Rae Bowen Therapy

Reducing Pain, Stiffness, Stress & Anxiety

Reducing Pain, Stiffness, Stress & Anxiety

Reducing Pain, Stiffness, Stress & Anxiety

Burnout: What is it and how do you stop it?

Am I burned out?

Given that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a good time to ask yourself that question. But how do you know?

Common symptoms of burnout include:

  • feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. We’re not just talking tired here, this is a deep level fatigue affecting energy, mood, coping etc
  • feeling detached, uncaring and resentful at work. We all have these feelings occasionally but if they get entrenched, then things are going to be really tricky in the workplace
  • feeling dis-satisfied with yourself and possibly un-productive along with it. Constant feelings of not being good enough or not able to motivate yourself are a sign of a deeper issue

Why does burnout happen?

Burnout occurs as a result of a long period of chronic stress at work. Stress means different things to each of us and there are many work-place stressors that we face every day (think deadlines, that email inbox, and the colleague who dumps all their workload on you). Indeed some stress in the workplace is useful. It stops us from getting bored and stale and generally keeps us motivated. None of the things listed will by themselves lead to burnout.

The problem occurs when things escalate from the normal pressures of working life to something much more intense. This usually involves a combination of:

  • working long hours over a significant period of time
  • an ever-present unmanageable workload that shows no signs of abating
  • lacking support from line managers and peers – this lack of support is often cited as key

These prolonged stressors keep the body’s stress response systems in a continuous state of over-stimulation. And if we never get the opportunity to turn that stress response off, then burnout is a real possibility.

What can I do about it?

Avoid burnoutSo, how do you turn yourself into the zen like character in the image? The clue is in the last sentence above. It’s imperative to reduce the stress response whilst at work and crucially to turn off the stress response after work. Every day. Clearly, this is going to vary from person to person, but the key here is to find the things that work for you and then commit to then.

  1. Take Breaks.
    Recent research has shown that taking “micro-breaks” throughout the working day are equally as important as taking a longer break at lunchtime. Breaks improve concentration and motivation and help to sustain energy levels through the day.
    Don’t skip your lunch break. Do add in 10 minute micro-breaks.
  2. Switch Off.
    Finding a way to switch off from work is key to avoiding burnout. Modern technology makes this difficult to do, but set the boundaries and stick to them. Your health is at stake here and research shows that even thinking about work can keep the stress levels elevated.
    Don’t read/answer messages in the evening.¬† Do find a range of activities/pastimes that allow a complete switch off from work.
  3. Look past the sofa.
    Good use of your free time is an extension of the previous point. You might not feel like exercise or hobbies when you’re tired but research has shown that active activities are far more effective for recovery from and avoiding burnout than say reading or watching tv.
    Don’t just slump in the sofa every evening and weekend. Do schedule this stuff in to your life and make it a priority.
  4. Connect.
    Finally, remember some of those discussions back in lockdown about slowing life down and spending more time connecting with friends and family? Research shows that greater human connection at work and at home eases the negative effects of burnout.
    Don’t isolate yourself. Do connect with people, even when you don’t feel like it. Reach out and people will respond, be that work colleagues, friends or family.
    Or indeed a therapist – one who understands what you’re going through and uses therapy to help you switch off and years of experience to support your nervous system. If I can help you with this, then please get in touch.