Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout
How do you define “Burnout”? Can you explain?
Burnout, in my view, is a state where individuals push themselves beyond their physical and mental limits, often without realizing that they need a break. It’s characterized by a relentless pursuit of work or goals, which can lead to chronic stress, sleep disturbances, and a neglect of one’s overall well-being. This phenomenon isn’t confined to the workplace; it can also affect our personal lives, especially for those juggling work and family responsibilities, like parents with young children. Burnout is essentially a result of relentless pressure, the constant need to meet deadlines, and the fear of falling behind or not keeping up with the competition. It’s a state where we prioritize work over our own health, sleep, and even nutrition, losing sight of our well-being in the pursuit of professional success.
How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?
The opposite of burnout can be best described as achieving a state of equilibrium. It involves being in tune with your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being and ensuring that each aspect receives the necessary attention and nourishment to flourish. This equilibrium leads to a sense of vitality, where you feel not only physically healthy but also mentally and spiritually fulfilled. It’s about finding that sweet spot where you’re able to manage your professional responsibilities effectively while also dedicating time and energy to self-care, family, and personal growth. This balanced approach is what ultimately sustains your health and energy, enabling you to thrive and continue to achieve success in both your personal and professional life.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some skeptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?
I vehemently disagree with the notion that burnout is a minor annoyance. Burnout, when ignored or trivialized, can have profound and lasting consequences on both individuals and society as a whole.
Individual Health: Burnout is not a mere inconvenience; it’s a signal that our physical and mental well-being is in jeopardy. When we reach a state of burnout, it signifies that we have disregarded the crucial signs our bodies and minds have been sending. Burnout is the culmination of relentless stress, pushing our boundaries beyond reason. Prolonged exposure to such stress can result in a cascade of health issues, from compromised immune systems to cardiovascular problems, and even mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
Society’s Health and Productivity: Society relies on its individuals to be healthy and productive contributors. Burnout erodes this foundation. When a significant portion of a workforce experiences burnout, it leads to a decrease in overall productivity and creativity. Burnout impairs cognitive function, memory, and decision-making abilities, hindering progress. Furthermore, it places an immense burden on healthcare systems as individuals suffering from burnout often require medical intervention and treatment. The collective result is a less healthy and less productive society.
In my own experience, I’ve encountered burnout at different life stages, and I can attest to the long-lasting impact it can have on one’s health. Burnout should never be underestimated; it’s a red flag that we must heed to protect our individual well-being and the health of our society.
From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?
The causes of burnout are multifaceted and can vary from person to person. However, several common factors often contribute to this pervasive issue:
Excessive Workload: One of the primary drivers of burnout is an overwhelming workload. Pushing oneself to consistently work long hours, meet tight deadlines, and achieve unrealistic goals can quickly lead to burnout.
Lack of Work-Life Balance: Failing to strike a balance between professional and personal life can be a significant cause of burnout. Overcommitting to work and neglecting self-care and leisure activities can have detrimental effects.
Unclear Job Expectations: When job roles and expectations are unclear, it can create stress and anxiety, contributing to burnout. Employees need a clear understanding of their responsibilities to perform effectively.
Lack of Control: Feeling powerless or having minimal control over one’s work can lead to burnout. A sense of autonomy and the ability to make decisions about one’s work can be protective against burnout.
Inadequate Resources: Insufficient resources, whether it’s a shortage of time, necessary tools, supportive colleagues, or recognition from superiors, can significantly elevate the likelihood of burnout. The strain of feeling ill-prepared to handle tasks amplifies the stress factor.
Poor Organizational Culture: Toxic workplace environments characterized by bullying, harassment, or a lack of support can foster burnout among employees.
Perfectionism: Striving for unattainable perfection in one’s work can lead to chronic stress and, ultimately, burnout. The constant fear of making mistakes or falling short can be exhausting.
Personal Factors: Individual traits, such as a strong desire to achieve, a tendency to overcommit, difficulty setting boundaries, or external pressures like caring for a sick family member, coping with the loss of a loved one, or the challenges new mothers face in balancing the care of newborns, work, and household responsibilities, can all significantly contribute to burnout.
Recognizing and addressing these underlying causes is crucial in preventing burnout and promoting well-being in both personal and professional spheres.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”.
Certainly, work burnout is a pervasive issue that demands proactive attention. Here are five essential steps to take if you find yourself grappling with work burnout:
1. Self-Reflection and Awareness: Begin by contemplating your current situation and acknowledging the presence of burnout. This self-awareness is the inaugural stride on the path to recovery.
