Burnout has been recognised as a medical condition for the first time.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised burnout as a medical condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
However, the fact that it has finally been given an official title does not change the fact that burnout is a significant and real issue. Mental health professionals and people who work with them have had this issue front of mind for some time.
In the new classification, the WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. The syndrome is characterized by three dimensions:
· Feelings of energy depletion and exhaustion.
· Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
· Educed self-efficacy.
According to the classification, burnout specifically refers to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Research has shown that the effects of burnout can include cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal pain, depressive treatment and job dissatisfaction.
When we experience burnout, basically every day feels like a struggle.
So how can we both prevent burnout, recognise the warning signs and if we suffer from burnout, how can we manage this and return to both physical and mental health?
If we are to recognize burnout, understanding the symptoms is a start. Specific symptoms of burnout include:
· Having a negative and critical attitude at work.
· Dreading going into work and wanting to leave once you're there.
· Having low energy, and little interest at work.
· Having trouble sleeping.
· Being absent from work a lot.
· Having feelings of emptiness.
· Experiencing physical complaints such as headaches, illness, or backache.
· Being irritated easily by team members or clients.
· Having thoughts that your work doesn't have meaning or make a difference.
· Pulling away emotionally from your colleagues or clients.
· Feeling that your work and contribution goes unrecognised.
· Blaming others for your mistakes.
· Thinking of quitting work or changing roles.
People experience burnout for a variety of reasons. Causes can include:
· Lack of autonomy
· Lack of values alignment with the actions, behaviours or values of your organisation or role
· Having unclear goals or job expectations.
· Working in a dysfunctional team or organisation.
· Experiencing an excessive workload.
· Having little or no support from your leader or organisation.
· Lacking recognition for your work.
· Having monotonous or low-stimulation work.
So how can we both avoid burnout and manage it more proactively if we recognise our “tells”?
When feelings of burnout start to occur, many people focus on short-term solutions, often taking a period of leave to take a break away. While this might be helpful, it is only a temporary solution.
We need to focus on strategies that will have a deeper impact and create lasting change.
1) Work With Purpose
Do you feel that your career has a deeper purpose, other than just earning a pay check? Rediscovering your purpose can go a long way towards helping you avoid burnout and keeping stress at bay.
Look at the deeper impact of what you do every day; how does your work make life better for other people? How could you add more meaning to what you do every day?
Address your overall wellbeing and consider developing a career strategy to assist you really consider what direction and career is right for you and what will fit you best.
2) Perform a Job Analysis
When you experience work overload day in and day out, you can start to feel as if you're on a treadmill and that you'll never catch up. This is demoralising, stressful, and often leads to burnout.
Performing a job analysis so you can clarify what's expected of you, and what isn't. This can help you identify what's truly important in your role, so that you can cut out or delegate tasks that aren't as essential.
If you feel that your leader is assigning more work than you can handle, then schedule a meeting to proactively discuss the issue. Come prepared with some options that could be considered for shifting certain tasks or projects to someone else.
3) Give To Others
One quick and easy way to add meaning to your career is to give to others, or to help them in small ways.
When you do this, it makes you feel good. Even the smallest act of kindness can re-energise you and help you find meaning in your work.
4) Take Control
You can avoid or overcome burnout by finding ways to create more autonomy in your role. Try talking with your leader to see if they are willing to let you have more control over your tasks, projects, or deadlines.
You'll also feel more in control of your work if you manage your time effectively. Consider your goal setting opportunities to prioritise your work, manage problems proactively, make use of “To Do Lists” and create action plans.
5) Create a “Ta Da” List
To do lists are one thing, but “Ta Da” lists are next level. Create a list of 25 – 30 things you love to do that only take 10-30 minutes and can be done on any day. It could be – eating dinner with your whole family, spending 30 minutes in deep conversation with your partner, having a bubble bath, reading a book, listening to music, going for a walk etc. Then make sure you have this list available and mark off two things on the list everyday religiously.
6) Exercise regularly.
Exercise can help alleviate stress and create a sense of well-being. You will also experience increased energy and productivity when you exercise regularly. What's more, regular exercise will improve your sleep quality as well.
You can exercise by just getting up that little bit earlier, or taking time away from your desk at lunch time. You might also be more motivated to exercise by teaming up with colleagues, or by setting up an office fitness challenge.
7) Learn To Manage Your Stress
When not managed well, short-term stress can contribute to burnout. This is why proactively managing your stress is so important.
There are several strategies that you can use to cope with stress. You could consider a stress diary to consciously document your triggers, practice deep breathing or mindfulness or other relation techniques, or manage your automatic negative thoughts and practise reframing these so as to better manage your emotional responses.
How will you start to take back control?