Maija Dobele - psychologist, Junior Specialist - Managers’ Evaluation Project, consultant
Burnout at work was already becoming an important concept in the 1970s. It was perceived as a serious social problem and focused attention on people's experience at work. Nowadays, burnout at the workplace has become a phenomenon of great global importance.
Burnout is a condition of emotional, physical and psychological exhaustion, which is caused by excessive and long-term stress. Burnout is often metaphorically described as the dying down of a fire or the going out of a candle flame. The metaphor describes the draining of employees’ ability to maintain intensive involvement in their work. This means that the flame that was once burning cannot keep burning if there are insufficient renewable resources. When employees have experienced burnout, they have a reduced ability to provide a productive contribution and if they continue to work, the result is no more than just smouldering – flat and insignificant.
A person feels emotionally drained, is unable to deal with ongoing demands which continue to grow, and starts to lose interest and motivation. Burnout reduces productivity and saps energy, making one feel increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical and hurt. The negative effect of burnout spreads throughout all areas of life, including at home, work and in one’s social life, also creating health problems and adverse changes to one’s lifestyle.
Burnout at the workplace can affect anybody, regardless of gender, experience or position, and, as shown by statistical data, the number of people working in Latvia, who have experienced one of the signs of burnout, continues to grow.
Burnout is being experienced by an increasing number of employees!
The latest survey (Benu aptieka Health Monitoring) conducted in Latvia shows that more than half (58%) of the people in Latvia have experienced features of burnout. In 2018, a survey conducted by the Kantar research company showed that 48% of employees in Latvia have experienced burnout in the last year, which indicates that signs of burnout are being felt by more and more employees. This indicates that burnout is a serious and current topic, which should be receiving special attention with respect to both the well-being of employees, as well as the functioning of organizations.
Employees are not ready to discuss burnout with their employers and they lack the skills and resources to care for themselves!
The survey conducted by Kantar in 2018 reveals that almost half of employees (48%) would not be ready to talk with their employer about signs of professional burnout which they have experienced.
In the Benu aptieka Health Monitoring results, 25% of those surveyed indicated that they were rarely, or never, able to gain a healthy balance between work and rest. Often their concerns about their work or their home life may seem like a complete waste of energy, and this could be one of the signs of burnout.
Ask yourself. There is much wide-ranging research which helps in determining the level of burnout, and one of these ways will be used in the lecture on burnout. However, you can start with this brief survey! These questions are not a survey about burnout, but they can help you orient yourself in how you are currently feeling and to understand what the next steps look like.
4 questions to ask yourself. Evaluate each question on a scale from 1 to 4 (1 - never; 2 - sometimes; 3 - often; 4 - always).
- How often are you tired or lack the energy to head to work in the morning?
- How often do you feel physically flat, as if your batteries were flat?
- How often is your thinking process slow or you have difficulty concentrating on your work?
- How often do you feel emotionally distant from your colleagues or customers, and are unable, or do not wish to find out about their needs?
Count your points.
- If you have gained less than nine points, it is likely that you are not suffering from burnout at the moment. Then you can focus on what you have introduced into your everyday routine to care for yourself and continue to do this, as it can be seen that this is bearing fruit.
- If you have between 10 and 12 points, you are very likely on the threshold of burnout, and experience difficulties each day that you find it hard to cope with.
- Starting from 13 points, there is a risk that you are suffering from burnout. You should seek help.
4 things, with which you can start the renewal of your emotional balance:
1. Focus on an accepting and sympathetic attitude towards yourself
In experiencing burnout, it may be difficult, but it is important to start with the development of an accepting and honest attitude towards yourself. It may sound like regularly telling yourself: "Yes, I have been working hard and currently I need to dedicate time for myself, I am a person. I have the positive intention of completing everything, but sometimes this just simply isn't possible."