In my own journey, I encountered a high-pressure job characterized by long hours and incessant deadlines. Over time, I grew increasingly fatigued and emotionally detached from my work. It took my concerned friends pointing out the physical toll on my health, weight loss, and exhaustion for me to truly recognize the signs of burnout. It was a pivotal moment when I decided to step back and acknowledge that I wasn’t being kind to myself. This recognition became the catalyst for my healing process. I shifted my focus from merely clocking in hours to prioritizing results and well-being, escaping the relentless cycle of self-detriment and ultimately achieving my goals.
2. Set Boundaries: It’s crucial to delineate clear boundaries between work and personal life. Establish defined work hours and ensure you take regular breaks to shield your personal time from work-related stress.
In my quest to reclaim balance, I took the deliberate step of disabling work email notifications after office hours. I committed to not checking my emails until the next workday. Additionally, I communicated with my team about this new approach, clarifying that emergencies could still be addressed via text or phone call. This change was transformative, allowing me to repossess my personal time and considerably diminish burnout symptoms. It was a simple yet profound shift that allowed me to reconnect with self-care and family, which in turn rejuvenated me.
3. Seek Support: Never underestimate the power of seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist. Opening up to someone you trust can provide emotional relief and offer fresh perspectives.
Initially, I was hesitant to share my burnout experiences with others, fearing it might tarnish my professional image as a leader. I believed I needed to set an example of unwavering dedication. However, when I finally heeded my friends’ observations of my deteriorating well-being, I realized the significance of community. The emotional support I received was transformative in my journey to recovery. It also underscored the importance of humanizing oneself as a leader, showcasing empathy for the physical and emotional needs of the team. This approach fosters a healthier work environment, increases motivation, and reduces fear-based stress.
4. Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine, focusing on activities that rejuvenate your physical and mental well-being. Engage in regular exercise, practice mindfulness meditation, indulge in hobbies, or simply carve out moments exclusively for yourself.
In the midst of an exceptionally demanding work phase, I introduced a brief mindfulness meditation practice into my daily routine, dedicating just 10 minutes each day to this essential self-care ritual. Over time, this seemingly modest adjustment proved to be profoundly transformative. It became a source of renewed focus, stress alleviation, and mental clarity. Moreover, it equipped me with a valuable tool to navigate high-pressure situations, enabling me to maintain the composure required to make prudent decisions when confronted with stress-induced challenges.
Additional Tip: In moments of extreme workplace stress, take a brief pause — 2 to 3 minutes will suffice. Engage in a simple breathing exercise or close your eyes and attentively listen to your breath. Inhale and exhale deliberately until your breathing naturally slows down. This swift practice can help clear your mind, enabling you to make more considered decisions and mitigating the potentially adverse effects of extreme stress.
5. Communicate with Your Supervisor: If workplace factors are contributing to your burnout, it’s essential to initiate a conversation with your supervisor. They may not fully comprehend the extent of your struggles and could implement changes to alleviate your workload or provide additional support.
A close friend of mine found herself grappling with an overwhelming workload, a situation that was undeniably propelling her towards burnout. Taking a proactive approach, she engaged in a candid conversation with her supervisor. This dialogue led to a reevaluation of her responsibilities and a more equitable distribution of tasks among the team. This adjustment not only lightened her load but also substantially improved her work-life balance.
Note of Caution: It’s important to acknowledge that discussing burnout with your supervisor isn’t a guaranteed solution, especially in toxic work environments. I personally encountered such a situation where leaving a detrimental partnership was the only viable option to safeguard both my well-being and that of my family. Embracing change is essential, but it’s equally crucial to strategize your decisions carefully to avoid burnout resulting from financial constraints or more dire consequences. Seeking guidance from a therapist, mentor, or a trusted friend or family member can be invaluable when navigating such critical life-changing choices.
Remember, conquering burnout is not a one-size-fits-all process; it’s a journey that necessitates self-compassion, patience, and a commitment to prioritize your well-being. By embracing these steps and seeking support, you can gradually reclaim your vitality, enthusiasm, and “mojo” at work.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?
Supporting someone experiencing burnout requires a delicate and empathetic approach. Here are some ways concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners can help reverse burnout:
Open and Non-Judgmental Communication: Start by creating a safe space for them to express their feelings and concerns without judgment. Simply lending an empathetic ear can provide immense relief.
Offer Assistance: Ask how you can help, whether it’s with tasks at work or home. Sometimes, a small gesture like running errands or assisting with a project can ease their burden.
