7 Steps to Beating Burnout Syndrome

 

Welcome to the site, and congratulations on requesting this information on job burnout.  If you’re suffering from burnout – or even just starting to feel jaded and tired at work – then learning about what you’re dealing with is a smart move, and a good first step towards avoiding or recovering from burnout.

You see, burnout can be a lot more serious than many people realise.

It can have serious consequences, not just for your career or job, but also for your physical and emotional health, your relationships and the very way you view yourself and your place in the world. And it’s difficult to find people who understand what it is or even know it exists – in fact it can be difficult to talk about it at all.

And that’s why I’ve written this report – so that people who don’t know quite where to turn with this problem can get as much information and support as possible to help them deal with it and move on with their lives.

What I’m going to share with you is not based on ‘theory’, and doesn’t consist of the usual advice to take holidays, practice yoga and look after yourself. Well, OK, it includes that sort of very sound advice, but it goes a lot deeper to help people who are seriously distressed with workplace burnout and need more than a weekend away to get it under control.

You see, I’ve personally experienced burnout.  I got through it, but it was a distressing and life-changing experience.  I’d like to share how I worked my way through it, to help others going through the same thing.  So this information based on my own experiences, the mistakes and advances I made, and what I’ve learned about burnout syndrome from my research and the professionals I consulted for help.

  

 

 

But what exactly is Burnout Syndrome …

and how do you know if you are suffering from it?

 

Look for a definition of ‘burnout’ and you’ll find a range of descriptions. I’ve seen people call a simple case of writers-block ‘burnout’; others talk of burnout when they’re overdue for a vacation or have been working too hard on a project. But what I am talking about here goes far beyond that.

In 2010 the Mayo Clinic described burnout as being “A state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work”

Other definitions expand on this:

“Emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment” Maslach (1982)

 

A progressive loss of idealism, energy and purpose” – Edelwich and Brodski (1980)

 

“Burnout is the index of the dislocation between what people are and what they have to do. It represents erosion in values, dignity, spirit, and will — an erosion of the human soul. It is a malady that spreads gradually and continuously over time, putting people into a downward spiral from which it’s hard to recover” – Maslach and Leiter (1997)

 

“It’s a disorder of hope and will, that sucks the life out of competent, idealistic, hardworking people” - Joan Borysenko (2011)

 

The fact that you’re reading this report indicates that you recognise some of the symptoms of burnout:

 

  • You’ve started to dread a job that you previously enjoyed

  • Each morning at work seems like and age, and every afternoon a drudgery

  • Your emotional and physical energy has plummeted

  • You’ve started to disengage from your work and your colleagues

  • You’re starting to doubt both the meaning in what you do, and (secretly) your own effectiveness in doing it

  • You’re irritable and easily frustrated

  • Your colleagues, boss or clients have started to notice behaviour changes

  • You’ve become cynical and critical

  • Your mind has gone into over-drive, with a constant stream of negative and exhausting thoughts

  • You no longer have the energy to resist temptation, and may resort to poor eating habits, too much alcohol or other unhealthy comforts to fill ‘the void’

  • You might be experiencing backaches, headaches, digestive  problems  or other physical ailments

  • You might be over- or under-exercising

  • Try as you might, you can’t seem to recover your interest or energy!

 

You are not alone in experiencing this. Burnout Syndrome is “real”. It’s known and recognised as a serious workplace issue and the symptoms above are typical of someone going through it.

  

A bit of history:

Burnout Syndrome was first recognised in the 1970′s, notably by Christina Maslach, an American psychologist, who is well known for her research into the condition. She created the “Maslach Burnout Inventory” which is still used as the standard indicator in measuring burnout.

Throughout the 80′s and 90′s and 2000′s there was a steady simmer of interest in burnout, but in the last 3 or 4 years there has been renewed interest around the world, as it is increasingly seen as a serious issue for individuals, organisations and governments.

