By Vanessa Fudge, Leading Well Founder


Working with a group of leaders in the NFP industry recently, I was asked, “Can we please look at stress today? I have been overwhelmed by the pressure of how much I have on my plate and it has started to occupy me day and night. I cannot seem to escape it. It is always with me”.

As we know stress is an essential part of life that instigates and supports growth, development, movement, regeneration. And we also know that we humans have a knack of too easily falling into a pattern of long-term unsustainable stress that can become debilitating and lead to physical, mental and emotional illness. So, identifying and maintaining the balance point that is right for each of us is really important.

If you are someone who has a leaning towards the high stress end of the scale you may be interested that this could be a sign that what you are carrying is not necessarily entirely yours to carry.

There is a common pattern with people who have taken on large responsibility from an early point in their career or early in life that is referred to as “carrying the burden that is not yours to carry.”
(ref Bert Hellinger).

Do any of these tell-tale signs ring true for you:

  • a feeling of having a huge weight on your shoulders
  • building and maintaining an impossibly long ‘to do’ list
  • continually stepping into the gap when volunteers are called on.

If this resonates with you that you are someone who has adapted to this pattern of ‘carrying the burden’, know that stress is your best friend. Why? Because it is your warning signal on the road to burnout.

And, equally, know that you do not need to continue on this road indefinitely.

The first step in releasing yourself from this largely unconscious pattern is to acknowledge all of the gifts you have harvested from carrying such a high level of responsibility. Ask yourself:

  • What opportunities have I embraced?
  • What experiences have I amassed?
  • What strengths have I developed?

And then ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to put down the burden of responsibility that is not mine?

This may mean revisiting a family pattern that you took on from someone else that you wanted to help at a very young age. It may be rife in your family tree. It is vital to know that you can put the burden down and still remain connected. If part of this load belongs to someone else, the healing message to send the source of this pattern and to yourself is, “I leave this with you. We will still be connected, just in a different way. “

“You” may be your organization.

Carrying a burden can be the biggest barrier for senior managers seeking to move past the glass ceiling and into executive roles. The good news is that once you put the burden down, many around you will breathe a sigh of relief as they are finally able to step up and meet you at your real height.