’s all the work to be done which is more diverse than any other job on earth except that of an entrepreneur.

How can an executive director deal with anxiety?


Physically.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Psychologically.

Most executive directors work very long hours and get snowed under by the fact that there is always more to do.

The first thing to be neglected is themselves.  They don’t have time to eat lunch, take breaks, exercise, and eat properly as they storm to the nearest food outlet regardless of the poor nutrition offered.

What does this mean?  Their work is important than they are.  The spiral begins.


They want to do a good job and think that sacrifice includes sacrificing self.  That’s the first major mistake.

Soon, their friends and family complain how little they see of them.  One day, they wake up, decide to take a day off and everybody is busy.  They’re alone.

The isolation moves the executive director to increase work hours.  The job has absorbed them totally and wholly like a sci-fi alien blob!

Their effectiveness wanes.  Any suggestion by anyone is seen as acute criticism and the negativity turns into self-flagellation or “they’re doing it to me” attitude.  Smiles disappear.  Trouble increases.  Anxiety is at an all time high.

All because, at the start, proving worth as a valuable employee took over their life and they’ve lost everything.  At this point, they may even lose their job.

What Can You Do?

If you recognize yourself in this scenario, you realize the damage and are willing to reverse it.  Begin where your life was lost in the first place – health.

Start with the simple things – a 30-minute walk every single day.  Taking a lunch break every day and eating  nutritious food.   Each step will be challenging to maintain – the tendency will be to work because it has been habit.

Call family and friends and book coffee dates with them on week-ends to rebuild your support circle.  Just one on Saturday and one on Sunday to break the cycle.  Perhaps they might agree to walk with you as well.

You’ll discover how good it feels even though, at first, the anxiety of work left undone will haunt you.

Take a calendar and book me time – every day – reflect in a journal or watch the sunset – whatever me time means to you.

Anxiety will decrease over time and, surprisingly, you’ll do a better job, faster and with more clarity than ever before.  Your relationships on the job will improve too.

Need More Help?

I’ve written a book for executive directors to help them in their chosen careers – The Savvy Executive Director.  You’ll find it by clicking here – you’ll find more ideas on constructing a healthy career.

Lorraine Arams, On Contract Only


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