“Off into the world we go, planning futures, shaping years…” (Aspects of Love, Love Changes Everything.) At least that is our intention, but sometimes…”the candle burned out long before…” (Elton John, Candle in the Wind.)
Do you ever feel like this? Nothing you do is appreciated, or makes a difference; there is nothing more that you can give. Chances are that you are heading to a burnout.
What is a burnout?
It is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, and often follows stress which has been stacking up over time. It sets in gradually and you hardly ever notice it. Even when you do, chances are you may tend to ignore issues or deny there is a problem.
Stress is a feeling of too much pressure, but in spite of it you can manage and be creative. Burnout is a feeling of being empty, devoid of motivation and beyond caring.
Who is at risk of a burnout?
While it is mostly a workplace issue, anybody can undergo a burnout. This includes:
• People who are passionate about their work to the cost of their health,
• People who are, or try to be, everything to everybody,
• Individuals in monotonous routines; those who feel they have little or no control over work,
• Helping professionals (e.g. health care workers, counselors and teachers.)
How does a burnout show up?
An individual experiencing a burnout has some or all of the following characteristics:
• Cynical, critical, sarcastic,
• Ability to experience joy seems to be lost,
• Drags to work and when there, can’t begin,
• Irritable and less patient with customers, co-workers or family,
• Feels there are barriers at work,
• Lacks energy to be productive consistently,
• Change in sleep habits or appetite,
• Headaches, indigestion, neck and back pain.
What are the causes of burnout?
The common causes of burnout in the workplace include the following:
• Lack of control in decisions, hours and assignments.
• Extremes of activity: monotony or chaos.
• Unclear expectations.
• Dynamics dysfunction: bullying or micromanagement.
•Mismatch of values between employer and employee.
•Poor job fit such as personality, skills or aspirations.
•Traits e.g. perfectionism, pessimism or a need to control.
Why is it important to deal with burnout?
Burnout has harmful effects on health and emotions and thus performance and productivity. The
consequences of burnout include:
• Anxiety, depression, stress.
• Fatigue, lack of sleep, weight changes.
• Dependence on substances including alcohol, drugs or food.
• Spillover into job, health and relationships.
What you can do:
You can take steps to prevent it and to recover from it. Prevention requires that you catch it early. Recognise and accept that there is a problem and take responsibility to deal with it. That includes seeking support, managing stress and caring for physical and emotional health.
Recovery can take time; you need to make changes in your routines, priorities and objectives. Get support from a mentor, counselor, coach or doctor – one who has experience in dealing with such issues and not just prescribing tranquilisers. Talk to your supervisor; find out if your HR department offers assistance.
What you do in your downtime and how you look at the world affects the results you get.
What can employers do?
Employers can offer an environment which encourages a person’s good, provides opportunities to grow and imparts a sense of contribution and meaning – a sense of making a difference to themselves and the community.