In fact, in February 2012, the German Labour Minister, Usrula von der Leyen estimated that burnout was costing businesses in that country eight to ten billion Euros in lost output annually. Burnout was also a focus at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in both 2011 and 2012. “One can get the impression that we are faced with a global burnout syndrome” – Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum 2012

  

What is burnout not?

Burnout is not considered to be the same thing as fatigue, job dis-satisfaction or stress, although you’ll likely experience a level of all three while going through burnout. Intense stress has more physical but fewer emotional symptoms, and tends to produce different responses – such as increased urgency and hyper-activity, rather than the decreased motivation and dis-engagement of burnout.

Burnout is also not the same thing as depression. Depression is a clinically diagnosed mood disorder in which the sufferer experiences intense sadness. It is often treated with anti-depressant medication or psychotherapy. However, depression, stress and burnout are related in that they can contribute to each other.  

Note: If there is any chance you may be suffering from depression or any other psychological disorder, it is important that you seek help from an appropriate professional such as your doctor, a psychologist, a counsellor or a help-line.

 

Who experiences burnout?

Burnout syndrome affects people all over the world in many different professions. A simple Google search throws up studies in countries from the USA to Yemen, Mongolia to Australia.

It is particularly common in the ‘helping’ professions such as the medical and related professions, teaching, law-enforcement, care-giving. Even religious leaders experience a high incidence of burnout. However, it is also common in successful corporate people, or wherever people become highly invested in the work they do.

It’s important to know that people who suffer burnout are not weak, lazy, self-indulgent, failures or even mentally ill. In fact, The Burnout Institute describes them as “often talented, enthusiastic and motivated …used to excelling”. Which may be why they are often slow to realise how burnt they are? It is very common for people to be right in the middle of burnout before they tune in to it.

 

What are the impacts of burnout?

Apart from the strain that burnout can place on your career and your professional and personal relationships, it can also impact severely on your physical health. The Burnout Institute and other organisations list the following health implications that can result from Burnout Syndrome:

  • Insomnia
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (ulcers)
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Over or under active thyroid
  • Heart problems
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Infarction
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Chronic back pain
  • Depression
  • Collapse of the immune system (repeated infections and cancers)

These are serious conditions, so it’s important to catch burnout early and get on top of it before it does too much damage.  

Note: Some of the symptoms that are associated with burnout are not exclusive, but may be the result of other medical conditions. We recommend that you see your doctor or health professional to rule out any underlying health problems if you are experiencing these types of symptoms, or if you suspect that burnout has already damaged your health.

 

So What Can You Do About Burnout?

  

 
 

7 Steps to Beating Burnout Syndrome

 

 

  1. Become aware and understand what’s going on

  2. Regain your emotional clarity

  3. Strengthen your physical health

  4. Find out what you really want and need from a job

  5. Take action and go after it

  6. Develop resilience and persevere

  7. Grow and be happy

 

Would you like help conquering Burnout Syndrome?
Regaining your mental clarity and direction?

 

1. Awareness and understanding

One of the problems with burnout syndrome is that it tends to creep up on you over a period of time – and it can be a long period.  Many people take a long time to figure out (or acknowledge) that something really is wrong, so by the time they realise they are in trouble they are already deep in the grip of it – at which point they are no longer in a state to dispassionately observe their situation, make logical decisions and take appropriate action to correct it.  And because they are so drained, they can allow the situation to drag on, which only exacerbates the physical and emotional stresses.

Recognising the early warning signs is one of the best things you can do.  But then you have to act – don’t let it linger until you no longer have the energy or clarity to do anything about it. It takes a determined effort and a lot of support, but once you know what’s going on you can bring it under control.

You’re reading this report, so your awareness has already tuned in.  The next thing is to start observing and assessing what’s going on:

Start by taking note of what is actually going on in your work and private life.  Are there particular parts of your job that drain you – or any that you still enjoy?  Are there particular circumstances or people that generate a strong response?  Are there times of the day when you feel stronger or weaker?  What are you feeling and thinking at your worst and best moments? How much is it spilling over into your personal life?

