Saturday, June 18, 2022

Burnout @ work

Burnout is described as "a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands."

Present day many of us are unfortunately in a position where we have to work full time and for some, even additional hours to make ends meet. This can be even more of an issue for those of us used to putting others' needs before our own or those who have difficulty saying no. If you have a demanding job, family and/or social life and you're not careful you could easily find yourself sacrificing  rest/ time for yourself, leading to burnout. In Great Britain, research has identified 822,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2020/21 (HSE, 2021).

Feelings of overwhelm, doom, anxiety or depression are often related to burnout and it can have quite an impact on your mental wellbeing. Along with this, you may find physical symptoms of stress taking effect such as digestion challenges, fatigue and more.  You may find yourself snapping at your co-workers or feeling like crying on your way into work; however stress presents for you, it is important to pay attention to your needs, including at work.

Personally, I have found that burnout affects my ability to respond to situations logically and regulate my emotions  which results in me losing my patience with those around me. This in particular is not in line with my personal values/ virtues and so is a presentation that I like to avoid. Presently, we are living one life and I'd say recent goings on have taught us that even that is precious. For me, as important as my career is to me, I work to enable me to live a good life. I work for the classic exchange of service for financial gain which pays my bills, keeps me fed, warm and clothed (extremely well clothed). The additional benefit of being able to serve others is an absolute privilege, however I can also do this outside of work and my job is ultimately needed to give me a secure base from which I can explore and enjoy life from.

Signs to look out for:

-Avoidance of tasks due to feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and fear

-Physical symptoms: digestion difficulties, disrupted sleep cycle, muscle tension, general aches and pains

-Psychological symptoms: irritability, low mood, difficulty concentrating, lack of enthusiasm, reduced creativity

How can you avoid burnout? 

  • Pre-plan your annual leave!

It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s chaos without consciously setting aside time to rest. This could be as small as an additional day pre/after the weekend (3 day weekend woohoo) or a full week every few months. Rest and recuperation are essential for wellbeing and good performance.  

  • Balance 

The saying ‘work hard play hard’ exists for a reason. Ensure there exists a level of balance between different aspects of life. I.e. work is balanced with fun, social activities and rest and this works vice versa! If the balance lies on the side of play your work will likely suffer, causing you to get behind, leading to stress, contributing to burnout (catch 22). 

  • Boundaries/ honest communication 

If you are the kind of person who puts others before yourself you may find it hard to say no which includes additional work, hours, shifts/ responsibilities. It is important to recognise when taking on additional pressure will negatively impact you even though it may feel like you're doing someone a favor. Ultimately, if the extra work will put additional pressure on you/ your body, it will reduce the quality of your work and thus not benefit the service. 

If you struggle to say no to extra work try “thank you for the offer of ______ but i won’t be able to due to __________(e.g. having no spare time right now). I appreciate the offer”.

  • Ask your senior/ colleagues for help if needed

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are most likely not alone and furthermore, you will not be the first/last person to feel this. Sharing this feeling with someone will provide you with a space to offload (talking can help sort through chaotic thoughts) whilst validating your feelings are chances are, that person has experienced the same. Furthermore, organisations include chains of command for a reason - your senior is paid and expected to provide you with adequate support when necessary. Again, that individual has likely experienced something similar and unlikely to judge you for struggling. They may also have  ideas/ strategies that can be implemented to help you manage your workload better or be able to give you some time off. If you don't ask, you won't know. 

  • Self-compassion. It’s OK to take a break!

You are not weak or a bad worker for needing to take a break. Although it may feel like your role is extremely important, the organisation you work for will survive without you. In fact, it may even thrive upon your return following some rest, full of new energy and ideas upon your return. 

I recognise that work isn’t the only environment in which burnout can occur, however it is the one I have the most experience with and feel is quite relatable to a lot of people. 

Take care x 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 June 2022].


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