Is work-life balance possible when you work 60, 70, or even 80-hour-plus weeks? Mental health challenges, and how they impact our professional lives, have become increasingly apparent, especially in the financial sector. Whether you are an analyst, financial planner, investment banker, or something in between, you face potential burnout and other physiological reactions to prolonged and sustained stress. The good news is that therapy can improve your ability to manage stress and burnout and increase resilience to it in the future.
The stigma of therapy in male-dominated workplaces
The finance industry is widely recognized as a male-dominated field. While progress is being made to increase representation, it provides valuable insights into workplace culture. Men often experience the pressure of conforming to traditional gender roles, expected to be the primary breadwinners in heterosexual relationships. As a result, many gravitate towards high-paying careers, fulfilling their innate biological need to find a mate and be a provider for their future family.
Like anything, the pursuit of wealth can become addictive, fueling competition in the workplace and creating internal and external pressure to outperform colleagues. Under such circumstances, it becomes difficult for men and all employees to show vulnerability or admit to weaknesses, given the constant burden of these expectations at work, home, and within themselves. Phrases like “man up” and “deal with it,” combined with passive-aggressive emails from superiors, force employees to suppress and internalize their feelings.
So what happens when people working these high-stakes jobs internalize all this stress?
- Imposter Syndrome
- Reduced trust in their decision-making skills
- Lowered self-esteem and self-worth
- Intrusive thoughts and cognitive distortions
- Negative coping (e.g. binge drinking, stimulant use, distorted eating, self-harm, etc.)
- Poor anger management and lowered frustration tolerance
What is burnout?
To understand how those in the financial industry are at high risk for burnout, we need to understand what burnout is. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines burnout as physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion paired with decreased motivation, low performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself, resulting from high levels of stress and tension and overburdened workload. Chronic stress at this level begins to take a toll on an individual. Chronic, prolonged stress takes a toll on individuals, leading to a range of issues such as increased depression, anxiety, low energy, poor frustration tolerance, reduced concentration, and diminished appetite.
Moreover, the demanding hours required in the financial sector leave little room for essential self-care. A typical day for finance professionals is a whirlwind of constant stimulation from emails, projects, meetings, spreadsheets, and numerous other tasks. Even after returning home, the pressure doesn't let up. Larger private equity firms and prominent accounting companies often expect employees not only to work late at the office but also to keep a vigilant eye on emails during their off-hours. Picture this scenario: at 9:30 p.m., someone schedules a mandatory 8 a.m. meeting for the next day, despite the standard working hours being 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The stress and anxiety this situation might cause are enough to trigger anxious thoughts in anyone, such as:
- I can’t believe I missed that meeting; I am going to get reamed out for this.
- My bonus is at risk because I missed that email asking me for that updated document.
- What if I don’t get that promotion next year because of this?
This merely scratches the surface of the intensity of working in the financial sector. But what happens when we add personal stressors into the mix? Your partner is feeling overwhelmed with the kids and needs more help. Your pet requires emergency surgery. On top of that, you've just received worrisome news about your parents' health. As if that weren't enough, your vacation days have been canceled due to an unexpected SEC exam. How can we handle this overwhelming load and maintain high functionality?
How can therapy help finance professionals?
The stigma surrounding therapy often deters individuals from seeking help, but understanding its potential benefits can change that perception. Amid the negative effects of chronic stress in high-pressure jobs like finance, therapy emerges as a valuable resource. It offers a safe space for you to gain self-awareness and a better understanding of your unique needs. Therapists provide a supportive environment where stressors can be openly discussed, and effective problem-solving strategies can be explored without judgment. The process equips you with healthy coping mechanisms, tailored to your lifestyle, to better manage stress and anxiety. Moreover, therapy empowers you to challenge intrusive or negative thoughts, promoting a sense of inner peace and emotional well-being.
Throughout the process, you will learn the importance of self-care and discover ways to incorporate self-nutruring practices into your routine. For those experiencing heightened anger and frustration, therapy can guide you toward developing proper communication skills and increasing emotional tolerance. Most importantly, therapy fosters accountability, empowering individuals to implement desired changes and collect valuable tools for an improved quality of life. With enhanced self-esteem, reduced depression, anxiety, and improved relationships, therapy paves the way towards achieving a sought-after work-life balance and overall well-being.
What can I do on my own to reduce stress?
- Healthy Eating and Exercise/Yoga
- Sleep hygiene
- Unplugged time
- Spending time with family and friends
- Guided Meditation
How can I get started with therapy?
Feeling comfortable and confident in your therapeutic relationship is considered by many to be one of the most essential parts of the treatment process. Our intake team is dedicated to assisting you in finding the perfect fit to embark on your therapy journey. We’re here when you’re ready to get started.