Communities 1st CEO Blog

Rebuilding From Burnout


The COVID-19 pandemic marked an unprecedented era for charity and non-profit leadership, introducing new challenges that required swift adaptation and resilience. As a CEO, I navigated our organisation through these uncertain times, which inevitably impacted my personal well-being. My role, once a source of immense satisfaction, had become increasingly demanding, highlighting the universal challenges faced by leaders in our sector.

My journey as a CEO during this period involved balancing organisational needs with personal well-being. The journey was laden with complex decisions, often requiring a delicate balance between immediate crisis response and long-term strategic planning. The pandemic, coupled with global crises such as the situations in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and socio-economic disruptions, presented a complex landscape for decision-making. These challenges were not only logistical but also carried significant emotional weight, impacting both our teams and the communities we serve.


Burnout: A Silent Epidemic Among Leaders


Burnout among leaders is insidious and often under-acknowledged. It is often a gradual process, marked by increasing fatigue, a sense of detachment, and a diminishing drive. For me, it manifested in a growing reluctance towards routine tasks and a sense of being overwhelmed by responsibilities. Recognising these signs was the first step towards addressing them.

One of the first steps in my recovery was redefining my work-life boundaries. This meant revisiting my daily routine and consciously detaching from work outside of designated hours. Establishing these boundaries was crucial in regaining a sense of control and creating space for personal rejuvenation. Implementing simple measures like 'Do Not Disturb' settings during non-work hours helped in regaining much-needed personal time. Reconnecting with colleagues, friends, and family also played a crucial role in overcoming social isolation and revitalising my support network.

The role of physical wellness and mental well-being in overcoming burnout cannot be overstated. Simple activities like walks in nature and engaging in physical exercise provided much-needed breaks. These activities became instrumental in restoring my energy and focus.. Additionally, adopting mindfulness practices, though initially met with scepticism, became a valuable part of my routine, aiding in stress management and self-awareness.


Navigating Leadership and Organisational Dynamics


As a leader, my journey of recovery was not just personal but also intertwined with the dynamics of our organisation. It was essential to find a balance between showing vulnerability and maintaining the confidence of my team and the Trustee Board. This journey highlighted the importance of fostering a culture of openness and mutual support within the organisation. It was important to align my recovery with the organisation's progress, fostering a culture of trust and collective resilience.

A year into this journey, I have seen significant progress. I am better equipped to handle work pressures, engage socially without feeling overwhelmed, and appreciate life's smallerjoys. This experience has underscored the importance of self-care and the value of a strong support network in overcoming challenges.

Recovery from burnout is an ongoing process, one that is as much about personal growth as it is about professional resilience. It's a path that many leaders may find themselves on, and each step taken, no matter how small, is significant in moving towards a more balanced and fulfilling life. This journey has been a valuable journey of self-discovery, highlighting the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community. It serves as a reminder that in the face of challenges, adaptation, and self-awareness are key to not just surviving but thriving.


Stephen Craker, 

 Chief Executive, Communities 1st.


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