Seven steps for dealing with workplace burnout


The American Psychological Association defines burnout as physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Take a few moments to think back to your first day on the job at your current workplace. What led you to accept employment there?

Likely you felt excitement in a new possibly more challenging role. Perhaps you perceived that a fresh start would provide you with more career opportunities in line with your dreams and desires.

Or maybe you craved better benefits and salary surpassing your previous work.

Now, reflect on how you presently feel each day this year in your current position. Taking a cue from Melinda Smith, Jeanne Segal, and Lawrence Robinson, ponder whether you rarely, sometimes, occasionally, usually, or almost always feel about each of the following six statements:

I am overwhelmed in my current role. I get easily emotionally drained in my workplace. I am unable to meet the constant demands of my job. Overall, I am exhausted with my current employment.

I am hopeless when I think of my work life. I resent my employment or my employer. I doubt I can perform what is really expected of me.

I am detached and alone at my job. I feel tired and drained at work. I am trapped and helpless in my career.

If you answered usually or almost always to three or more of the above statements, then you might be suffering from work-related burnout.

The American Psychological Association defines burnout as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others”.

Herbert Freudenberger first coined the term burnout as it results from expectations of high performance accompanied by high levels of stress, and tension.

Mental Health UK warns British workers that burnout cannot go away all by itself without intentional intervention. One could eventually lose both the ability and energy to efficiently and successfully meet the demands of one’s job which could then spiral and affect many other aspects of life including family, friends, community, self-esteem, self-efficacy and life satisfaction.

Also in the UK, YouGov Plc conducts regular surveys that include burnout. A surprising 20 percent of workers there felt like they were unable to cope with and handle pressure and stress in their workplaces.

However, many people often confuse burnout symptoms with anxiety. Anxiety deals more with worry, fear, and uncertainty rather than burnout and its feelings of being trapped, overwhelmed, resentful, exhausted, detached, demotivation, and doubtful.

As one of several contributing factors to burnout, anxiety usually comes first. Psychologist Nicole LePera, well-known on social media, ponders whether we overemphasise burnout instead of recognising that oftentimes in our job lives we feel unappreciated as well as doing work that fails to provide us with any sense of meaning or purpose.

She hints that our bodies might be signalling that we cannot take any more of it.

Burnout also gets confused with depression. Adam Borland with the famed Cleveland Clinic highlights that depression is a diagnosable mental health condition while job burnout is more a response to specific work-related conditions.

He recommends the following steps for dealing with work-related burnout. First, catch your burnout before it is too late. Employees often miss noticing the early stages of burnout.

Second, talk to trusted friends or a counsellor about what you think might be triggering your burnout. Third, try to restructure your work life by fitting in time for breaks, personal check-ins with peers, exercising, practising mindfulness with deep breathing, and monitoring your sleep schedules and eating habits.

Some workers respond to burnout by indulging in food as an escape. Fourth, develop and stick to a healthy routine. Fifth, build and enforce appropriate work-life boundaries regarding time, effort, and availability.

Sixth, explore hobbies that give us distractions or senses of purpose outside our work. Seventh, investigate other work or career opportunities that do not cause overwhelming stress.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.