ARE YOU BURNED OUT?
Dr Lucy Hone reveals the warning signs
Being constantly busy and stretched doesn’t always lead to greater productivity – quite the opposite. When we push ourselves to the point of burnout, we experience physical depletion and unpleasant emotions that we would all do well to avoid, says Dr Lucy Hone.
Cast your mind back to the earliest days in your job. Can you recall positive expectations and enthusiasm? If that’s now a distant memory and instead you find yourself facing Monday morning with dread, you may be suffering from burnout.
Burnout differs to stress in that it is a cumulative response – the end result of a process of attrition, when highly motivated people become exhausted, cynical/removed and ineffective at work. While we can (mostly) cope with short bouts of stress – working to a tough deadline or handling an emergency situation – burnout rears its ugly head when there’s no let-up.
Most of us will recognise burnout as the desperate attempt to keep several plates spinning or, as someone recently described it to me, “too many tabs open on your mind’s computer, all equally relevant and pressing”. Precisely.
One of the main causes is excess workload, but several other factors also contribute to this modern-day malaise.
The first of which is control. When workers have insufficient authority over their work (are micromanaged), or lack access to the resources required to do their job effectively, cynicism ensues.
We also crave reward – whether it’s in the form of praise, pay, or even personal pride. Lack of recognition from co-workers, clients, and management can be caustic.
The overall quality of social interactions in the workplace matters in other ways too: the better your relationships at work – and the better, faster and more fairly that conflicts are resolved – the lesser the odds of burnout.
Finally, values matter. Burnout happens when a disconnect exists between our deeply held personal values and our working environment .
BUSY ISN’T BETTER
While it may have once been fashionable to skite about how busy we are, I’m sensing a sea change. More people seem to be confessing they’ve had enough of 24/7 connectivity and their minds always being on the go. Below is a list of signs that you have burnout and would benefit by taking a step back from the frantic treadmill you may be on. Exhaustion:
• Feeling tired most days/prolonged lack of energy
• Dreading the day/week ahead
• Difficulty sleeping
• Reduced concentration/attention
• Physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stomach pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches
• Lowered immunity
• Not feeling hungry and skipping/forgetting to eat meals
• Feeling anxious, trapped and/or depressed
• Frequent angry outbursts and serious arguments Cynicism/feeling detached or removed:
• Loss of enjoyment (not wanting to go to work, avoiding projects)
• Isolating yourself (at work and at home) Ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment:
• Apathy and hopelessness (“nothing is going right” “nothing I do matters”, “what’s the point?”)
• Reduced productivity (running around like a headless chicken; feeling less productive, despite putting in long hours; and long lists of unfinished projects) Look out next week for some tips on how to avoid this long list of misery.