Burnout and how to manage it
Have you ever felt that you are just going through the motions in your work, that you aren't deriving any enjoyment from it? Perhaps you feel that you just cannot cope with the incessant pressure and feel tired all the time. I wonder if you have ever then considered that you might be suffering from burnout.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a combination of symptoms that in 2019 was officialy made a legitimate medical diagnosis by the World Health Organization. It has also been called 'compassion fatigue' and can affect anyone but commonly affects those in helping professions such as nurses, doctors and social workers where there is a degree of exposure to emotionally challenging situations. It has a combination of factors that are used to assess it and its severity and these are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (feeling detached) and a perceived lack of personal accomplishment.
The main difference between burnout and 'normal' work-related stress is the long term chronic exposure to the stressors and the gradual depletion over time of an individuals resilience to it. There have been many studies into the effects of burnout and the wider health implications for those suffering from it that concluded it can affect physical health in terms of insomnia, musculoskeletal problems and an increase in cardiovascular disease. In terms of a person's mental health it has been found to increase the likelihood of developing anxiety and depressive disorders, with a specialist study in Finland on burnout that 90% of people displayed symptoms associated with depression.
What causes burnout?
So what leads to an individual developing burnout? In an individual, it is often said that those who feel that their identity is closely linked to their job can be susceptible to it, especially if the individual is not deriving much satisfaction from it. There is research that suggests individuals who are highly empathetic, who have high expectation in the role and lack coherence in their work, may be more susceptible to burnout. In an environmental sense, working in settings in which the demands are high but the resources to cope with those demands are low, (such as the NHS in Britain with constant cutbacks and ever growing waiting lists) can also lead to burnout.
In these times of austerity as services are stripped down, defunded or integrated with other services such as the amalgamation of health and social care, often these changes do not correlate with the demand or expectation for those that use them but it can have a significant effect on those who work within these settings. The severity of burnout can then be exacerbated by the personal expectations of a normally motivated employee and then the reality that they find themselves in.
Then, like a lot of conditions, the experience of it can often cause further issues for people and complicate their lives, affect their health and their relationship with those close to them. This can present as people turning to problematic ways to cope such as alcohol or drugs and an unhappy home-life. This can then affect the organisation as staff who are able to do so choose early retirement, and the likelihood of errors at work increases. It could be argued that due to the cost implications and affect on productivity this causes, and with burnout now being confirmed as an actual condition, companies and organisations have an obligation now, more than ever, to safeguard their staff from it.
How to prevent burnout
If you think you are sufferinng from burnout, what can you do to help?
I have often found that people who choose to enter a profession to help others are often not the best at caring for themselves. If this is you, it could be down to an obligation to the people you are helping but it is imperative to make important distinctions to protect yourself and practise self-care.
Manage your empathy
I recommend feeling a sense of compassion rather than empathising with the people you are helping. If you try to put yourself in other's shoes and feel the emotions of everyone you come across you will feel incredibly drained very quickly.
Be aware of your signs
It is always beneficial to identify and confront changes you notice in yourself as soon as possible - this could be increased irritability towards others or cynicism to things that you were not cynical towards before.
It is also good to incorporate good stress busting techniques into every day life such as mindfulness (experiencing things presently rather than focussing on the past or future) and ensuring that you maintain a clear boundary between work life and home life - not being available outside working hours and not unnecessarily checking emails or calls when at home.
It can also be that the person - perhaps for their own good - just needs to make a physical change and to try something else, but if this is not an option there are still other avenues to pursue and hypnosis can help.
I find that as a hypnotherapist combing hypnotherapy with elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful. Cognitive behavioural therapy was developed in the 1960s when it was discovered that people in depressive states often make negative associations which they are unaware of. CBT essentially looks to identify and challenge a negative thought and the meaning a person attaches to it, which subsequently reveals how they then feel about it.
The other main benefit of using elements of CBT with hypnotherapy is that in CBT we use our conscious rational mind but often people with high levels of anxiety or depression cannot fully concentrate or remember and can be stuck in fight or flight mode, or quite often somewhere in between. However, when in a trance state people can fully absorb the task of challenging distortions in thinking far easier with the subconscious mind being receptive to change much faster than the conscious mind. This, over time, can lead to viewing certain situations in a different light and perhaps taking the emotional emphasis out of the situation they find themselves in, and viewing their work and life in general more positively.
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