Burnout, we bid thee farewell.
In a poll by working humans for working humans, burnout was declared the most infamous phrase of the year. (Not really, but are we wrong for saying so?)
Actually, I’m willing to bet that burnout, work stress, compassion fatigue, and anxiety are just a few of the most common words highlighting the current state of the modern workplace.
However, despite peak levels of work-related stress and dysfunction this last year, “burnout” has never been at the forefront of an employer’s mind like it is today.
And thanks to the recent rule change by the SEC, employers are obligated to do a whole lot more about it.
“Previously, organizations only had to disclose their number of employees. Now, they must divulge human capital metrics considered to be material to an understanding of the company’s business. They include employee attraction, development, retention, diversity and inclusion, engagement, employee satisfaction, and health and safety.”
To which I have this to say:
Dear burnout et al., your devilishly sneaky and calloused reign of tyranny is about to end.
So, what is burnout?
The truth is, “burnout” has gotten a lot of attention over the last 12 months. Still, what exactly is it and what causes it?
What you have to understand is, burnout is more than just feeling “stressed” about a project or deadline.
In Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement by Herbert Freudenberg, he describes burnout this way:
“The extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Well said, no doubt, but what else is it?
According to the World Health Organization:
Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.
Essentially, burnout is the result of chronic, unmanaged stress that stems from from a lack of recovery; ultimately, lowering performance, unhappiness, and oftentimes some far worse consequences.
TL;DR: Burnout sucks. It’s bad sh*t. And you’re probably doing it to your people or yourself— even if you don’t intend to.
How do I recognize if I'm heading down the path to burnout?
Seneca once said, “The worse a person is the less he feels it.”
That is until you do feel it. Like in the case of #burnout.
You see, our body is a finely tuned system that regenerates, adapts and self-actualizes depending on how much we push and recover - if you can't find the right balance (or actively neglect it), you'll end up feeling some type of way.
Trina Hamilton, M.Ed., CPCC, ACC laid out three key areas and what to look out for below:
Can’t get things done
Compulsion to prove
Body or head aches
So, be aware of how you're feeling.
In a study on burnout published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, the authors list a number of both causes and signs of burnout:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Work overload
- Decline in self-efficacy
- Pessimistic view of the future
- Low energy
- Lack of recognition
- Spike in conflict
- Disintegration of community
Of course, you will occasionally feel fatigued or find it hard to concentrate, that doesn't mean you are burning out. However, if these symptoms, which are by no means comprehensive, persist and affect your ability to work on a consistent basis, seek help and rush to recovery.
How do stress and recovery tango?
Below, you can see the delicate relationship that exists between stress and intentional recovery.
Clearly, work stress is a constant, it’s a necessary part of our growth and development. When work stress is met with proper recovery, we see adequate compensation. That means your body reaches a new level of homeostasis, one capable of being pushed harder.
On the contrary, when a series of intense “work loads” are met with lapses in recovery, we see inadequate compensation. Inadequately recover for too long and you’ll experience a classic case of burnout.
Believe it or not, we all have unique bandwidths. That bandwidth being our ability to entertain stressors without boiling over (some people refer to this is resilience).
As a matter of fact, X amount of push for Bill might not be right for Teddy. Fortunately, however, Teddy can improve his bandwidth over time, if he elicits a significant enough stress response and second, he responds with an intentional recovery and self-care regimen.
Remember, burnout is not I just feel sh*tty about myself. Burnout is a physiological response; that when it gets bad enough, it presents itself as a mental health issue.
Although, by then, you’re already in the belly of the beast.
How do you beat burnout?
Truthfully, it’s important to know that burnout does not occur over night, nor is it catalyzed by the same series of instances for everyone.
Burnout is a beast; and it requires a cocktail of precision interventions to overcome and prevent.
Note: The intention of this article is not to criminalize work-related stress. In fact, we think that some stress can be a good thing for an organization or individual, that is, when recovery and self-care accompany it.
What YOU can do to prevent burnout:
Below, I have listed a number of strategies for putting yourself in the best position possible to resist the pitfalls and radioactive contagion known as: Burnout.
- Be aware of the active and passive stressors in your life. Make a list of what bothers you, when, and how it makes you feel.
- Be proactive. Getting ahead of burnout is crucial. There’s no reason why it can’t be avoided. Invest in a self-care regimen. *Experiment and play around with different tools, practices and approaches until you find what’s right for you.
- Cover your bases and make sure your nutrition is in line. Upward of 90% of Serotonin is produced in the stomach; so eat healthy to feel healthy.
- Exercise more often. It’s a great way to release feel good chemicals like endorphins, and it also helps with self-image.
- Don’t skip out on good sleep. Sleep is essential to recovery and overall health hygiene.
- Practice mindfulness or some form of meditation. Visualization and breathing are proven ways to mitigate stress and achieve balance.
- Journal with intent. Write about cravings you have, spending habits, perceived barriers to success or some other behavior you’d like to improve; you’ll be amazed at the positive spillover effect it has on your life.
- Reconnect with what makes you happy and find time to detach from work.
- Find a hobby or pick up a new skill, preferably one that is not related to your work.
- Create boundaries that protect you from overwork. Don’t line your meetings up back to back, don’t take calls or respond to emails after hours.
- Find ways to serve others; either at work, home or in the community. Surprisingly, doing more may be your secret to preventing burnout.
- Change how you think about stress and work loads by learning how to thrive in uncertainty and stress; recognizing its centrality to growth.
- Practice being grateful for what you have.
- Don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
- Build breaks into your day. Take time to go on a walk between meetings or after calls.
- As much as you can, scaffold your day so that you tackle some of your weightier tasks when you have the most energy.
- Eliminate all unnecessary work from your plate. Make sure the work you're doing is productive.
Well, there you have it.
P.S. Don’t try and do all these things at once.
And if you’re really invested in improving your performance, get real sight with LEON and maximize your growth windows.
Braedon ft. The Burnout Prevention Squad