Burnout has become very topical in recent times, and while some say this is sad to see, I think we need to embrace the raising of it as a real issue affecting very many people, in all walks of life.This is not something which can be blamed on the pandemic, it has been around for decades, but kept under wraps, so to speak.
It’s important to clarify what it really is and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) it is a syndrome linked to chronic work stress that has not been successfully managed – it’s not just about having a busy workload. It has three key components:
- Feelings of exhaustion,
- Mental detachment from your job,
- Poorer performance at work.
Many people automatically move into denial about being burntout as they feel they:
- ‘Must’ keep working at insane levels
- ‘Have to’ keep going because…….
- ‘Can’t say No’ because ‘it is what it is!’
Just for the record, I absolutely hate to hear this ‘it is what it is’ statement! This suggests that everything is outside our control and it is a real conversation stopper – when we most need to talk about what’s going on!
The most important thing is to know when you are moving towards burnout. Good levels of stress tend to keep us on our toes and motivate us to do well, but when you are continually exposed to stress and the related anxiety, with no acknowledgement by or from your managers or leaders, who sometimes push more and more work on you, then you move into burnout. Other signs are when the quality of your work slips as you are physically and emotionally exhausted and work takes up all of your emotional energy and you are less able to engage fully in family or social life.
Leaders and managers have a significant role to play in preventing burnout and in supporting you when you suffer from burnout. They must get clear on their own stress levels and ensure they do not cascade them down to their employees. All leaders have a ‘Duty of Care’ to each and every employee to ensure that in addition to providing a safe working environment and the knowledge and skills to do your job, they are morally obliged to ensure your health and wellbeing are not adversely impacted as a result of your workload and the sometimes excessive demands they are placing on you. They need to take their foot off the pedal and acknowledge the stress they can see, and sometimes hear, you are under and show some understanding and care for you, their employees.
You too have a role to play in your own burnout. Particularly in preventing it. What’s more important in the greater scheme of things – your reputation for being an exceptional worker, albeit it a stressed one, or climbing the corporate ladder to great heights – or your health? Your title is of little use to you when you are grounded, flat on your back suffering from ill health which has completely depleted you. Build your awareness of the signs of burnout mentioned above and don’t be afraid to put your health and well being first.
To aid your recovery, avoid the sticky-plaster approach of treating the symptoms, you need to:
- Find the cause of your burnout
- Identify the ‘quick-win’ changes you can make to ease your workload and stress immediately.
- Build your assertiveness and learn to say ‘No’ and reschedule some of your work, family or social commitments.
- Find someone you trust in your family or friends to brainstorm possible solutions. If you feel embarrassed to do this, engage a reliable mentor or coach to help you work through the overwhelm and share their insights.
- Discuss your workload with your boss and hopefully they will understand and will support you in your return to strong mental and physical health.
- If this doesn’t happen, you may need to consider your options in terms of leaving your current employer and finding a working environment which respects and values you.
- Take back your power and learn to value yourself – develop your self-awareness and self-leadership and stop giving permission to others to treat you in this way.
- Above all, be kind to yourself – do not beat yourself up over this – but commit to bringing yourself back to full health, and to maintaining it.
Recovering from burnout is a lengthy process and requires much discipline on your part. Do not try to do it alone, there is support and help for you out there, if you ask for it. But know that deciding ‘enough is enough’ is a great first step.
If you would like to have a short call to chat about burnout for yourself or for your employees, contact me today to arrange a free 15-minute strategy call, to at least set some priorities for you.