You can create a routine, and in your notebook, mark the day’s events which seemed pleasant, agreeable or happy, each day. For example, a pleasant conversation with a colleague that you had not seen for a long time, enjoying a cup of tea during the lunch break or other pleasant events.
2. A regular regime of sleep, meals, rest and physical activity
Devote 8 hours to sleep and introduce healthy eating habits.
Introduce short breaks into your everyday routine, using productive tension-reduction methods (performing regular breathing exercises, relaxation and awareness training). At the end of the article, a breathing and relaxation exercise is provided for you, which you can try out and perform every day.
At least twice a week, organize a physical activity for yourself, which could include visiting a gym, rhythmic gymnastics, dancing, walking and similar. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.
3. The organization and prioritization of work tasks
This encompasses the careful development of your day’s plan, providing each task with sufficient time and planning in time for unforeseen work. In this way you can learn to protect your personal time and there is less chance of getting lost in the noise of unimportant or disruptive tasks. It is normal that there is work which you desire to put off, or not do. And there is work, the completion of which, requires a substantially longer time than we initially planned, and it is quite a normal situation not complete all work. Our everyday time is often filled in with unexpected and unplanned tasks, which end up as top priorities. However, focusing attention on your organizational system, in a similar way to tidying up your cupboard, can help in noticing and structuring what helps and what detracts from happiness, energy and time.
4. Rewarding yourself
Create a list of things which provide joy and can be useful at moments when there is stress. Devote time to developing a list of things on your telephone or on a piece of paper, that bring you joy. You might include listening to music, airing the room, ringing a friend, discussing matters that are not connected with work with colleagues, on this list. At times when you feel stressed, you can open or take this list and select one or more things which you will do to feel better. There are moments, when it seems that nothing will provide you with happiness. At those times it may be difficult to remember what it is that helps us. A ready prepared list makes this process easier because you only have to choose what to do. If it is difficult to choose, then you could just draw a lot, and perform the activity which is next to the number that you have selected. This is a moment that you put yourself in first place and make yourself smile, allow your happiness hormones to fire up and reduce your stress level.
A practical method for working with your body
Breathing is power, which is behind everything. I breathe in and know that good things will take place. / Tao Porchon-Lynch /
Deep or diaphragmatic breathing
This breathing and relaxation exercise balances and calms the vegetative nervous system. The exercises should be done each day, and at least 1-2 times a day, so that the body learns and remembers the relaxing effect. A little bit of dizziness can be a normal phenomenon, as the body receives an unusual amount of oxygen. This will pass, and the body will get used to it, but make sure the breathing process is comfortable and pleasant. Discontinue it if this causes discomfort.
- Sit down in a chair, stand up or lie down
- Place your hand on your stomach
- Breathe in slowly so that you can feel that, as you inhale, your stomach inflates and rises like a balloon and the hand on it rises.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth
- It is best if you exhale longer than you inhale. You can count to 4 while inhaling and to 6 while exhaling.
Remember about the possibility of getting professional assistance. Contact your family doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist.
It may also be valuable to attend a course about how to reduce the risk of burnout and to decrease the feelings associated with burnout, recognizing your internal and external resources and using specific methods to help yourself.
Stress and its causes are an everyday feature. However, how they affect people depends on each person’s perception, thinking and emotional management skills.
Our everyday working life is full of work tasks, resolving challenging situations, taking responsible decisions. However, I invite you to introduce one more work task into your everyday work plan – to care for your own resources.
Try to go for a walk, talk to your friends or watch a pleasant film. These small self-care gestures can prevent stress from transforming into something more serious, for example, burnout.
If you have the feeling that you are experiencing burnout and you are finding it difficult to cope with these feelings, or you suspect that you may also be having problems with mental health like depression, for example, seek professional assistance.
We don't have to achieve everything, and perfectly, as well. What you are doing already is enough! You are good enough! Our health is one of the most important things that we have on this earth. Rest, knowing that you are great, and observe these recommendations about how to care for yourself, to prevent and reduce burnout