Dr Lucy Hone re­veals the warn­ing signs

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

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 .


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

• For­get­ful­ness

• 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)

• Pes­simism

• 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?”)

• Ir­ri­tabil­ity

• 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.

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