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With the end of year fast approaching, I am sure many of you are hindered at the thought of completing your last minute tasks before Santa pays you a visit – deadlines, reviews, projects, due dates, all words that are contributing to your stress levels heightening. With Christmas less than a week away and the New Year in two, you’re probably heading into operation overdrive, becoming firmly acquainted with a substantial consumption of coffee coupled by some very late nights in tow. At this point, anything that remotely reminded you of a life outside of work has been forgotten, and you are now suffering from a severe case of operation overdrive – plunging into the unchartered waters of the burnout phase. This phase you are inclining towards will not only result in physical and psychological issues, but the mental exhaustion will take a huge toll too. Your innate ability to truly engage and fulfil your rightful duties in the workplace are now tarnished by Mr Burnout.
Reading Joanna Mathers recent article, ‘Be alert for signs of burnout’ in The New Zealand Herald last week, it struck a chord that some of us are actually living in this unjust reality right now. As mentioned in the article, having excessive stress in our lives can lead to a raft of health issues too; heart disease, stroke, anxiety and depression are just some to mention.
So what is burnout? Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet the constant demands presented to you. In time, resulting in a loss of interest and motivation. Burnout also reduces your productivity and saps your energy, which could leave you feeling desperately helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful towards all aspects of your life.
We all have elements of stress in our lives, but it’s understanding the variation between stress and burnout that needs to be factored into the equation. Being ‘burned out’ ultimately means feeling pretty empty, devoid of motivation and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. However the difference between burned out and stressed people, is that the latter can foresee hope and envisage having everything in order and under control again.
Understanding our own stress levels is important, and for the likes of a “type A” personality, you will be more likely to suffer from career burnout as a result of prolonged stress. Kaye Avery, a Career Specialist from Kaye Avery Consulting says, that these high-achieving perfectionists will internally battle with the word ‘no’ compounding their stress levels to an extreme level consequently leading to career burnout.
The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, Psy.D. explains that burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors, but sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones too. In the first case, you’ll need to ask yourself, “where is this coming from?” so you can figure out where this stress/burnout phase has stemmed from. This will allow you to figure out how to maintain your internal resources to keep yourself motivated, still completely your best work and functioning well. As Avery mentions ask yourself a further question, “what am I trying to prove”, this self-monitoring exercise may help mitigate the damage and avoid things reaching a crisis stage.
So what should you do to alleviate the career burnout stage?
Take up meditation, listening to soothing music, read a book, visit friends and family. What better way to experience all of this than to take advantage of your Christmas break!
A well-deserved r-n-r.
Remember, that there is a life outside of work - take up a hobby, sports or fitness activities, volunteering in your community. All of these non-working fun activities will help switch you out of work mode. Start remembering there is at least 60 hours in your working week to partake in something that you are passionate about, your cognitive function will be happily thank you for a new challenge and engaging activity.
Technology is essential at work but can be slowly eliminated from your home life. Unplug from the madness and focus on the now. Set boundaries and understand those parameters.
By adopting a healthier lifestyle; eating right, involving yourself in regular physical activity and getting plenty of rest, will give you the energy and resilience to deal with hassles and demands that life presents to you.
Don’t be the ‘yes man’, ‘no’ can also be the optimal word in your day, week or year. It’s your choice. If this plagues your mind and grates at your every nous, remember that by saying ‘no’ allows you to say ‘yes’ to the things that you truly want to do.
Unfortunately some of us are not lucky enough to catch the career burnout gremlin in time, and if your doctor has recommended taking a break from work, then you must take it. This will aid with your recovery and readjust your internal equilibrium so that you can start again on the positive path.
Where to from here? Whether you have unfortunately reached the burnout phase or not, a busy year can be both taxing on your physical and emotional being. Therefore enjoy Christmas with your family and friends, embrace the weather – which hopefully we will have, eat good food and most importantly take that well deserved rest and recovery that you have been accruing this past year, because before you know it, 20-15 will be gracing you with her presence!