Encourage Self-Care: Gently remind them to prioritize self-care. Encourage activities they enjoy, like hobbies or relaxation techniques, and offer to participate together.
Suggest Professional Help: If their burnout seems overwhelming, suggest seeking professional guidance from a therapist or counselor. Offer support in finding suitable resources.
Respect Their Boundaries: Be mindful of their boundaries and don’t push them to engage in activities they may not feel up to. Respect their need for space when required.
Check-In Regularly: Consistently check in on their well-being. Burnout can be an ongoing struggle, so continued support is crucial.
Be Patient: Recovery from burnout takes time. Be patient and understanding and avoid pressuring them to bounce back quickly.
Avoid Offering Unsolicited Advice: While well-intentioned, unsolicited advice can sometimes be overwhelming. Wait for them to express a need for guidance before offering solutions.
Remember, your presence and willingness to support them during their burnout journey can make a significant difference.
What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
In my experience, as an employer, I’ve found several impactful ways to help my staff reverse burnout while fostering a healthier and more engaged workplace. Here’s what I did, which can serve as inspiration for other employers:
Holistic Wellness Programs: I introduced regular yoga and meditation classes, along with chair massages, right within our workplace. These sessions were scheduled during work hours, allowing our team to participate as a group. Not only did this promote self-care and well-being, but it also created a strong sense of camaraderie among our employees.
Healthy Eating Initiatives: Recognizing the link between nutrition and well-being, I implemented plant-based meals and organized cooking classes. By doing this together as a team, we not only learned about healthy eating habits but also had fun bonding over shared culinary experiences.
The results of these initiatives were truly remarkable. We noticed a significant decrease in the number of sick days taken by our team members. The office atmosphere became noticeably more positive, with smiles and a sense of rejuvenation becoming the norm.
One particularly interesting development was our decision to take our chair massages outdoors. Our office was conveniently located across from a busy train station. To maximize the impact of our wellness program, we set up in front of our office, adjacent to an urban vegetable garden we’d cultivated. Here, we began offering free chair massages to people waiting for their trains.
This unconventional approach not only provided relaxation to commuters but also fostered connections within our community. We had the opportunity to get to know our neighbors, and they, in turn, learned about our company and its values. Even individuals who hadn’t previously heard of our business became acquainted with us through our weekly chair massages.
The ripple effect of wellness was undeniable. It extended beyond our team, positively influencing the larger community. This experience demonstrated the potential for employers to make a significant difference in supporting their staff’s well-being and contributing to the overall health and happiness of the community they serve.
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Certainly, promoting the importance of supporting employees’ mental wellness is vital for cultivating a healthy workplace. Here are some comprehensive strategies to consider:
Education and Training: Conduct workshops and training sessions aimed at both employers and employees. These programs educate participants about mental health, aiming to reduce stigma and elevate awareness. Equipping individuals with tools to identify signs of mental health issues is essential.
Mental Health Policies: Implement explicit mental health policies and guidelines within the workplace. Ensure these policies encompass readily accessible resources for employees seeking help and support.
Mental Health Days: Advocate for the concept of mental health days, akin to sick leave. This encourages employees to take time off when grappling with mental health challenges without harboring guilt.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide confidential counseling and a range of resources to employees. Regularly communicate the availability of these programs.
Mental Health Champions: Designate and train mental health champions within the organization. These individuals serve as advocates and sources of support for their colleagues.
Work-Life Balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance among employees. Foster an environment that avoids overworking and reduces situations of extreme stress.
Open Communication: Cultivate an atmosphere where open and honest dialogues about mental health are encouraged. Assure employees that they can approach their supervisors without fear of judgment.
Peer Support Networks: Establish peer support networks or buddy systems within the organization. These platforms allow employees to provide mutual support during challenging times.
Physical & Emotional Health Promotion: Encourage physical activity as it significantly impacts mental health. Offer gym memberships or organize group activities like yoga, meditation, and fitness classes. Implement wellness initiatives like chair massages, health coaching sessions, and provision of healthy snacks.
Create a Nurturing Environment: Develop dedicated spaces within the workplace where employees can take breaks for meditation, breathing exercises, or grounding. Foster a sense of community through activities like plant-based cooking events and community gardening.
Mental Health Awareness Celebrations: Acknowledge events such as World Mental Health Day by organizing awareness campaigns and activities highlighting mental health issues.
