Balancing Personal Well-Being with Organizational Needs

By Stephanie Doliveira


From a very early age, I was drawn to taking care of people.  If you’re familiar with the Enneagram personality test, I’m a Type 2, sometimes known as “the Helper.”  This personality type is attracted to situations where we can provide support for others.  It’s likely why a career in HR has been so rewarding for me.

Recently, I’ve reflected on how much organizations depend on their HR teams to provide support to their businesses and employees.  The world of work has changed dramatically over the past five years thanks to social, political, economic, and technological changes – and, let’s not forget, a pandemic! And with the current environment heading toward the election in November, we’re in for another bumpy year.

HR professionals play the role of “caretakers” within our companies, leading efforts to ensure the work environment is positive and supportive of employees’ well-being. We wear many hats—culture guru, talent gatherer, teacher, conflict resolver, corporate listener, cheerleader, party planner, benefits expert. The list goes on. Undoubtedly, we’re pretty good at juggling all these demands.

But as organizational needs and requests pile up, our own energy is depleted. Mental health and burnout remain significant challenges for organizations.  With burnout on the rise among HR leaders, it’s never been more important to invest in your own well-being.


If we are so great at taking care of others, why is it so hard to take care of ourselves?

Truth be told, the pandemic almost took me down. Not the virus itself, but the chaos that ensued at work. I felt personally responsible for the safety, security, and well-being of every one of our 25,000 employees. Even though I was scared, I wasn’t about to let it show.  There just wasn’t time for that.

As the pandemic was ending, so was my marriage. A double whammy. I’ve never been more stressed, exhausted, or emotionally raw. Stress can significantly impact your health. When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones. If this bodily response to stress goes on too long, you can be at risk for serious health conditions like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. For me, the stress manifested into physical symptoms, including joint pain and inflammation, stomach issues, and high blood pressure (there are others, but I’ll spare you the details). For the first time, my stress was getting in the way of everything important to me, and my life felt out of balance.


The best version of yourself requires care and attention.

As noted, my personality type is drawn to helping others, but a downside is that we also tend to put others’ needs ahead of our own.  And that’s exactly where I found myself—burnt out and unable to help because I had neglected my own health. Of course, this personal story does not warrant a pity party. I’m keenly aware of the significant suffering in the world, and I am thankful every day that I have the ability and means to change the circumstances of my life.

Through a lot of introspection, I was reminded that the best version of me requires care and attention. To achieve more balance, I had to design a plan to reduce stress that prioritized taking care of my emotional, mental, and physical health. If you’re feeling worn, tired, and crispy like the edges of a burnt piece of toast, you may benefit from the steps that helped me get back on track.


  1. Assess your true north.


My definition of “true north” is getting clear on your inner compass. Identify your personal values, your purpose, and your goals. It’s hard to make decisions for your life when you’re unsure of who you are, what you believe in, and where you want to go.


  1. Assess your mental, emotional, physical, and social health.


Take inventory of your overall health.  Are you pleased with all aspects of your mental, emotional, physical, and social health?  Are you out of balance in any area of your life?


  1. Set an intention to change – and remember, small changes matter.


Small changes lead to a big impact. I love the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. In it, he notes that “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.”


  1. Use resources available (through your work)!


It’s ironic that as HR professionals, we often know the available resources better than anyone else in our companies but fail to utilize them. Benefits like behavioral health counseling, annual physicals, and mindfulness webinars can help you find more balance in your life.

I’m still working on my plan – some days are better than others, but I feel more in control of my life.  I’ve successfully recovered from burnout and dream of helping others again in new and different ways. I love being an HR leader and couldn’t imagine any other way to spend my professional life, but now with a little more balance.


Stephanie Doliveira is EVP of People & Culture at Sheetz. She’ll share more on how to “Find Your True North” when she delivers a keynote address by the same name at the PA Chamber’s Annual HR Conference on Thursday, March 21. Register for this great day of HR learning, networking, and earning continuing education credits here.