Tired? Exhausted? Wrung out? Flat? Have these words become commonplace in your household or workplace? Perhaps it’s you who feels this way?
Or maybe you feel there’s a lack of time, a lack of energy, lack of control, lack of support, lack of fairness, or lack of meaning in your life?
Perhaps you’ve returned to work feeling like the start of 2020 has left you run ragged and exhausted? Perhaps what we’ve experienced between fires, floods, hail, storms, dust and now Covid-19, will send us off onto a completely new trajectory. Perhaps the life we lived before the summer of 2020 no longer holds any appeal for us.
Over a lifetime, we spend countless hours at work. For many of us, the days take on a shape that wraps around us, anchoring us to the rhythm of the week. But what happens when the wrapping comes undone and the freedom we once craved, leads to a dark tunnel instead of blue sky?
You might be a carer, you might be adjusting to working from home, or you might be a healthcare worker on the front line during this time.
Any of these can also cause you to experience Burnout.
According to Psychology Today, burnout is defined as a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Burnout is often characterised by feelings of lethargy, uselessness, cynicism, irritability, joylessness, anxiety, failure, impatience, disillusionment and depression. Physical symptoms can include insomnia, digestive disruption, headaches, muscle soreness, high blood pressure and fatigue. An analogy used by Blogger Stacey King Gordon when writing about her own experience of burnout was to describe it as “the car crash you don’t see coming”.
HOW DO WE REACH BURNOUT?
- Unreasonable time pressure – do you feel like there’s never enough time in the day? Employees who say they have enough time to do their work are 70 percent less likely to experience high burnout.
- Lack of communication and support from a manager – do you feel that your ideas are not valued? Do you feel like your efforts aren’t recognised? Your Manager’s support offers a psychological buffer against stress.
- Lack of role clarity – do you feel as though the goalposts are constantly shifting? When expectations feel like moving targets, employees may become exhausted simply by trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing.
- Unmanageable workload – do you feel as though your head is only just above the water? Do you feel overwhelmed before the day has even begun? When a workload feels unmanageable, even the most optimistic employees will feel hopeless.
- Unfair treatment – Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment may include things such as favouritism, unfair compensation, and mistreatment from a co-worker.
Whilst workplace issues often need to be addressed within the workplace, there are some things you can do to support your mental wellbeing and reduce your incidence or risk of burnout.
1. Awareness and acknowledgement
Recognising you’re on the path to burnout is the first step to healing. Acknowledging that there’s a difference between being busy and feeling burdened. Work and misery don’t have to be synonymous!
2. Seek input within your organisation
In many cases, burnout isn’t exclusive to one individual within an organisation. Identify other employees who may be experiencing the problem and collaborate with them to improve the situation. Ask yourselves, ‘How do we turn this around?’ See if there are ways for the organisation to work with everyone to find a solution.
3. Make a conscious effort to take breaks
Whether for a few minutes or a few days, take time out to recharge. Setting an alarm for every 30 minutes as a reminder to get up and move around the office. Take a walk around the block every lunchtime. If appropriate, talk with your boss about switching to a schedule to incorporate more flexibility and/or movement.
4. Surround yourself with people who ‘get’ you
Draw on your friendships and family and let them know how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing. A burden shared is a burden halved. Spend time with them doing activities you find enjoyable, and which help take your mind off what’s burning you out.
5. Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people
Spending time with negative people will drag you down and make you feel worse. If a fellow colleague is a negative influence, limit your time with them and focus on being with more positive people who motivate and inspire you.
6. Develop new skills in building your resilience
Meditation, journaling, learning communication skills, emotional literacy and regulation, living with emotional and spiritual awareness. These are all ways to create a greater context for your work and life. The skills of resilience are practical and easy to learn.
Joining a new social group or activity can provide another environment to make new friends and talk to other like-minded people. If you’re lacking purpose, joining a new community allows you to network or give back.
It’s incredibly useful to have a mentor, a touchstone, a witness, a coach to support or encourage us or cheer us on. Consider asking for help through times of uncertainty.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you can’t overcome burnout where you work. In that case, beating burnout may require you to consider a new job or an entirely new field. Some jobs are, by nature, difficult, tiring and stressful.
If you need help in overcoming burnout, Quest for Life’s programs provide a wealth of practical skills, strategies and tools for living a meaningful life in difficult circumstances.
On this 5-day residential intensive group education program you’ll learn tools and strategies to:
- Develop a clear map forward in your life
- Feel confident in your ability to skilfully embrace your challenges
- Know how to create an environment for healing
- Feel optimistic, empowered and capable
- Enable more skilful communications and to resolve conflicts
- Regulate your emotions and express them in healthy ways
- Appreciate your story and your potential
- Respond rather than react to stressful situations
- Calm your mind so that you can think more clearly
- Understand the benefits of, and how to build meditation into daily life.
It takes strength and resilience to work through burnout, and Quest for Life can help through our 5-day residential Healing Your Life.