There are a great many benefits to being a CEO. You can hire the people you want to, make your own hours, and shape the foundation and path of the company. Of course, there are tough parts too. One of the hardest parts is loneliness. A top issue among CEOs is the feeling that they can’t confide in anyone in the midst of overwhelming stress. As a CEO, you are expected to remain calm and collected under fire—which is why leaders and CEOs so often tend to isolate themselves. If you’re a CEO for a large corporation, the balance of public and private life comes into play as well. Feeling as if you don’t have a private life leads to even more isolation, which leads to sadness, loneliness, and even sickness. The whole body takes on stress and responds accordingly—whether it’s increased blood pressure, disrupted sleep patterns, or a lowered production of white blood cells.
Now let’s add the holidays into the mix. For many, the holidays are a time of cheer—bright lights, holiday parties, decorated stores, sweet treats that only come once a year. But for others, the holidays tend to exacerbate loneliness. CEOs are already accustomed to spending extra time in the office, but now that everyone is out and about and partaking in holiday festivities, it can be harder to cope and spend late nights in the office.
Even if you don’t like to talk about it or face it, there’s a way to overcome loneliness and isolation. In fact, it’s not only crucial to your health, it’s important for the growth of your business and the people you employ.
For starters, you need to balance work and home life. Make it a point to go home at a certain time every night. When you’re home, be present in the moment and shut off your work brain. Even if you still have to work from home, set aside specific time for the family and time for work. Don’t let the two intertwine; focus on family when you’re with family, and work when you’re at work. Practice integrating everything that’s important to you, but with the necessary balance.
Learn to manage your expectations if you’re feeling extra lonely this holiday season. Life isn’t a Lifetime movie. Don’t let advertisements, pop culture, or social media guide you into believing the holiday hype. A perfect Christmas doesn’t always mean an engagement, baby, or news that you’re going to be a grandparent. You don’t have to fly to New York City for New Year’s Eve. Write your own script for the holidays and define what the ideal holiday is for you, whether it means treating your staff (and yourself) to an extra day off, grabbing a group of friends for a special dinner party, or enjoying a cup of hot cocoa by the fire (studies show that physical warmth can help counteract feelings of loneliness!).
Do your best to avoid isolating yourself this season; actively reach out to friends and family, or try to foster new relationships. Don’t wait for others to reach out, which is something isolated, lonely individuals often do. Ask for help if you need it. A great way to do that is by joining a peer leadership group. CEOs are often shy to discuss their failures for worry of appearing weak. Embrace vulnerability; it doesn’t equate weakness. Let people in. The members of your peer group are facing the same issues as you—fear of failure, overwhelming stress, loneliness, and isolation. Opening up to your group will make you feel less of the negative feelings. Knowing that a group of people understand your struggles will help the stress feel a little more manageable.