The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized burnout as a syndrome stemming from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed. It is now an occupational phenomenon. And the words of Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot have been proven true – burnout is a civilization’s disease. What are the key factors that characterize burnout?
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
- Increased negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
- Reduced professional efficacy and low productivity.
Reading this, you might think that only people who are in high-stress, high-profile jobs, experience burnout. But, in the words of journalist Anne Helen Petersen, “Burnout and the behaviors that accompany it aren’t something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not temporary. It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.” This means, you can absolutely love your job, and still get burnt out. What can we do about this though?
- Find something to do outside your career. Says neurosurgeon Mark McLaughlin, “Helping others be their best is a critical element of a life in which we are effective and happy. It can keep you grounded and focused. Doing so can make you less susceptible to burnout yourself, by giving you a source of personal satisfaction.” It could be something as simple as planting a tree, volunteering for a cause, or even recommending job seekers/ reviewing their CVs. The idea is to help others.
- Take a productive pause. This is not about taking a break. It is about creating intentional spaces for reflection. Think of it as a green room, where the performance is disconnected in between phases of being on stage. Carve out a short period to reflect about specific questions, which can lead to clarity of action and peace of mind. Just close your eyes, visualize yourself in your favorite place, and ask yourself, “What can I truly do in this situation to bring more ease?” It’s a good reset.
- Have a stress speed-dial friend. It is a well-known, well-researched fact that healthy, supportive relationships go a long way in negating the ill-effects of stress. Cultivate such relationships in the workplace, where people understand what you do, and hence can help you navigate the challenges faced. It need not be a close friendship. It could be a mentor, your manager who is approachable, or a colleague for whom you play the same role.
In the age of constant connectivity and always ‘switched-on’ state of mind, burnout is within our reach. So are the solutions. What are you willing to do, to step closer to your well-being?