As children we were often asked what we would be when we grew up, and for some the dream of attaining a career emerged. We carefully studied the rungs of this ladder of success, moving through the paces to obtain that position, only to inherit unmanageable workloads and organizational systems with toxic patterns. After years of working to achieve, many become aware that the life they dreamed of turned into something they wanted to escape. It is like the proverbial closet that has had one too many items packed in and the door comes bursting open.
This phenomenon has come to be known as burnout, and there has been an increased awareness of the cascading negative impact this has on an individual’s sense of wellbeing. Occupational burnout is defined by a pattern of overwhelming exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, and feelings of ineffectiveness. This can often result in feelings of frustration or cynicism, which lowers an individual’s sense of personal accomplishment. Research has shown a link to burn out and lowered physical health particularly in lowered immune responses and cardiovascular issues, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and increased substance use. Burnout has also been linked to thoughts of suicide.
Given that the toll burnout takes on individuals, their loved ones, and the health of organizations is serious, what is the antidote to this all too common ailment? Research points to the benefits of a multi-faceted approach, tailored to an individual’s specific needs. Here are some key points:
1. Changing work patterns to establish a healthy work life balance.
2. Forming new coping strategies such as recognizing unhelpful thinking and reframing thoughts.
3. Strengthening social support systems with friends and family members.
4. Implementing relaxation methods such as breathing techniques.
5. Practicing a healthy lifestyle through balanced nutrition, improving sleep patterns, and exercise.
6. Enhancing self-understanding through reading, participating in therapy, or practicing spirituality.
The bottom line is that ultimately recovering from burnout is an inside job. One that will take implementing a series of solutions, with a tone of gentleness and patience.