Working endless hours to get a project across the line coupled with the feeling of underappreciation only leads to a deadly cocktail called Burnout. Preventing burnout is of course better than the cure but most large-scale projects move at such a pace that there is no room to pause and reflect on the prevention, so the cure becomes ever more important.
Identifying burnout is the key to the start of recovery, over the years of working in extremely tough projects I’ve seen people go through burnout without knowing it. This happens more than people think and in my opinion results in a rapid decline in mental and physical health. Unlike stress people will keep on pushing forward towards chronic burnout however, pushing through is not the solution.
So, if you are amid a busy project how do you identify that you or indeed a colleague are burning out?
Early signs of burnout include:
Physical and emotional exhaustion
Cynicism and detachment
Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
If you start to detect the signs of burnout it’s important that they are addressed, no one should go to work feeling unappreciated, detached or overtired as this is no benefit to the company or the employee.
So how do you address Burnout?
If your relationship with your manager is such that you can be open and express your feelings of burnout then do so. The process of expressing your burnout symptoms and getting it off your chest will help. Most companies these days are open to the discussion & willing to help wherever possible. If your relationship is such that you don’t feel comfortable opening up, then a more tactful conversation needs to be had. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, in my opinion it’s quite the opposite as the person asking is showing that they care and want to do a good job. The tactful approach could be to ask your manager for assistance to organise or prioritise your workload or maybe ask for some time back if you have been working long hours.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep and taking in vitamins; During burnout most people will stop taking care of themselves as it’s easier to order a takeaway instead of cooking a wholesome meal and it’s easy not to go to the gym, instead opting for the couch or a pint of beer/glass of wine. Vitamins work wonders so make sure you are getting them via your food or by supplements. There are some good vitamin supplements which can be taken before bedtime to help the brain rejuvenate whist you sleep. Eating well and gaining vital vitamins will help with your cognitive function and improve your overall mood.
Take a break whilst at work, it’s surprising what a good walk around the block can do to blow the cobwebs away. Breaking your day up can be more productive, especially when we are tired and burning out as it seems as if there is no end to the drudgery. A break away from the office or your desk can re-ignite your thought process. Long term though regular exercise is always key, not only do you then have an extracurricular activity, but you also have a different environment, new interactions and not to mention the release of endorphins.
Ensure you are getting enough sleep. Most people heading for burnout do so because they are not getting enough quality sleep and therefore the brain doesn’t function as well as it should.
Avoid Alcohol! Believe it or not turning to a drink in order to “Switch off” is not the answer, trust me I’ve tried 😊 Alcohol is after all a depressant, so having brain frazzle and being depressed makes the burnout cocktail more potent.
Addressing the above-mentioned steps will in turn lead to an uplift in mood and take away some of the anxiety surrounding the feelings of inadequacy or underappreciation. Sometimes a complete review of your home/work life is needed. There is nothing more important than talking to someone if this situation occurs, a friend or a close colleague. You never know, they may give you a different perspective on things which will help in the long run.
Burnout be gone! How do you know you have recovered from Burnout?
Speaking from personal experience in my instance it was the feeling of freedom, clarity as my cognitive functions returned to their rightful place. Once my equilibrium had been returned my levels of frustration reduced and happiness levels shot up. Calm was restored and my compassion returned.
This didn’t happen overnight though; it took at least one week for my brain clear of everything that had built up over time. Then the real restoration of my wellbeing began, mainly through strong friends who know how to make me laugh, strong family who knew I needed support through some tough projects and Gardening! I know, I know it’s a cliché, but it worked for me.
Avoiding burnout altogether:
As a Manager it’s important that you help your team members manage their workloads to avoid burnout. It’s important that you recognise the signs to help avoid your team members suffering and it’s also important that you recognise the signs so you yourself do not fall victim to it. Manage your teams’ wellbeing by giving back, asking how they are and taking an interest.
Get the Fun back into the workplace, unpack the problem to achieve a happy productive team.