Hello everyone, this is Tom Hallett from the Learn Grow Succeed Podcast.
This month is Stress Awareness Month, and we’re looking at aspects of stress you may encounter as the subject for our podcasts this month.
By the way, I’ll drop the link to our other podcast, on executive isolation and how to overcome it, in the links below.
So, the subject of today’s podcast is burnout – and the warning signs to look out for, both in yourself and your team.
Burnout is a global phenomenon; in 2018, 595,000 people in the UK alone suffered from workplace stress. And the World Health Organisation has recently redefined burnout as a ‘syndrome linked to chronic work stress that has not been successfully managed’.
Addressing and managing symptoms can prevent long term negative effects. So what is burnout, and what are the signs that you should be concerned about?
Before we get into the subject if you are new here… welcome!
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So, let’s take a look at burnout and how it differs from stress.
Stress is common in our everyday lives, and a degree of stress is sometimes a good thing. It can get us up and motivated to do something, providing the drive to help us power through our tasks. For example, it can help us deal with end-of-month deadlines or handle a speaking engagement we are nervous about.
In other words, stress kicks in when we need a bit of a boost – good stress can help you perform well in a challenging situation because it positively wires the brain – and this leads to stronger neural networks and helps develop greater resilience.
So, What Exactly Is Burnout?
But burnout is not the same as stress.
If you’re suffering from burnout, even getting out of bed can seem like an impossible task. Functioning, even on a fundamental level, is challenging, and exhaustion, disillusionment and that desperate feeling are the signs that you could be facing burnout.
Not only are the effects debilitating, but burnout can also take a long time to recover from, so it’s critical to ensure that, as a leader, you maintain your mental health at work to ensure you can operate at peak performance.
Additionally, knowing what the signs are can help you gauge if you or one of your team members may be at risk from burnout.
Are You At Risk?
Experiencing chronic stress – where the demand exceeds your resources to deal with it – is likely to lead to burnout, affecting health, happiness, relationships and job performance.
Let’s take a look at the seven symptoms that could indicate burnout:
Exhaustion – do you feel tired all the time, with no energy?
Loss of Motivation – Do you lack enthusiasm, find it hard to get going each morning and have to drag yourself into the office?
Feeling negative – Are you experiencing cynicism, negative thoughts, or frustration? Do you think what you do doesn’t matter or do you fear worst-case scenarios?
Cognitive Issues – Are you finding it hard to concentrate? Are you forgetful? Do you find yourself focusing attention on the negative element you see as a threat?
Performance downgrade – Is your job performance slipping? Do you feel you have too much on your plate?
Lacking self-care – Are you indulging in unhealthy coping strategies to get you through the day – smoking, drinking, eating junk food or not eating enough, self-medicating?
Heightened Responses and Reactions – Do you find you snap easily, or that you have an unusually short fuse as your stress levels rise? Does it feel as though you are experiencing a personality shift?
How Can You Overcome Burnout?
The signs of burnout can be frightening and disorientating. But there are ways to cope.
Step one is to cultivate a rich life outside work – perhaps take up a hobby you enjoy, try a new sport, or take up volunteering for a charity you feel passionate about.
Additionally, make sure you relax – meditate, listen to music, read, walk, spend time with friends and family.
These days, technology makes it difficult to unplug – and work can seep into family time. So, set boundaries such as no phone at the dinner table, or no emails after 7 pm or on Sundays.
And get some sleep – research suggests that less than 6 hours can result in burnout. Also, being tired will make you more liable to succumb to stressful events as it impairs mental judgement.
Step two is, when you’re in the workplace, get organised.
American politician Bill Owens said, “Leadership is an active role; ‘lead’ is a verb. But the leader who tries to do it all is headed for burnout and in a powerful hurry.”
So, clear your headspace, wite a to-do list and reprioritise your workload. Consider what’s necessary, what can be put to one side or reassigned, and discuss reallocating work or delegating it.
In short, reevaluate your priorities.
Additionally, set aside five minutes each morning and afternoon to practise mindfulness techniques such as a short meditation or deep breathing to clear your neural pathways.
For many clients I’ve talked to, following Seligman’s theoretical model of happiness (PERMA) helps them understand what they can do to gain fulfilment in their lives.
In short, the PERMA model takes five elements of wellbeing – positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement and uses these to help individuals discover and use cognitive and emotional tools to help them maintain wellbeing and happiness. You may find it useful to refer to this method too.
Don’t Underestimate Burnout
Burnout has physical signs and often starts with headaches, stiff joints or stomach upsets. Managing it using the above techniques in the early stages can help offset development into a serious condition, but burnout shouldn’t be underestimated.
If in doubt, or if you feel symptoms are getting worse – seek help from a professional.
I hope this has been useful in helping you understand what burnout is, how to recognise the signs and deal with the effects to ensure you and your team stay mentally healthy in the workplace.
Until next time!
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