GETTING THROUGH A SEASON OF BURNOUT
There was a season in my life where everything was in so much turmoil that I felt I had no option but to keep going. I was up more than 18 hours a day, and I would clock in only 2 to 3 hours of sleep. I was a life coach and everyone was looking up to me, so I convinced myself there was no room to take a break. What would my mentees say about me? If I disappeared for a while, would I still be relevant when I returned? So many people relied on me for advice. I helped people drive themselves to achieve their goals, and for me, there was no escaping the routine. I had accepted that my life was a busy one and going through the daily struggle was something I would gradually get adjusted to.
I have always been dedicated to my work. You may be familiar with the challenges I had to overcome to ensure that my beauty and wellness business survived the storms. And as a High Performance Coach, I am more dedicated to my work than I have ever been. In my journey, I have met many others who approach their jobs with the same passion that I do with my responsibilities. Yet, it is sad to say that we may have become slaves to our occupations, responsibilities and titles. You may be wondering if you have are a culprit. Have you had moments when you know you need to take a pause but you still feel obliged to keep at it? The pressure on many leaders and corporate workers to perform has resulted in what the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized this year as an occupational phenomenon – burnout. The Oxford Dictionary defines burnout as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Kate Hounsell, Mental Health First Aid provider defines burnout as a syndrome brought on from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
Although WHO does not recognize it as a medical condition, many researchers have referred to it as “an occupational disease.” This is not only due to the high number of people — all across the globe — who report experiencing it, but also due to its important impact on well-being and quality of life. The term “burnout” was coined by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He originally defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Now and then we feel we should do absolutely nothing. In fact, in extreme cases, it all stops to matter. We experience such high levels of workplace stress that we put ourselves in harm’s way. Burnout can leave people feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life. More simply put, if you feel exhausted, start to hate your job, and begin to feel less capable at work, you are showing signs of burnout.
People experience burnout in different ways and you may be experiencing the occupational disease if you answer yes to these questions. Have you become cynical or critical at work? Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started? Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients? Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive? Do you find it hard to concentrate? Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements? Do you feel disillusioned about your job? Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel? Have your sleep habits changed? Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
Today, burnout appears to be widespread and causing a variety of physical, emotional and mental disabilities in people. The alarming frequency has led researchers to report that high work demands cost $48 billion a year and contribute to 30,000 deaths per year – sited in an article by HealthLine. A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job. Although burnout has become “just part of the job” for many workers, the hard organizational cost of burnout is substantial: Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. And even if they stay, they typically have 13% lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager. In short, employee burnout can trigger a downward spiral in individual and organizational performance.
As leaders and managers of ourselves and others, we are must take responsibility for being contributors to this increasing challenge in the workplace. As we look to reach our targets and break achievement records, we may overwhelm ourselves and others with so much workload. Even amongst high performers who have trained themselves to perform with consistency under pressure, there is the peak that quickly shifts them from being productive to drowning in an insurmountable load of work. A recent State of the American Workplace report mentions that only 60% of workers can strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. When accountability and expectations are moving targets, employees can become exhausted just trying to figure out what people want from them. In this case, managers should discuss responsibilities and performance goals with their employees. Communicating with clarity these expectations will facilitate better planning and self-alignment with those goals.
Whenever you start to experience burnout, I want you to follow these 4 steps as a way of getting you through.
To be able to solve a problem, you must recognize it for what it is. If you go through days where you feel as though you have to be dragged through the day to get your work done, it may be time to be honest with yourself. Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen shares two signs that are common in people suffering burnout. The first is depersonalization, where you stop seeing the people you work with as people and instead start to see them as burdens, which builds up a mounting sense of resentment. The second is the inability to focus. So, keep these signs among others in mind so you can take the needed action.
Clear your mind space. I personally do this by journaling and documentation. I document everything I think about, especially the things and situations that are stressing me out without necessarily creating solutions for each one. Many have discovered that 50 percent of the space in our minds is holding information that can be delegated or detrimental to our decisions.
If you are burned out, it is most likely that you have picked up very bad habits such as not sleeping enough, eating junk food, disregarding your physical health hence flunking on regular exercise routines, etc. “Take an inventory of how much you might be drinking, or how much sleep you are getting, or how much screen time you are consuming, to try to make over any bad habits that have crept in because you are feeling sluggish or unmotivated,” Hendriksen says. When we give out energy throughout the day, we are required to give back between 6-8 hours a day as adults towards rest relaxation and sleep. This includes power naps of 15 minutes if possible, in our workspace. This restores our body’s function to take on new responsibilities. Sleep is an integral part of our daily routine. Also, preventative therapies such as keeping our bodies moving with any form of exercise we enjoy (note the word enjoy), spa wellness treatments of massage and body therapies when done at a consistent rate have been proven to reduce stress by high margins, remove toxins from our systems, reduce illness and increase productivity.
It is necessary to restructure our lives and our routines often. At some point we may need to reassign our work to others. It is okay to take on help as long as we are not neglecting our basic responsibilities. Discover new habits and hobbies. You may even switch sitting places with a colleague at work. It will give you a sense of newness and refreshment. Restructuring also means you must critically look at your activities, do away with bad habits and train yourself to be comfortable with better options.
Burnout is on the rise in the workplace but it can be managed. Whether or not you are in a leadership position, you can experience it and may be the cause of someone’s burn out. We have the power to do better by being more empathetic, recognizing burnout in ourselves and others and releasing our mind space. Only then can we restore and restructure our psychological, mental and emotional well-being. The power to get through burnout season lies with us.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.