And what is happening in your head? Are you still thinking clearly and logically? Are your thoughts supportive and moving you forward or do they sabotage every potential move by highlighting all the negatives?

Starting to analyse in this way will give you a level of distance from the problem and remove some of the emotional sting. It will also prioritise the areas that need attention, and help you set goals to resolve your situation.

  

2. Regain your emotional clarity

One of the reasons that you can’t just ‘snap out of it’ when you’re burnt is that, at the moment, your mind is not your best friend. You’ve been unfulfilled at work for some time now, so the chances are there aren’t a lot of ‘happy thoughts’ going through your mind each day. By now, the early boredom has grown into mind-numbing tedium. The little irritations now figure as major frustrations. The way you see your colleagues and clients is no longer very charitable.

In fact, by now your mind is in the habit of hosting a constant stream of unhappy and negative thoughts. It has become used to focusing on everything that’s wrong, and looking for the problems in everything. So it’s not really surprising that whenever you try to cheer yourself up or reason away your problems it doesn’t really work. The negativity is sabotaging you – and it has become entrenched.

So you have to start paying attention to your thoughts. It’s vital that you pull back from the negativity and try to reframe things in a more supportive way.

There are a number of powerful techniques to pull your thoughts back into order which we go through in our program, but a good starting place is to distance yourself from them. Consciously try to observe, rather than participate in the negativity. Don’t buy into everything your mind is telling you at the moment.  

 

Would you like help conquering Burnout Syndrome?
Regaining your mental clarity and direction?

 

3. Strengthen your physical health  

Any adult person knows that looking after your health is important, especially when under stress, but having the energy and time to act on that is something else. It’s much easier to stop at the fast food chain for a burger and chips, than to go home after an endless day and start peeling carrots. And it’s much more comforting to slouch on a sofa watching TV than to do back stretches or go for a run.

You may even have developed some very unhealthy or “addictive” (not a medical definition, just my name for it) habits that are making the situation worse.

If you are experiencing physical symptoms that could be related to burnout your first step should be to speak to a health profesional. It’s possible your symptoms are actually due to an underlying illness, but it’s also possible that your burnout has already damaged your health.

However, helpful tips like “cut back on carbohydrates” and “exercise more” are particularly useless at the moment, just adding more pressure and self-doubt. So in your efforts to look after yourself remember to start gently. Try not to work on ‘discipline’ but on fun.

Adding “good” things into your life will also really help – even if you’re not ready yet to cut out the “bad” things. See these as treats, not obligations! Add in fresh fruit and raw salads and tiny bits of un-noticed exercise, like taking the lift rather than the stairs.

Think in terms of strengthening and notice and enjoy all the little things you can do as a gift to yourself.

  

4. Find out what you really want (direction and goal setting)

This is a big one, and possibly beyond the scope of this report. The important point, though, is that if you start trying to find what you really want from your job or your life before you’ve built up your emotional and physical strength – then you’ll probably go round in circles, getting ever more frustrated and confused.

Making major changes – in your role, your company or even your career takes energy, clarity and creativity, none of which you currently have in any quantity.

By all means start thinking about it – listing what you enjoy and what you are good at, but don’t tie yourself in knots if your dream job (complete with transition path and entry point) doesn’t jump right out at you. At this stage, keep this on the back-burner as something fun to think about. Allow it to slowly seep into your sub-conscious as a pleasant future task. It won’t be long till you’re fit enough to actually take it on and make it happen, so be patient. When you’re ready we have many excellent resources to help you find your next move.

  

5. Go after it: make plan and take action

Let’s talk about grocery shopping for a minute!

When you’re on a budget or have limited time, but you want to be efficient with your grocery shopping what do you do? You make a list. Then you schedule a time, go to the right type of shop, pick up exactly what you need and take it home.

