It’s Monday morning. You are lying in bed, desperately trying to find the motivation to get up and face the day. The job has always been stressful, but you have never felt so terrible about the prospect of going to work. You are exhausted all the time and nothing you do at work seems to make a difference. A job that you used to be so passionate about has now become something that leaves you feeling utterly empty.
Burnout is an extreme response to occupational stress. It happens when excessive demands upon an employee reach a critical point, leading to exhaustion and feelings of helplessness. Other risks of burnout include reduced perspective and critical thinking skills, emotional difficulties, and adoption of a negative world view. Burnout is most common for workers in a caring or supportive role, such as social care or education. However, it can affect anyone and have a significant impact on your mental health.
The good news is that employers have a share of responsibility to prevent burnout at work. Staff should always be appropriately supervised and employers should recognise both the strengths and weaknesses of their employees. If possible, employers should always provide staff with ‘time-outs’ in their work schedule, as well as providing adequate time to catch up on paperwork and relevant training. Staff meetings should be used to identify problems in the workplace and seek solutions to them. Employees should feel comfortable being open about the difficulties they experience and employers should ensure that their staff feel valued for the work they do. Most importantly, employers can provide proactive support to act as a preventative measure to avoid further stress and burnout. It is increasingly common for large companies to provide staff with therapeutic support to prevent excessive stress and burnout through employee assistance programmes (EAP).
Ultimately, the person with the greatest responsibility for avoiding burnout is yourself. In today’s busy and demanding work environments, it is vitally important to understand the value of 'self-care'. It is your responsibility to look after and value yourself. First and foremost, aim to achieve a correct work / life balance, especially if you work night-shifts. Having time away from your place of work is essential for personal refreshment and growth. Enthusiastic employees often put aside their personal interests for the sake of their career. Avoid being so involved in meeting the needs of your job that you do not attend to your own needs. Understand your capabilities but also your limitations. Overestimating or underestimating your own skills in the workplace might lead to difficulties with self-esteem and personal effectiveness.
Six simple tips for self-care:
- be mindful of your limits, do not be afraid to ask for help.
- eat well and avoid 'self-medicating' e.g. too much alcohol, chocolate etc.
- do not underestimate the importance of sleep. Running up a ‘sleep-debt’ is never a good thing.
- be active, exercise is not just good for the body but also the mind.
- make use of your support networks e.g. family, friends, colleagues.
- every day, do something you enjoy. Read a book, watch a tv programme you like, have a relaxing bath. Little rewards can have a big impact.
Taigh Sàmhchair: professional counselling and psychotherapy
Hereward Proops MBACP, registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
01851 871094 / 07815662208