Lately, so many people are struggling with Burnout that the World Health Organization just changed its classification to a syndrome related to chronic stress.
I co-chair a monthly leadership coaching group with two other executive coaches, and we have spent the last two months on this topic. Many people are struggling with work/life balance and feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed at work. In fact, Burnout is so prevalent that one of our co-chairs specializes in it.
What’s going on and what is Burnout?
The term Burnout was first created and described in 1974 in the book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. The Executive coach that specializes in Burnout says that it is unmanaged workplace stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
You may be exhibiting signs of Burnout if you dread Monday mornings, and are beginning to feel overwhelmed and less capable at work.
What specifically causes it? It’s different for everyone. The most common responses I’ve heard are lack of structure, a large workload, too many meetings, poor time management, difficulty prioritizing, and feelings of loss of control.
Job-specific issues that create Burnout also depend on the person, the type of company they work for, and the industry. In Seattle, Burnout is pervasive at tech companies, particularly startups that have the work hard/play hard mentality that may require attendance at after-work functions and activities.
It is now a 24/7 world, and with smartphones, we are always connected. Bosses without boundaries are texting night and day, and global business can demand attendance at business meetings that start at 3 am. Throw in a little people-pleasing, unclear expectations, a problematic boss or coworker, and you have a recipe for Burnout.
How do you know if you are suffering from Burnout?
Most of us will struggle with Burnout at some time, in fact, many of my clients talk about feeling stressed and frustrated by their lack of work-life balance; it’s a natural response to feelings of being overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities. I think that we unrealistically assume that our life should or can be balanced all of the time.
Some of the initial symptoms are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, fatigue, insomnia, sadness, irritability, and alcohol or substance abuse.
What happens if you ignore it?
Burnout can make it difficult for you to function successfully in all areas of your life, and potentially lead to debilitating mental and physical illness. Good news though – It is reversible. Here are five practical ways to start to tame burn out and take your life back:
1. Practice Self-Care
Eat healthy food, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.
Get clear on what is most important for you and start there.
3. Set Boundaries and Learn to Say No
It’s okay not to work 24 hours. Let the people that you work for know that you have other commitments and do not answer texts during off work or inappropriate hours. Limit your attendance at non-mandatory work functions.
4. Find and Try New Methods to Manage Your Stress
Focus on a hobby, go for a walk, meditate, get creative and try something new and different, take a class, volunteer or participate or coach a team sport. The key is to detach from work.
5. Seek Support and Connection
There are many people just like you. Reach out to coworkers, friends, or loved ones and talk to others who have been there.
These suggestions are just a start. Keep an open mind as you consider the options. They don’t have to be expensive or complicated. Keep it simple. Most importantly try not to let a demanding or unrewarding job undermine your health and don’t ever lose sight of WHY you work. For most of us, that means starting with the ‘life’ side of the work/life balance equation. I am a big proponent of a gratitude journal and often starting with documenting what you appreciate about your life will help guide you to a place of comfort and healing.
Burnout can have serious consequences. If you or someone that you know is struggling with Burnout and needs support contact firstname.lastname@example.org to talk with the burnout specialist or for referrals to additional resources.
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