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Burnout – it’s official

Burnout is now a legitimate medical diagnosis, according to the International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization’s handbook that guides medical providers in diagnosing diseases.

According to the handbook, doctors can diagnose someone with burnout if they meet the following symptoms:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy

Burnout has long since featured in my profession. Burnout in leaders, teams, managers, teams colliding and collapsing.  That feeling of overwhelm, too much to do, clashes in personality – whatever the triggers, there’s been much reported about burnout.

Research in the US showed almost 80 percent of workers “regularly experience physical or psychological symptoms caused by stress.”  Stress has increased.  You can see that in the rise of mindfulness and mental health awareness. But is it a different kind of stress? Work has become 24/7 – global, email, less people, less training, and in some cases doing more for less. In the UK, 74% of the UK felt overwhelmed or unable to cope at some point during the last year (Mental Health Foundation 2018).

In our article Sharpening the Saw, we shared some options if a person believes they don’t have the time to develop their skills and people who believe they don’t have time to get better.  This not only applies to recognising your stress triggers and burnout to continue to remain ‘sharp’ but you can also consider the same applies to self-help and reading. 

We all have a ton of self-help books on our shelves. It’s much easier to access tools these days via podcasts, YouTube, ebooks, and I’m certainly no stranger to consuming content whilst I’m on the move. But how much content is too much and could these be contributing to our feelings of stress and burnout and therefore be considered as noise pollution?

Daniel A. Gross discusses silence as a resource. In this article, he shared the Finnish Tourist Board’s marketing campaign images in 2011 containing captions such as “Silence Please” and “Handmade in Finnish Silence”.

He refers to the noise as described by Florence Nightingale’s quote “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.”

A study published in 2002 in Psychological Science (13:9) examined the Munich Airport noise study and the effect on children’s perception and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University reported that those exposed to noise developed a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. These children not only ignored the noise they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. Evans stated that “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,”

There’s a lot of research and information out there, which you can take a look into. If that feeling overwhelms you and you’d like a few tips. Here are some I’ve learnt and use with myself and clients to recognise the early warning signs of stress and potential burnout. 

  1. Scan your work environment and your body. Do you feel productive in your environment? When you work in your main place of work, are you holding any tension in your body? How distracted are you? Do you find you are wearing headphones listening to something else? Are you able to relax or focus? 
  2. Being mindful. Do you drink enough water, get enough daylight, have too much screentime throughout the day? Do you always have your phone? Do you notice and enjoy what you are eating? Paying attention to people and really listening helps you to be present rather than thinking about what-ifs or what might be’s.  A really good tip – speak to children to see if you are really listening because they’ll tell you if you are not paying enough attention.
  3. Check your sleep patterns. Are you waking at night? Do you feel tired all the time?
  4. Are you exercising and if so is it infrequent, playing harder and faster?
  5. Consider when you get a cold or a headache, how many times do you say I’m run downI’ve been doing too muchI’m just tired, etc.

And finally, I like the play on the word silence – we’re told to be quiet, be silent almost as if it’s controlling us, and yet, if we learn to be surrounded by silence where we can ‘control” it, you could start to be a lot more in tune with your surroundings, seeing possibilities you hadn’t seen before, rather than trying to hide from all the noise – even with your headphones.  Maybe earplugs would prove more helpful or maybe use your headphones without any sound.

About the Author

Juliet is a qualified Coach, is a partner of Open Square Limited and works with specialist SME’s to help them attract great talent.

Juliet worked in business before specialising in setting up in-house HR & Recruitment teams and scaling customer-facing specialist SME’s by finding out what individuals and companies need. For over 18 years, Juliet has hired, coached and mentored teams, delivered ground-breaking leadership development, early careers programmes, and award-winning recruitment solutions and employer brands.

Winner and Finalist for Employer Brand and In-house Recruitment Awards ▪ MCIPD ▪ ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching & Mentoring ▪ Member of the Association for Coaching ▪ BPS Level A & B Psychometrics including Myers Briggs (MBTI) Step I & II, TKI™, Strong, 16PF, SHL, Saville Wave and Saville Ability.

To get in touch email juliet@opensquareconsulting.com, message via LinkedIn or call 0333 987 5252.

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