Mindfulness for Burnout at Work

Even if you are a student or employed or even a volunteer, the result of overwork is a particular form of stress known as burnout. Burnout is very common when working in stressful or high demanding situations, or environments where you give yourself totally or when you are dealing with multiple responsibilities. The World Health Organisation included Burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in June 2018 as an occupational phenomenon. Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

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

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

It is important to be able to know signs of burnout, both so that we can be aware when we experience it ourselves, and so that we can see signs of burnout in others and help them to find support. Signs can be mental, emotional, or even physical and may include :

  • Losing job enthusiasm, and even dreading going to work.
  • A loss of job satisfaction or a feeling of disillusionment in career.
  • Feeling low in energy and not enjoying the things that used to give pleasure.
  • Getting easily irritated, angry or upset.
  • Insomnia.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Trying to ignore feelings by abusing or misusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Feeling distant from family and friends and trying to isolate self from social situations.

How can we take steps to deal with burnout?

Often the best cause of action is always taking professional help. Though in addition to professional support, there are other steps that we can take to help deal with the problem of burnout:

  • Friends, mentors or peers can help create a supportive working environment.
  • It is important that staff are self-aware and recognize the symptoms in themselves, also that they are trained so that they know how to react to a colleague showing signs of burnout and offer help.
  • Exercise and self-care can help to deal with feelings of anxiety.
  • Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and breathing techniques can be helpful.
  • Structuring our work day with various strategies; like making to-do lists and prioritize our work, and delegate where appropriate.
  • Communicating with colleagues and supervisors and discussing any work-related concerns or worries.
  • Maintaining a healthy work/ life harmony and spending quality time with family and friends outside the work.

First step is admitting and sharing your burnout state, which is a strong action, as such occurrences are very common among the working population and even with students, who are motivated in helping others or in challenging or exhausting situations and neglecting their own well-being in the process.

SAFE is offering introductory online courses on Mindfulness to reduce Stress at Work! Register now!

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