BURNTOUT & SMOULDERING - COVIDS OTHER COST
It seems to crop in almost every conversation I have lately with friends, family and clients are all feeling some sort of negative impact on their personal and work lives in the midst of this “new normal”. Most of us seem to be feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, overworked and ineffective. We are balancing multiple roles as employees, spouses, parents or care givers, feeling increased job insecurity, blurred work and personal lives, increased demands from work or no work at all, pay cuts are happening around us, we have the constant fear of ourselves or an elderly loved one contracting the virus and very limited social interactions - it is no surprise burnout is rampant.
What is Burnout? Are you or your employees experiencing it?
Burnout is not just needing a break, it is a mixture of exhaustion, pessimism and ineffectiveness. People suffering from burnout often feel emotionally and physically exhausted, they feel emotionally drained and stop caring. They are overwhelmed, less effective and generally have a drastic drop in performance. Burnout is serious and has both emotional and physical consequences. It can be a very difficult time for its victims, leading to poor interpersonal skills, unemployment, depression, insomnia, diabetes, weight gain or loss, heart disease and even death. If you find yourself or someone you know increasingly expressing sentiments like, “I feel used up at the end of the workday”, or “I’ve become more callous toward people recently” or “Every day seems to be the worst day of my life” you may be expressing emotions associated with burnout.
The formal assessment for burnout is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) (It’s most effective when the test-takers aren’t told it’s a burnout test). However, more informally a lot of what you feel you will tend to express in statements or thoughts mentioned above, so be cognizant of what you and others are saying. You can also check the below burnout symptoms checklist, if you have most of the symptoms below you may possibly be burning out:
Why are we burning out now more than ever?
There are many contributing factors to why someone may experience burnout. Certain job characteristics can put someone at more of a risk of experiencing burnout. The Coronavirus pandemic with increased regulations on social distancing, isolation and working from home create a higher risk for us, and our employees. We have no separation between work and home, unmanageable workloads and increased job insecurity. Your risk of burnout is even higher if you have a job where your workload is too high or scope too broad, you are not being given the appropriate authority to reach your work goals, receive inadequate rewards, experience a lack of sense of community and isolation in the work environment, experience inequality or conflicting personal and work values. Burnout is experienced equally across genders.
The energy people are displaying at work and words people are using in conversations around how they are feeling and how they are experiencing work currently points to the majority of us being on the brink of being overwhelmed by stress and burning out.
What can we do about burnout?
It is always recommended that if you are feeling particularly burntout, detached, exhausted and ineffective, you should contact a health care practitioner such as a general practitioner or clinical/ counselling psychologist.
I have list a couple of actions and suggestions that may help you or someone you know cope and get through this extraordinary and challenging time, without completely burning yourself out:
Go back to basics with self-management – try and get adequate rest (7+ hours sleep), eat a healthy diet and exercise. You could even consult a medical doctor about possible vitamins or minerals you could be lacking that are adding to your burnout. Prolonged periods of stress deplete our bodies.
Define your workspace and times – create a defined space for work at home, without a commute you lack the defined times in the day to get into a good mood before work and decompress after. Defining your work space creates a separation. Defining your work times, whether it is to work through the day or prioritized around balancing demands at home and work. Defining your schedule allows you to have time to switch off and shut the laptop.
Make time for downtime – prioritize recovery and downtime as much as you do your work, schedule time to reflect or spend time with/ call loved ones.
Set clear priorities – you might find yourself picking up extra work during the lockdown and working from home, ask your manager for clear priorities. Frame the conversation as your seeking to assist your boss with what is most essential.
Create ‘watercooler’ time – schedule time for casual conversations with colleagues and friends, like you would have had in the office. Have a chat over video, whatsapp or a call about anything but work, think recipes, Netflix or lockdown survival tips. You need to still have social support from those you usually interact with despite the physical divide.
Build in small habits – try include quick and frequent five minute opportunities to press pause in your day, like a quick VC with a friend, sit in the sun or do some stretches. Literally build these into your diary to remind you and hold you accountable.
Increase your effectiveness with scheduling – complete the parts of your job you enjoy first in the day, adjust your work schedule to focus on positive and high impact tasks first and set yourself up for a better day.
Try meditation or journaling – try practicing focused attention or an online breath work class. Journaling is also a good opportunity to stop and reflect. Journaling requires you to not just write out your day, but how you felt and behaved in situations in your day and examine these for triggers, underlying concerns or healthier alternatives to engage in the future.
Remember your circle of control and your circle of influence – try focus on what you can control and what you can influence. If something falls out of these areas, let it go.
Take care of your mindset – allow space for your feelings of frustration, impatience or being down right blue. But remember you cannot have fear without hope. Remind yourself of all the times you have overcome challenges and the resilience you have.
Work on a personal passion – try remember to do create or work towards something you care about. You could continue with a hobby, try a new online course or pursue anything that can give you a sense of enjoyment.
The Humble Humanologist