What to do about burnout: Practical tips

How to cope with burnout without harming yourself

Very often in informal conversations we say or hear the words "I'm burned out", sometimes accompanied by the words "I can't take it anymore" or "my head is spinning". The fact is that burnout syndrome is an increasingly common disorder in the workplace, and it is not a one-time problem, but stretches over time. As such, it is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by chronic stress at work.

The main symptoms of burnout are

Severe fatigue, lack of motivation, cynicism or skepticism and a feeling of ineffectiveness at work. Problems with concentration, withdrawal from previously enjoyable activities, absenteeism at work, irritability and social isolation may also manifest. It should be added that each person will experience these or other symptoms individually, meaning that two people with burnout may experience it differently even though the problem is the same.

Burnout in its early stages

It is very important to realize that if not beginning treatment in time, burnout can lead to anxiety, apathy, depression and even suicidal thoughts. On a professional level, it is associated with reduced commitment to work, constant mistakes, interpersonal conflicts and a frequent desire to leave work or not go to work at all.

Therefore, it's important to be vigilant and identify the early signs of burnout to prevent negative effects on both our health and our relationship with work. While anyone working can suffer from burnout, some categories are more vulnerable than others. For example, positions of high responsibility and consolidated career progression are among the profiles most at risk of developing burnout. When it comes to managers and mid-level executives, the pressure of meeting targets, making difficult decisions and constant crisis situations can take its toll. The feeling that everything depends solely on you can be exhausting in itself, but how you handle responsibility can also make a difference.

On the other hand, professionals with years of experience in a field can fall into monotony and boredom. Routine, lack of new tasks, frustration, unfulfilled expectations and the feeling of having to constantly prove oneself to younger professionals also cause stress. Moreover, such people tend to strongly compare their personality and self-esteem with professional success, to which must be added the pressures exerted on them and the expectations of others that they will succeed when they reach certain positions of responsibility. As a result, it is more difficult for them to admit that they are tired and ask for help for fear that it will be perceived by others as weakness or personal failure. It follows that it is important to normalize the situation and learn how to cope with burnout in difficult circumstances. Wellness should be a priority, regardless of one's professional position.

What we can do to cope with burnout at work:

While there is no single solution - there almost never is - there is a first step: ask ourselves about aspects of both the situation and our coping strategies that we can control, either partially or completely. Beginning with the fact that there is a lot of research on this topic, and that the difference between a rough patch and burnout is how we handle situations. Therefore, there are habits and guidelines we can implement to ensure we don't get to the point of burnout, and here are some of the main ones:

  1. Set healthy boundaries at work. Set a reasonable work schedule, delegate tasks and learn to say "no" when needed;
  2. Disconnect from digital technology outside of work hours. Avoid answering emails or work messages in the evenings or on weekends;
  3. Plan rest periods and holidays. Even short trips or occasional days off can help you rejuvenate;
  4. Don't neglect personal relationships and hobbies that contribute to wellness;
  5. Inculcate healthy sleep, eating and exercise habits. A nurturing body strengthens the mind;
  6. Practice mindfulness and meditation to cope with intrusive thoughts;
  7. Seek professional support if burnout symptoms worsen or become chronic. Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

how to deal with burnout

Be Honest

Historically, admitting that you suffer from burnout or anxiety at work has been taboo because, as we've discussed, it's mistakenly associated not only with weakness or lack of commitment, but also with old models of masculinity that fit stereotypes of men as reserved, inactive, and inexpressive in the face of certain emotions. However, as we know, mental health is just as important to our wellbeing as physical health, so we should be just as concerned about the prevention and treatment of mental health problems as we are about any other disorder.

Labor, and therefore organizations, have a key role to play in removing the stigma around this issue. Awareness programs can and should be conducted to facilitate access to professional help and ensure that seeking support for burnout does not lead to negative consequences in the company. Similarly, people in positions of responsibility can be role models, demonstrating the importance of self-care and being the first to normalize seeking help when needed.

Changing organizational culture requires a concerted effort, but the benefits are enormous. It is well researched that work environments where people can express themselves and care for their well-being without taboos are more productive, innovative and have fewer burned out employees.

Organizations and companies

Work is central to people's lives, so companies have a big impact on the mental health of their employees. Therefore, it is very important to implement initiatives to prevent and manage burnout. A good way to begin could be:

  1. Periodic work climate assessments where burnout can be reported;
  2. Flexible scheduling programs where possible;
  3. Stress reduction activities: yoga classes, access to recreational areas;
  4. Trainings for middle managers to identify burnout early in their teams;
  5. Confidential counseling channels and employee assistance programs;
  6. Encourage a culture that values boundaries, work-life balance and where asking for help is not frowned upon;
  7. Review workloads and ensure adequate staffing levels;
  8. Reward and celebrate achievements rather than simply pointing out mistakes;

As with the individual recommendations, not all companies can take on board many of these suggestions, but the question arises, can we not take on board any of them?

Ethical and helpful

It's important for everyone involved in the workplace - employees, managers, companies - to realize that prioritizing people's mental health is not only ethical but also beneficial. Organizations that create a psychologically healthy environment produce more creative, engaged, and productive employees.

It's never too late for each of us to set boundaries and develop healthier habits, and to realize that self-care is a skill that is developed step by step and on a daily basis. There are no magic recipes, but there are steps that can help us manage burnout in a way that is more effective and beneficial to us.




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