Received wisdom advertises hard work as the way to get ahead yet observation shows that being shrewd and crafty is a much more effective strategy for making money and accumulating power. Burnout is common. How do we stop it or help when it happens?
Employers like stability, predictability, and consistency. After all, someone more senior has a team to build or run and they won’t get the job done if people leave or burn out. In big companies consistent good results and good relationships with colleagues helps build a career and incremental advancement. Small business owners want to grow bigger and faster than the competition (or just stay afloat) so need to sell more of their product.
Competitive and ambitious people who’ve bought the hard work meme and either want to move up the corporate tree further and faster or build their business, take on more and more personal responsibility. Sometimes more than their skills can handle and end up working extreme hours.
The result is the same: too much personal workload instead of intelligent delegation or outsourcing which if kept up for long enough can result in health issues like burnout.
So what is burnout and how do we recognise it?
Burnout is like chronic fatigue caused by work and has easily spotted signs to look for: –
- Conflict within the family
- Moodiness, friction, arguments, impatience, dismissiveness and ultimately depression. This is terrible for family, especially children.
- Quality of Life Time damage caused by long commutes, 24/7 phone messages, working late and/or weekends, very tight deadlines, business trips or working away from home.
After a while these pressures have medical effects and we start to see manic, depressive and escapist behaviour and sometimes panic attacks or worse.
Manic behaviour includes excessive focus on effective use of time, a permanent sense of urgency (In my 20’s I was so busy I used to schedule 5 minutes to relax! As if 5 minutes was all I needed ). There’s rocking back and forward on a chair (a stress coping strategy), or there’s fast, agitated speaking and being in such a hurry all the time that many jobs are half done.
There’s a grey line between manic behaviour and escapism. Escapist behaviour includes getting really drunk or using other addictive chemicals), taking serious sporting risks and, unbelievably, working excessively.
If you’re a good friend, learn to spot the signs of depression and burnout. Be nice to the people involved and see if you can get them to see a doctor (sometimes easier said than done!). If you start to see extreme anger and irritability, mood swings between elation and tears or irrational behaviour then a break from pressure is urgently needed. I’m not a medical person. These are personal observations but hopefully it’s clear that professional help is needed when you see symptoms like those above.
The really good news is that life is good on the other side of burnout. It doesn’t feel like it if you’re burnt out or depressed, so you have to take it on trust. Ask around though. It’s much more common than you probably realise.
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