Built Intelligence

Burning Out – By Joanna Farnsworth

Burning Out – By Joanna Farnsworth

How to identify and avoid Burning-out

I originally wrote this piece last year, but wanted to share it again. Reading it back now it has even greater relevance, I am going to take my own advice and a short break in the coming weeks. These are tough times for everyone, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we must look after our own wellbeing to stay healthy, happy and effective….

How many times have you got to the weekend, a holiday or Christmas only to come down with a sickness or a cold/flu? Sometimes we can keep going all week only to get to the weekend and be too exhausted to enjoy ourselves? How many times have we missed a class, had to re-schedule an appointment or miss an arrangement altogether because something came up or a meeting over-ran? Sadly, many of us are just getting by to get the job done, it happens all too often, and we end up feeling that we are surviving in the corporate world rather than thriving.

We hear the term burn-out frequently, but do we really understand what it is and how we can avoid it?

Whilst Burn out isn’t actually classed as a medical condition it is acknowledged as a contributing factor that affects our health.

World Health Organisation definition

‘Burn – out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance to one’s job; or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced professional efficacy

It is widely acknowledged that work is good for mental health, but it can also have an adverse effect on our health both physically and to our mental wellbeing. As an industry Health and Safety is our top priority, we are becoming increasingly aware of mental health and the need to normalise conversations surrounding this subject, but less so at acknowledging the issues we ourselves are contributing to at the detriment of our own wellbeing.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, Construction is still a tough industry where margins remain tight, it can be difficult to work flexibly on site and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. It is easy to get swept up in negativity and cynicism, we are all very good at pointing out what could be done better. Yes, our organisations and managers have a duty of care towards us but ultimately when we take responsibility for our own wellbeing and career’s we will be happier, more productive and feel more valued.   

What is the difference between stress and burnout?

Stress is usually relatively short term, maybe caused by a looming deadline, or have feelings that your workload is too much, the situation will change once the deadline has passed or the workload lessened. Burn-out happens over a longer period when we are subjected to prolonged stress resulting in fatigue, disconnection and much reduced productivity. 

What are the warning signs of Burn-out?

  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disconnecting from the team or clients
  • Having low energy and or little interest in work
  • Having feelings of emptiness
  • Having a negative or critical attitude towards work
  • Feeling under-valued
  • Suffering Headaches
  • Being irritated with others in the workplace

So how can we prevent burn out and reduce the effects of stress and work -related risks to our mental wellbeing?

Often it is the simple changes to our routine can often make the biggest differences 

Rest to Reduce stress, that is easier said than done; we have the weight of responsibility, deadlines to meet, margins, programmes, turnovers to be achieved. Our ability to manage stress varies significantly depending on how we are feeling, what is else going on in our lives and if we have sufficient outlets to reduce our stress levels.  

Rest is essential 42% that is the magical amount of time we need to rest and boost our resilience to maintain good physical and mental health and make us feel less stressed. It is about 10 hours of every 24 hours or over the week 70 hours of sleep, connection, exercise, eating and relaxation. The paradox is that to keep up or get ahead many of us will work and worry about work situations long past our contracted hours. Maybe we sacrifice our breaks, don’t eat properly, perhaps we have a long or stressful commute. We can’t be at our most productive, efficient and accurate when we feel tired, stressed or running on empty.

Working with Purpose, focusing daily on our accomplishments and focusing on one thing at a time will increase our sense of achievement, boosting our confidence and positivity towards work. Setting out our priorities for the week ahead, making them reasonable and reviewing then regularly will help us to remain focused and feel in control of our work as will working at a reasonable and steady pace. When faced with deadlines or an overwhelming workload most of us will default to trying to multi-task or rush to complete a piece of work often leading to mistakes, re-work and knock our confidence.

Build a Positive outlook, this is easier said than done when you are struggling with work, feeling run down, under-valued and disconnected but building a high emotional intelligence is key to improve wellbeing and avoid burn-out. Focusing on building relationships and re-connecting with those around us are important ways to boosting our well-being. It is easy to distance ourselves from others when we are stressed and immerse ourselves in our own busyness. Spending more time doing what we enjoy helps us relax, feel more engaged and enthusiastic, exercise is a proven way to boost mood, improve health physically and mentally and whilst the gym may seem to be more of a chore than a pleasure we can all find something that we enjoy be it walking with a friend or colleague, an invigorating game of football, cycling, a yoga class, everyone is different.

So, when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, under-valued, and out of alignment within the work-place we need to remember that we all have the ability to take control, re-charge and take better care of ourselves. Changing our attitude to the way we work and placing greater importance on looking after ourselves will not only benefit ourselves but the organisations we work for and the teams we work in.

The greatest duty of care we have is to ourselves and looking after our own wellbeing.

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