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Burnout – a new phenomena?

Burnout – a new phenomena?
Male showing signs of burnout in the workplace

There was a time when burnout was associated with Directors and CEO’S. Change in employment, paternity/maternity legislation and the development of technology means that everyone appears to be working harder. Harder to be productive at work, a caring partner, a present parent, sociable and keep abreast of the current events bringing significant change to the country.   

Burnout is finally recognised as a condition by the World Health Organisation. Unlike anxiety, its specifically relates to work. Burnout is a state of exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. Your productivity drops, you feel lethargic, experience cynicism and begin to distance yourself from work.  These feelings can permeate into other areas of your life.  When combined with life events, you can begin to feel emotionally numb and disengaged. Interestingly, burnout usually affects employees who are driven, hardworking and always want to do their best. This combined with personal expectations noted above, it’s no wonder that burn-out is increasing as we battle most days to be productive in all spheres. This can lead to numerous physical conditions including cardio-vascular, diabetes, strokes etc.

The symptoms can be reversed if you take the time to invest in yourself – small steps accumulated can lead to significant change.  Here are some suggestions as indicated by the latest research:

Nature – Being in nature boosts the feel-good hormone serotonin. Research has shown that 20 minutes of being in nature can improve working memory span and well-being.  Grab your lunch and head to the nearest green space and not back to your desk.

Sleep – I cannot emphasis enough the importance sleep – good quality sleep. Bedtime routines are not just for children, our brains love them. If you are struggling to ‘switch off’ prior to bed common advice includes -put your phone down earlier, have a warm shower, try not to watch TV.  Listening to a mindfulness or a hypnosis track (a free one on my website) to help focus your mind on the present allowing your mind to switch off increasing the chances of a better night sleep. 

Speak up – Burnout appears to affect high performing individuals who may consider asking for help a weakness.  What if the word ‘weakness’ was changed to ‘opportunity? Does your perception differ? What if by speaking up you were giving someone else the ‘opportunity’ to learn from you, or for your Senior’s to have a better understanding of intricacies of your workload? By informing your employers of your struggles, the onus is upon them to demonstrate taking reasonable measures to support you. It also opens for the door for colleagues to hold discussions with Managers if they are struggling too.  Friends are a great source of help and they often get pushed away but they are your friends for a reason – mutual support.

Nutrition – The vagus nerve links the brain and the digestive system (simple description).  It is widely becoming recognised there is a strong relationship between the vagus nerve and our emotional state.  You are no longer what you eat but also what you eat contributes to your well-being.  I won’t regurgitate the guidelines around food.  Essentially minimise processed food, eat more vegetables and fruit, keep meat consumption to the minimum and drink water (keeping alcohol consumption to the minimum).

Hydration – dehydration negatively affects cognitive function in adults. Drinking water may help improve speed of cognitive responding as well as improve certain aspects of mood stabilisation.

Hobbies – Incorporating these into your weekly or daily routine boosts brain function as they usually involve mental attention and physical action- this combination is known to improve the overall working span of your brain. Particularly it can boost the happy hormone which essential for creating new positive habits.

This is not an exclusive list as colleagues may experience different symptoms or may benefit from other changes. If you are a business owner and would like to proactively support your staff as part of the evolving services at mindAbility, workshops and discounted rates.  

Originally published in the Balsall Common Bugle 2019

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