If you hadn’t made a list it would have taken longer and probably cost more to buy your groceries – you may have forgotten things you need or bought things that you actually have in the cupboard already. You’d have taken longer going through the aisles, checking all the sections for things to jog your memory. You might have been distracted by things you really don’t need that just caught your attention. Or possibly you wouldn’t have even made it to the shops, letting other tasks use up your time and focus.

It’s the same when you want to improve your work life. You are far more likely to achieve your goal, and do it efficiently and painlessly, if you make a shopping list – your plan – and use it to direct your actions and track your progress.

Sorting out your work situation, going for a new job, retiring to an olive farm in Cumbria – these can be daunting tasks when stated as a single goal. But, if you work out the major steps that you need to take, breaking each step down into achievable and realistic sub-steps, then you’re pulling that goal out of your dreams and into the realms of the possible.

Having a structured plan does a number of things:

  • Reminds you that your goal is achievable
  • Encourages you to take action and keep moving
  • Highlights the resources you’ll need, the things you’ll need to learn and the help you’ll need to seek.
  • Gives you a realistic timeframe, so you don’t get discouraged or impatient
  • Allows you to recognise and enjoy your progress along the way

  So it’s vital to both approach your changes with a logical plan, and to find, then keep your momentum up.

 

Would you like help in setting career goals or structuring a plan, or support in regaining then maintaining your momentum? The support, resources and experience of career management and project management professionals, mind-set and health gurus?

 

6. Develop resilience and persevere

Getting to the stage of focused action is a huge step forward. Maintaining that momentum is the next big challenge.

At this stage, you’re likely to be less resilient than you were prior to burnout, and still prone to attacks of uncertainty. But at the same time, it’s important to remain flexible and focused, since it’s quite possible that you’ll need to adjust your plans or goals (maybe several times) before everything finally falls into place.

It’s important that you are aware of this, so that if you start to lose momentum, have doubts or suffer set-backs it’s not a surprise, and you’re prepared to deal with it.

Of course, keeping up your physical and mind health is your most potent protection – now and into the future. But here are some of the many other things that can help keep you moving forwards:

  • Understand that life isn’t perfect, that it’s natural to have delays, set-backs, even failure – and that these all have their place in your growth and development.
  • Practice gratitude.  Simply listing and thinking about the things in life that you’re grateful for is a powerful mood-changer and a good way to pull yourself up when you feel you’re slipping.
  • Relationships.  Generally, your friends, family and other relationships are among the things you’re grateful for – so use them.  Pay attention to other people, deepen your relationships and you’ll be amazed at the fun, wisdom and energy you’ll receive from them.
  • Look for chances to be creative or use parts of your brain that are a bit rusty.  Help the kids re-decorate their rooms; devise a fund-raising strategy for a local charity; map out an episode of your favourite TV program.
  • Deal with blockages and resistance.  If you’re avoiding taking action, or not getting the result you should be, then you need to face and resolve your blockages.
  • Keep close to people who understand – find a supportive group where you can discuss things openly and don’t be afraid to both give and accept their understanding and support.

7. Grow and be happy

This one is my favourite, and I have two BIG pieces of advice:

  • Indulge in an orgy of growth and learning.  Invest in yourself and your growth, stretch yourself every day in new ways that you love, and never let yourself feel stagnant again.
  • Never stop strengthening your mind, your attitude, your wisdom, your happiness.

Of course, everybody experiences burnout in their own way. But I believe that if you follow these 7 steps – in your own time and focusing on those areas where you need the most help –then you will also come through it. It took me a couple of years, and a circuitous route, but I’m now a happier, healthier and wiser person than I was beforehand. I certainly didn’t do it alone, so I’d like to thank those from whom I learnt, who helped me recover and gave me support.

I hope this information has been useful and will help you short-cut your burnout recovery.

 

Would you like help conquering Burnout Syndrome?
The support, resources and experience of someone who’s been through it all and come out the other side?

© 2012 Beat Burnout Syndrome in 7 Steps. All Rights Reserved . Designed by ourintermetSecrets.com