So what can be done to reduce the incidence of Burnout? The first step is to recognise Burnout symptoms, the second one is to avoid Burnout-causing behaviours.
Burnout symptoms to monitor
Symptoms can be of different types and are usually divided into three categories.
- Chronic fatigue
- Weakened immune system with frequent flu-like symptoms
- Lack of appetite or compulsive hunger
- Headaches, nausea and stomach ache
- Sense of failure, doubts about one’s own value at work
- Dissatisfaction and frustration
- Cynical and negative view of work
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of creativity
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Absenteeism, tardiness and avoidance of responsibility
- Isolation from colleagues
- Frequent moments of anger
- Abuse of food, alcohol, cigarettes or medication
Unlike stress, Burnout tends to “stifle” emotions, drain energy and create detachment from others. Symptoms are mainly emotional and similar to depression.
Behaviours that can lead to Burnout
Investing in oneself and one’s mental well-being is the first step to avoid Burnout, especially when there are exogenous factors that cannot be controlled (e.g. distance from the workplace or a lack of inclusiveness in the company).
Here are some behaviours to keep under control:
1. Not setting limits (or not respecting them)
Working in the evening, at the weekend or before heading to the office in the morning and answering the phone or email at all hours are behaviours that can only be tolerated in particular periods, but are not sustainable in the long term.
2. Scheduling too many meetings
More and more often the days become an endless succession of meetings and phone calls. Too many meetings reduce productivity and lead to working under stress to make up for “lost” time and meet deadlines.
3. Too little sleep or rest
Tiredness affects productivity, mood and creativity. The result? Poor performance and feelings of inadequacy. Learn to delegate and take breaks.
4. Always trying to please others
Stress (and in the long run Burnout) is often driven by the need to prove and please colleagues and managers. This competitive behaviour can be positive if focused on a few important activities, but becomes detrimental if applied to the whole working life.
Do you see yourself in one or more of these symptoms and/or behaviours? Take a deep breath, identify the root cause of your (possible) Burnout and act accordingly. Mental well-being should always be a primary goal!