Burnout is a condition related to overwhelming stress and it’s continuously growing in professional environments. Its main components, that are key in differentiating them from similar-effect conditions, are:
- De-personalization – where you separate yourself emotionally from your work.
- Decreased level of accomplishment – you’re working more and more but you feel like less and less productive.
- Emotional exhaustion.
What could lead to a burnout?
The factors that could lead to a burnout are not solely professional; it’s pretty much anything that you need to invest on, such as family, friends, relationships, social activism, even money. It’s related to the continuous effort and stress to meet expectations on these areas, but ending up in not meeting those goals can potentially lead to a burnout.
What’s the stress cycle and why is it important?
There are concrete differences between stress as such, stressors and stress responses.
Stressors are the factors that contribute to/trigger stress. These factors can be related to work/business, money, family etc.
Stress is the physiological part that happens to your body in response to any perceived threat. The effects of stress in the body can appear as difficulty breathing, panic attacks, blurred eyesight, sleep problems, fatigue, headaches, chest pains, high blood pressure, heartburn and indigestion.
Stress response, meaning how we react to stress, which is the so called ‘freeze, fight or flight’ response.
As it can be seen, the stress cycle has 3 main stages:
1) Threat, the stressor, what causes stress.
2) Response, how you react to the threat, or more precisely how your body reacts to the threat.
3) End, when the body received the signal that it has escaped from this threat and it’s now safe.
Latest research findings highlight that the behaviors that deal with our stressors are no longer the behaviors that deal with the stress in our bodies. In other words, when we are under stress because of too much workload, or a difficult relationship or even a stressful commute to work, what do we do? We go home and relax, or we choose to be alone in order not to get in touch with anyone else etc, meaning that we end up dealing with the stress factor (workload, relationship, commute) but we don’t deal with the stress itself, and how it does manifest within our body.
You need to go through the whole stress cycle in order to bring this to an end. So, when someone is telling you ‘you need to relax’ it doesn’t actually help recovering from a burnout. You need to deal with the stress IN your body. You need to actually change your body’s physiological state into one of safety. It’s important to use your body in order to communicate to it that it’s now a safe place to be.
Research indicates that there are numerous evidence-based ways to help people deal with the stress response cycle, such as walking, running, jumping, tensing for some seconds and more.
Body awareness is key here. We don’t usually recognize the hard stuff welling up inside us. The solution is to be able to turn toward the difficult feelings with kindness and compassion. It’s ok to admit that you’re stressed or angry or miserable. Once you’re aware of it, ask yourself “Why is it here? What do it need from you? What has to change?”
Stress is a tunnel. You have to go through it.
You have to experience the darkness to get to the light. People avoid to do that because they’re afraid of their uncomfortable internal experiences. Start practicing all experiences within your body; start with gentle emotions at first and then with more intense and uncomfortable ones.
Trust that your body will find its way.
Since burnout is quite common in the business world, companies need to take a step forward and:
- Incorporate stress dealing in their policies and overall culture.
- Acknowledge people’s emotional and physical needs.
- Encourage people to become aware of and clearer in expressing how they feel.
- Train managers on how to cope when their employees are struggling with their feelings.
The cure to burnout is not self-care. However, we can all use and benefit from others’ care. We need to have a support system of love, kindness and connection. That’s the baseline culture change that can end burnout forever.
Image by jcomp on Freepik