Chronic Stress, Burn-Out & Well-Being
Burnout is a result of chronic physical and mental exhaustion and the most common causes are the stressors at workplace. During pandemic, this got accentuated due to blurring of personal and work place boundaries as ‘Work from Home (WFH)’ became the norm rather than the exception. Some statistics indicate average time spent on domestic duties from singlehood to marriage increased for both men and women; however, while it increased merely from 25 min to 47 minutes for men, for women it showed an increase on an average from 47 min to 4/5 hours (from a research article which is based on the Time Use Survey of the National Sample Survey Office).
Hence, women got caught at the blunt end and often end up quitting workforce or deteriorating health due to physical and mental exhaustion.
The causes for burnout can be segregated into personal and organizational stressors. There is a widespread realization that the increasing emphasis on wealth and capital generation for companies has come at the cost of health and wellbeing of the employees. Therefore rightly the governing bodies and regulators have raised alarm and are asking the Organizations to take responsibility and make health and wellbeing a priority.
The latter is visible when we see workforce across levels, regions and boundaries of nation are now showing a deep concern for employee mental-health and are taking effective measures to be tackled on a war front..
At workspace organizations are also using Coaching as an effective measure to bring positive work culture and also employ personal coaches for their executives to handle burn-out and improve their well-being. A timely intervention can indicate these triggers early and coping mechanism can be placed effectively.
Highlighting few tips that can help everyone to recover from stress & burnout at a personal level:
- Acknowledge & Accept: The most common response to stress or exhaustion is to deny it. You will hear sentences like “I just need a good night sleep” or “I will pop in a couple of pills and I should feel better”; “I see my friends putting in more hours, I too can do it”. Well, challenging is good if the symptoms are rare, infrequent and once in a while as a response t a specific project or situation but if the symptoms of exhaustion, fatigue, lack of joy & happiness, frequently occurring pain & headaches are persisting for a long period of time, it should then raise alarm bells. It is time to pause, reflect and introspect. You need to be honest with yourself and if required, speak to your family, friend or coach to identify the causes. It will more often than not, throw up triggers that will indicate crossing your boundaries of well-being. You then need to accept & recognize that you need course correction.
- Seek help & support: Once you recognize that you are experiencing burn-out and stress, it is important to seek help from those around you – your family, best friends, even colleagues or a coach. Seek out those who are neutral and can be trusted to keep your well-being as a priority. For an example, if you go to your boss, he may have a project deadline as a conflicting motive and may not be the right person to give you the right advice or support.
- Identify boundaries: Reflect & introspect and if possible journal to know what could be causing the burnout - Is your work not aligned to your values & purpose; could it be lack of delegation or fear of failure etc. Being honest with yourself will help you to draw out strategies that can help you in dealing with it. However, sometimes even this could accentuate your stress & you many abandon the process mid-way. So a safer action could be reaching out to a counselor or a coach who will help you to establish boundaries and chart a path to recover & restore your well being.
- Define and design action plan: Chunking your life goal-plans or action plans into smaller, manageable ‘can do list” will help you in getting control over life which seems to fly-off on a trajectory path. Smaller successes put you on a positive feedback loop contributing to a more cheerful outlook on life and get you into an action mode.. An accountable buddy or coach can help you on this journey which helps you to get back on track.
- Holiday/work-break –A complete break from work often works wonder in rejuvenating and restoring mental well being. Taking the time out to focus on hobbies & interests, staying away from negative social media, connecting with loved ones are the many options that you can choose from that will help you to switch off from all that is causing you stress - whether it is work, demanding boss, toxic colleagues, social media stress – try & stay away from everything. Identify things that give you joy like nature walks, physical exercise, meditation, visits to art museums, creative work-shops etc. Try and engage more in physical activities like pottery, or cooking or building projects etc. than quick fix gratification like online gaming or Netflix, facebook, instagram etc.
Burnout is a serious issue that affects people across levels and often at workplace usually. A mindful living that prioritizes work-life balance, taking proactive steps in identifying chronic stress and taking timely and effective steps for self care, setting boundaries, seeking support and carrying out effective stress management techniques will help you achieve and contribute to your long-term success & happiness.