HAVING sneaky cries in the toilets or snapping shots at our colleagues we’ve all had days when the work gets a little too much.
But don’t ignore complete decomposition, which may indicate you’re headed for burnout.
Research published last year found that workplace burnout had affected 88% of UK employees to some degree in the previous two years.*
One-third said they often suffer from physical and mental exhaustion due to workplace pressures, says Dr. Joanna Burrell, clinical psychologist and co-founder of Ultimate Resilience.
Burnout is caused by too much work, understaffing, poor management, a toxic work culture and, above all, a lack of employee support.
For some, it is exacerbated by the idea that the traditional nine-to-five workday is becoming increasingly old-fashioned, with checking email on mobile devices and working from home blurring the lines between work and personal life.
What does burnout look like?
Burnout is more persistent than the odd bad day at work.
The World Health Organization defines it as the result of chronic workplace stress that is not successfully controlled.
Signs of burnout can manifest in low motivation, disengagement in communication, unhealthy workplace behaviors, and the perception of work tasks as more difficult than they are, explains licensed coaching and counseling psychologist Dr. Jo Perkins, who says it can reduce productivity.
Burnout is cumulative, and the early signs and symptoms are subtle, which is why we often attribute them to disorganization, not having enough resources, or the need to work harder, which can make the problem worse.
Experts warn that ignoring burnout can cause permanent damage to your health.
This can cause people to become so mentally, physically and emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted that they are unable to perform basic daily functions,
Dr. Perkins says. It can also lead to, or result from, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Commit to change
Burnout is often the body’s way of forcing you to stop and take a break, says Thijs Launspach, psychologist and author of Crazy Busy: Keeping Sane In a Stressful World.
You may feel like you don’t have time to stop and focus on yourself, but if you don’t, burnout will continue.
Avoid the misconception of recovering from burnout and resuming your normal routine, as this will only lead to relapse, says Melissa Day, a therapist and holistic medicine practitioner at Niroshina 360.
So where should you start?
Define the things in life that are important to you personally and professionally, says Linda Folan, Ph.D., workplace psychologist and CEO of Inspired Development.
Block out time to commit to this and stop just not doing it.
One of the simplest ways you can stick to personal goals is to have strict rules about digital usage, for example.
Maybe make your family a phone-free zone.
The Forest app (Forestapp.cc) lets you set a timer to stay away from your phone, and during that time the plants in your digital forest will grow or wither if you’re using your phone.
Habit trackers like The Fabulous (Thefabulous.co) can help you stick to your goals throughout the day.
Start healthy habits
When your life is busy, it’s easy to forget basic needs.
Does your self-care routine need improvement? Thijs asks.
This includes sleep, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, recovery and space to play.
One of the easiest things you can do is to expose yourself to sunlight every day.
Vitamin D is an excellent mood stabilizer and probably the most important nutrient for producing effective hormones, says Melissa.
Can you spare just a few minutes?
Apps like Calm, WorkLife Central and Headspace provide quick stress relief.
A therapist can help you identify triggers for anxiety, stress, and depression and how to respond quickly to them.
The British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy allows you to find accredited therapists in your area (Bacp.co.uk). Or see if you can get free help through your GP or workplace.
Identify your identity
Certain personality traits can make you more vulnerable to burnout.
These include perfectionism, trying to be the best, and prioritizing difficulties, says Dr. Perkins.
If our self-esteem is tied to our work identity, it can create an insatiable need for validation through our work performance, which makes us push ourselves harder.
A therapist can help you improve your work-life balance.
But you can also join the wellness platform The Anti-Burnout Club, which provides an abundance of free and pay-as-you-go resources (Theantiburnoutclub.com).
Multitasking was celebrated in the past, but now it’s all about monotasking.
You can’t put 100% into one task if you’re constantly juggling too many plates, says Adam Butler, CEO of Officeology.
Making a list of the key tasks that matter most and numbering them by urgency can help create a clear map of your daily workload, says Adam.
If you know a task will take an hour to complete, set a timer and move on to the next task when the hour is up.
This can improve focus and, as a result, help manage work. Want to drown out distractions?
The Noisli app (Noisli.com) offers free ambient sounds, such as rain, that can help you focus and has a built-in timer.
Avoiding burnout is a two-way street that your employer needs to meet.
Conditions that can contribute to burnout include lack of control over your work, lack of breaks or rest, poor management, conflict in the workplace, lack of recognition, doing work that doesn’t align with your values, and lack of proper support, says Dr. Perkins.
She suggests telling your line manager how you feel, including any personal issues or mental states at play.
Be clear about what is contributing to your burnout and make suggestions on how to fix it.
If your line manager isn’t taking you seriously, confide in someone in HR, says Dr Perkins.
But if you don’t expect the working conditions to change, it’s best to look for another job.
Boundaries are the boundaries you set around how you allow other people to deal with you to ensure that your relationships stay healthy and that your mental health, energy, mood and time are protected, says Melissa Urban, author of The Book Of Boundaries.
For example, you can specify how you’d prefer to receive feedback or set time frames for when interruptions should be kept to a minimum.
By clearly and politely upholding your boundaries in a work situation, it teaches people how to treat you, says Melissa.
But there are power dynamics that can make conversations delicate at work.
She recommends using clear language and letting people digest what you’ve said.
At this point, they may feel defensive or guilty.
When it comes to boundaries, Melissa says: The more you practice, the easier it will be.
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