The danger of burnout
It seems strange that, despite endless technology promising to free up our time by automating processes, etc., some of us today feel – more than ever- physically overworked, stressed and overwhelmed as we go about our day-to-day business.
I’ve written about maintaining a healthy work/life balance, but as ‘healthy’ in this regard can mean different things to different people, how do we know when we’re working too hard?
The concept of burnout is a step further than just feeling bored, unappreciated or put on at work; burnout can mirror the symptoms of depression: fatigue and listlessness, no care or interest in work or home, and a shortness of temper that’s uncharacteristic, amongst others.
There are many ways burnout can occur. Sometimes, we have too much expectation put on us – some of us even self-impose impossible targets. It could also stem from personal problems clashing with a heavy workload, or perhaps as a result of a steady loss of control, or never-ending challenges within the job role itself.
Though burnout can internalise unhappy feelings, it can also bring on actual physical illness; such stress, if not treated, can aggravate existing medical conditions or cause our immune systems to crash to a point where we can’t shake off even the most common ailments.
Prevention is far better than the cure when it comes to burnout, but for some, burnout may be upon them already. If what I’ve described sounds like how you currently feel, concentrate initially on taking better care of yourself before you address the issues surrounding you.
If you find it helps, meditate, or at least carve out half an hour per day to give yourself a mental ‘wind down’. Consider some gentle exercise, such as yoga, and ensure you get enough sleep and you’re eating a balanced diet, so that you’re not lacking in any vitamins or essential nutrients.
Limit your time with electrical or technological appliances; switch off your phone, laptop or tablet for a portion of the day. Research has shown that burnout can also be due to an overload of electromagnetic pollution.
Entrench some boundaries when it comes to work; read my blog on learning how to say ‘No’ or another post I wrote on implementing delegation. The ambitious element within us must marvel at the many opportunities available to us today; we can be who we want to be. But chasing a seemingly impossible dream, or pursuing money, power and recognition, can cause burnout. Accepting what you have, rather than striving for what you don’t have, can instantly dissipate a lot of self-imposed pressure. After all, who says on their deathbed, “I wish I’d worked more/had more”? More likely, we’ll think, “I wish I’d done more”. Whilst this could be concerned with achievement, it could just as likely mean we may regret not spending more time with our friends and family, or just pleasing ourselves, doing the thing we enjoy.
Carving out some quiet time every day to rest and relax could be all that’s needed to balance a desire to get ahead in life, or to achieve within our jobs, with a happy, healthy private life – one that’s equally as fulfilling as any career.
Feeling drained, physically and emotionally, are symptoms of burnout. Along with poor concentration and a lack of focus and empathy, your body will be screaming for a break. If this sounds like you, talk to your HR personnel; they’d much rather help you manage burnout in the short term than allow it to go by untreated and continuing to fester; given that burnout can lead to much more serious physical ailments, that may result in much more time away from work, it’s in their best interests to help you.
Certain roles and professions are more susceptible to burnout: such as teachers, medical professionals, athletes and social workers. The demands and commitment associated with these kinds of jobs, coupled with workplace environments that are noisy and chaotic, only add to the pressure of long hours. Recognising these factors and maintaining calm, as well as a healthy, organised lifestyle, will decrease the chances of burnout happening.
Accepting, if burnout occurs, that normality won’t be reached immediately, and that recovery will be as individual as you are, will help. For high-achievers, it may be an alien concept to ask for help but there’s no shame in needing to lean on others for a little while.
My executive clients hold demanding roles, and although few reach total burnout, a lack of control or chronic stress can manifest itself in numerous ways. Does this sound like you?
The executive coaching I deliver is confidential and effective. Contact me on 01302 220021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to iosphere and freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images
- Posted in: Emotional Intelligence ♦ Executive Coaching
- Tagged: boundaries at work, burnout, chronic stress in the workplace, depression, executive coaching, executive fatigue, fatigue, lack of focus, managing stress, poor concentration at work, relaxation, rest, roles associated with burnout, stress, work/life balance