Help! I Might be Burned Out
I am an “expert” at burning out. To date, I have experienced and overcome burnout at least 3 times, each time learning valuable life lessons and growing from it.
Why We Need to Talk About Burnout
I have come to recognize how overcoming burnout is such a crucial part of our lives, given the realities of modern-day working life and the complexities of issues we have to deal with both at work and outside work. Our quality of life pretty much depends on our ability to prevent and navigate through burnout. This is because once a person experiences burnout, the effects are felt not only at work, but also on the health, social and family fronts. In fact, research has shown the link between burnout and mental health challenges; when left unaddressed, it could develop into mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety disorders. In the long run, it will affect a person’s mental health and employability. It is thus imperative that we start the needed conversation about burnout if we want to thrive in life.
What, then, is Burnout?
Even though we may have heard or even used the term ourselves sometime in our work life, not many people understand what burnout really is.
For me and my team at Emmaus Strategies, we would like to understand that burnout occurs when a person is exposed to a prolonged period of chronic stress and starts to experience psychological, physiological and social consequences as a result of it. These symptoms include a loss of confidence of self, decreased productivity, increased illnesses, inability to sleep well, cynicism and withdrawal from social interactions.
It is important to note that while many associate burnout with work, it can potentially occur in any context and in a variety of roles where stress from doing work, salaried or unsalaried, has created the conditions for a person to burnout. This includes volunteers, caregivers, parents, students, entrepreneurs and even job seekers. And, for the record, well-meaning, passionate and even top-performing employees are most susceptible to burnout.
To understand whether you could be experiencing burnout, you may wish to take the Maslach Burnout Inventory or the free test on the Emmaus Strategies website, based on the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory.
So, What can I do to Really Prevent or Overcome Burnout?
In trying to overcome my own burnout, I went on a quest to understand what causes burnout and what we can do about it. While there are many articles out there that provides well-meaning advice, I have found some of the strategies suggested to just be “decompression” or stress-relief techniques; it does nothing to tackle the root causes of burnout.
And so, as I reviewed what I know and learned from my life experiences, from my Christian faith and my professional know-how as a social worker, I started to put together a simple model to help people make sense of burnout and grow in their mental well-being and resilience. I call this the PRISM© model and it outlines the possible areas of growing in mental resilience.
You will find an overview of the model below.
P – Personal Mastery
In this part of the model, you may wish to build self-awareness and grow strategies so you can be and stay resilient. This may include e.g. the deep work of managing your self-sabotaging self-talk and also developing a self-care plan.
R – Rhythm
With the complexities of life and the many things that vie for our attention, we need to ensure that we maintain a sustainable rhythm in the various aspects of life. You may need to start making conscious decisions on how you can stay productive at work, manage your screen time and begin to work in time for self-care, exercise and rest.
I – Interpersonal Bonds
No man’s an island; relationships are a crucial part of our lives. Grow and stay resilient by developing close, healthy and significant relationships with others and the community.
S – Support
“… No one has made it through life without someone else’s help,” says Heather French Henry. As such, identify your support network and began to understand your receptivity to receive help and seek professional when necessary.
Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor, said that “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” You can find meaning by beginning to start to make sense of the world around you and the work you do. For example, you can start with regular thanksgiving, reviewing the “why” of your work etc.
No Magic Bullet
While personal mental resilience is important, we want to also highlight that it is not a magic bullet that will address burnout.
When Dr. Christina Maslach, Professor of Psychology (Emerita) and a researcher at the University of California (Berkeley,) addressed a summit about burnout recently, she used the analogy of ‘ball bearings burn out’ and stated it occurs because of an abrasive environment caused by the absence of a key resource that is needed to make it function well– oil.
Similarly, it does not matter how mentally resilient a person is, he/she will still burn out when the conditions surrounding work makes burnout inevitable. Helping people and organizations to thrive would, therefore, require both interventions at the personal and organizational levels.
Helping People & Organizations to Thrive
Do also help yourself to the various articles and resources on the website.