The World Health Organisation this year recognised work-related burnout as a real health phenomenon. The World Health Organisation defines burn out at work as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’.
Research from 2017 shows that work burnout leads to physical, psychological and occupational effects, including heart disease, pain, depressive symptoms and job dissatisfaction.
The World Health Organisation notes that there are three dimensions to the condition: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from your job (or feeling negative or cynical about work); and reduced professional efficiency.
It is better to avoid work burnout if you can
Most experts agree that it takes a long time to recover from work burnout and it is better to avoid it in the first place. There is a snowballing effect of stress, so it needs to be prevented first and that is often down to managers, however as an employee there are also steps you can take.
Psychologist Dr Marny Lishman says burnout is ‘much more than just feeling stressed’. Instead, she says, it has a huge impact on the psychological and physical wellbeing of the sufferer.
Dr Lishman advises people approaching burnout to take time off from work.
“That way, you can relax, rejuvenate and recharge, but also plan what you need to incorporate into your life to manage future stress,” she said.
Lisa Murray has just written a book about her experience of being burnt out by work, ‘Living Beyond Burnout’.
How to prevent it
She recommends exercise, socialising and spending more time in nature to avoid getting burnout at work.
She also suggests seeing a psychologist or health professional to equip you with the tools needed to manage mental health.
Lisa took time out and eventually decided to pursue creative work becoming self-employed and writing Living Beyond Burnout. (I think she turned her passion into profit!)
Re-evaluate who you are
Dr Lishman says changing jobs after burnout is not unusual because people reach a point of no-return and are forced to step out and re-evaluate their lives.
“In doing this ‘recharge and reset' process, they find out who they truly are, and that they may have been heading in a direction most of their life that wasn’t innately the right one for them,” she said.
Dr Lishman says when people are ready to return to work they often then choose a job ‘that aligns more with their soul’ – which I call “turning passion into profit”!
You don’t need to quit
However she says you don’t have to leave your job, but if you want to avoid work burnout you need to establish some boundaries, and spend more time enjoying your life.
If you are personally happier it will improve job satisfaction and help you prevent burnout.
She also says that channelling creative energy towards out-of-hours pursuits may also help avoid burnout. This might be a new hobby.
“Whatever elevates your consciousness and makes you feel alive,” says Dr Lishman. This is what I’ve been saying for years. It is also in keeping with that old saying, ‘find a job that you love and you will never have to do a day’s work’.
The Forbes website is read by the world’s top executives. This is Forbes advice to avoid burnout:
Insomnia is one of the symptoms of burnout, and when you don’t sleep, your brain doesn’t function at its prime. Getting too little sleep also has other serious consequences, including lack of judgment, increased likelihood of car accidents, and development of chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and depression.
Getting enough sleep is crucial to your health and happiness, so don’t skimp on it, or let your work cut into those precious hours! Science has proven that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep nightly to function optimally.
It may seem counterintuitive to leave work in order to work out, but exercise is crucial to your mental and physical health. Regular exercise reduces levels of stress, improves self-confidence, prevents cognitive decline, increases productivity, and improves memory. The satisfaction of knowing you’re taking care of yourself, and the improved energy you’ll get from getting up and moving rather than sitting stationary at a desk all day, will help prevent that physical and emotional exhaustion that causes burnout.
Don’t worry; be happy! It’s been proven that laughing relieves stress and has many positive short-term and long-term effects. Actually, every study conducted on laughter has produced positive results. And it’s hard to be cynical and angry when you’re laughing so hard your sides hurt. So interact more with the funny guy at the office. Plan a catch-up date with your funniest friend. Go see a comedy. Literally laugh the stress away!
Spending time with people outside of work gives you some much-needed emotional fulfilment. Only socializing at work, and making work your entire life, will leave you burned out and emotionally detached from those people you would normally hang out with on your days off. Try scheduling regular social activities, whether it’s Sunday brunch or a weekly movie night, to keep you engaged and active.
5. Start saying no!
I used to be a total ‘yes’ person. I’d take on every project, speak at conferences every week, and travel the country constantly. The problem was, the more I took on, the more it began to wear on me.
It can be easy to say yes to everything, especially if you have that go-getter mentality. Trust me, I know. But it’s important to say no to some things in your career if you’re going to stay engaged, excited, and energetic about your work.Choose what’s most important to you (or most necessary to your work), and stick to only those events or projects.
Burnout is stressful, harmful, and a huge hindrance on your work and personal life. But you don’t have to get to that point! Just be careful to pay attention to where you’re at emotionally, as burnout can creep up on you. Check in with yourself every once in a while to make sure you’re treating yourself kindly, and not overloading your schedule or your stress levels.
I’ve been close to burnout in my life, and I agree with the experts – prevention is better than cure. If you are at risk of burnout and exhaustion and work, act now to prevent it.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.