Anonymous Feedback Channels: Create confidential channels for employees to provide feedback and suggestions related to mental health support within the workplace.
Leadership Involvement: Ensure active support and participation from top leadership in mental health initiatives. Their involvement sets a positive example for the entire organization.
Impact Measurement: Utilize surveys and feedback mechanisms to gauge the effectiveness of mental health initiatives and make necessary improvements.
Collaboration with Mental Health Experts: Collaborate with mental health organizations or experts to leverage their knowledge and resources to support employees effectively.
Regular Updates: Keep employees informed about the organization’s mental health initiatives through regular updates, newsletters, or internal communication channels.
Support for New Moms: Establish a nurturing environment where new mothers can comfortably nurse and bond with their babies during breaks and work hours, especially when extending maternity leave isn’t feasible within the organization. Recognizing that new moms are vulnerable to burnout, offering such support becomes crucial in promoting their emotional well-being, reducing stress, and significantly benefiting their mental health. These initiatives empower new mothers, enhance work-life balance, and ultimately contribute to a more vibrant, sustainable future for both families and workplaces. A secure and accommodating work environment further boosts productivity, as a mother who feels safe can excel in her role.
Pet-Friendly Workplace: If your workspace allows, consider designating specific days as “Bring a Pet Day.” Allowing employees to bring their well-behaved pets to work can have a calming and stress-reducing effect. The presence of pets can contribute to a positive and relaxed atmosphere, fostering a sense of community and well-being among your team.
Remember, creating a mentally healthy workplace is an ongoing commitment that necessitates involvement from all levels of the organization. By adopting and implementing all or some of these strategies you can effectively raise awareness and prioritize the mental wellness of your valued employees.
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
Reversing burnout is indeed a challenging process, and several common mistakes can hinder the recovery process. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes and tips to avoid them:
Ignoring the Signs: One common mistake is ignoring or downplaying the signs of burnout. People often push themselves to the limit, thinking they can handle the stress. To avoid this mistake, it’s crucial to recognize the signs early on, such as persistent fatigue, irritability, and reduced productivity. Acknowledge these signals as alarms to take action.
Self-Neglect: Some individuals focus solely on their professional responsibilities and neglect self-care. They may skip meals, avoid exercise, or sacrifice sleep to meet work demands. To prevent this mistake, prioritize self-care. Allocate time for rest, exercise, and nourishing meals. Remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish but essential for resilience.
Isolating Themselves: Burnout can lead to social withdrawal, where individuals isolate themselves from friends and colleagues. Avoid this mistake by staying connected with your support network. Share your feelings and experiences with trusted friends or family members. Social support is vital for emotional well-being.
Overworking: Ironically, some people try to combat burnout by working even harder, hoping to catch up on their tasks. However, this often exacerbates the problem. To prevent this, set clear boundaries and stick to them. Prioritize tasks and delegate when necessary. Understand that working endlessly is unsustainable.
Denial: Another common mistake is denying or minimizing the existence of burnout. Some individuals may dismiss their feelings, thinking it’s just a passing phase. To avoid this mistake, practice self-awareness and honest self-assessment. Acknowledge your feelings and listen to your body when it tells you that something is wrong. Denying burnout can prolong suffering and make recovery more challenging.
Neglecting Professional Help: Burnout is a serious issue that may require professional intervention. A common mistake is hesitating to seek help from therapists or counselors. To avoid this, consider therapy as a valuable resource. Professional support can provide coping strategies and emotional guidance to overcome burnout.
Lack of Long-Term Planning: Another mistake is not considering long-term solutions. Some individuals focus on immediate relief but fail to make sustainable changes in their lifestyle and work habits. To avoid this, develop a long-term plan. Identify stressors and create strategies to address them effectively.
Impatience: People often expect instant results when trying to reverse burnout. Recovery takes time, and impatience can lead to frustration. Avoid this mistake by setting realistic expectations. Recognize that progress may be gradual, and be patient with yourself during the healing process.
Not Seeking Organizational Support: In the workplace, some individuals hesitate to communicate their burnout to their supervisors or HR departments. They fear potential consequences. To prevent this mistake, understand that many organizations have policies and resources to support employee well-being. Openly discuss your situation with your employer to explore available options.
Neglecting Work-Life Balance: Finally, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for preventing burnout. Neglecting this balance by consistently overworking can lead to exhaustion. To avoid this mistake, prioritize your personal life. Set boundaries and make time for hobbies, relaxation, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Credit: Posted October by Jake Frankel. Click here to read the full article.