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Oct 09, 2019

Battle Burnout: Beyond the what and why

In light of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share my 2 cents on a topic close to my heart: burnout.

By
Laura
Van Asten

Based at Bamboo Crowd’s London office, I specialise in hiring world-class Makers: UX Designers, Service Designers, Design Researchers and Design Strategists

Having seen people close to me go through it and being in an industry myself where stress seems to be a tick on our to do list, it sparked my curiosity. So when Jolt.io organised an event on how to battle burnout, it was a no brainer to see how other people manage it and more importantly: prevent it.

Remember that you need to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
Dr Kate Daley

Burnout is generally defined as a state of emotion, mental and sometimes physical exhaustion caused by prolonged periods of stress. It can be caused by a work-life imbalance, conflict between your values and those of the business, high job demands paired with a low level of control… It’s basically an imbalance where the mental cost of your job is higher than the rewards you expect.

To put it simply, it’s similar to the fight-or-flight response. When you feel threatened, your body’s defence mechanisms kick into high gear to protect you from harm. And if it works the way it should, it can help you stay focussed and can save your life in emergency situations. In other words, it prevents you from getting in a car crash on the M25 and helps you go back to the drawing board when your client said no to your design for the 50th time.

But if that stress reaches a certain point, it becomes an obstacle – something that stops you from doing your work. The body’s only meant to be in a fight-or-flight response for short bursts of time. When you’re stressed out 24/7 it can lead to serious health problems; a weakened immune system, increased risk of heart attack, … It can even rewire your brain, making you more vulnerable to other mental health problems.

During Jolt.io’s event there were a lot of interesting points made, you know, the ones that really make you think. About yourself, your friends, family – basically about your life. One of the most common things people do (myself included), is to keep your feelings bottled up.

You tell yourself that it’s just a fluke and that if you just keep going, you’ll no longer feel empty and everything will be fine. And that’s where most of us go wrong, pushing things down and pretending we’re on the right track when every inch of our body is telling us that we’re not. Whether that’s in the office, at a sports club or at home – too much is too much… Even the best athletes need a break. Talk about it when you feel overwhelmed, I know it’s difficult at first, but you’ll feel so much better afterwards. The Dog Days offer podcasts that can give you that push in the right direction or Sanctus who have some great blog posts as well as mental health coaches for the workplace.

Meet people where they are now
Ally Fekaiki

Another thing that struck me was to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – but not in the way we’re all used to saying it. So employers, try thinking about where your employees are in their life, where they see themselves going and, more importantly, what they find themselves missing at the moment. Do they feel like they don’t have enough time to spend with their family? Are they concerned with their health? Offer something that’ll help them get their time back - like fresh grocery delivery service or a gym membership for a gym close by the office/their home. If you don’t know where to start, have a look at Juno as they’ll be able to help you on your way.

Finally, some tips that’ll actually help you prevent burnout. Psychologist Dr Kate Daley wrote about the matter a couple of weeks ago for Unmind and was kind enough to have them reiterated once again.

- Pay attention to your body signals: those are warning signs for when burnout is approaching. We tend to say it’s down to something else or just ignore it all together. Our tummy ache is down to something we ate, our muscle pain is because we exercised too hard and headaches are just one of those things. It Could be physical, but we should also see stress as a possible factor.

- Take time for you! When we’re stressed or busy the first thing we stop doing is taking care of ourselves in favour of other tasks. Taking care of your physical and emotional health is essential for rebuilding your energy. How?  Make sure you have good sleeping habits, exercise on a regular basis, and eat healthy. If you’re struggling to find time, schedule it in your diary and treat it as you would any other meeting.

- Put up boundaries between work and home. When leaving office, turn off your phone, put an OOO on and keep that laptop closed. If you, like many of us millennials, need to be reachable– set specific times for checking email and tell your colleagues to only call in an emergency.  If you’re always working, you won’t have any time to recharge and restock – build that work balance!

- Don’t multitask and do away with the distractions. Contrary to popular belief doing multiple things at once is actually quite ineffective and can cause more stress. So just stick to doing one thing at a time.

- Make use of the people around you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Colleagues might be able to offer a different perspective, suggest strategies or even take some work out of your hands. Outside of work, don’t withdraw yourself from friends and family. Taking about it with other people helps.

Although burnout has gathered more attention over the past years, there’s still a taboo that’s paired with it. There’s still so many unknown factors and misdiagnoses that the road to fully understanding it is long. But we know enough to prevent and overcome it. If you think someone’s struggling, reach out, because it can do more than you think.

Want to get a better understanding of burnout? Feel free to message me. I’m more than happy to provide you with some reports, articles or companies that can help.