Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Stress can help us to focus and prioritize; it can force us to tackle what needs to be done. Sometimes a little pressure and anxiety can really motivate us to take action.
But prolonged stress — constant, chronic pressure and anxiety that feels like it never ends – leads to feelings of emptiness, apathy, and hopelessness, not to mention physical and mental exhaustion. That can lead to prolonged mental and physical health problems, including burnout.
Our bodies respond to the physical stress of exercise by adapting and getting stronger. But that only happens if we get the proper amount of rest and recovery. Our minds work the same way. Constant stress without rest and recovery will not only affect our overall performance. Eventually, something can break.
“For a long time, burnout was seen as the worker’s problem—something they needed to fix with self-care and yoga and sleep if they were going to make it in the rat race of life,” says this October 2021 article in Time Magazine. But many experts now argue that burnout is often a systemic problem that can’t reliably be prevented by individual employees. This is even more reason to be on guard and protect your own mental health. (Incidentally, Maslach has developed a burnout toolkit and other resources that are available here.)
It seems the Turnover Tsunami is at least in part due to people reevaluating their work/life balance, and chronic job stress. And if you already associated your work closely with stress, exhaustion, and negativity, then the pandemic has only magnified it.
But I suspect that there’s even more to it. As spring and summer 2021 evolved and vaccines were becoming accessible, we started to realize that we could start to see family, friends and get out for local vacations and day trips. Small business owners who had been forced to shut down or operate under extreme and expensive restrictions were starting to see that things could soon get better.
But then, as fall emerged, and the Covid-related headlines became discouraging, it started to feel like we were in limbo. The longer this pandemic has gone on, the longer we’ve had to deal with this period of uncertainty. The goalposts keep moving, and this is triggering what Social Psychologists are calling Pandemic Flux. It’s also having an impact on our work lives.
The key message I want to convey is how important it is to guard your mental health. Burnout is real and damaging. Here are some circumstances that can predispose us to burnout:
Workplace Bullying – A Hidden Problem Over half of surveyed Canadians experience bullying in the workplace according to a 2018 poll by Forum Research. Worse still, the study found that two-thirds of companies took NO action to stop the perpetrators. It’s no wonder that victims are reluctant to report bullying.
Bullying, Bias, and Burnout. Why These 3 ‘B’s Could be Derailing your Career Often the word “derailment” is associated with an accident, a slip off the track that could not be prevented. But career derailment isn’t always a random mistake that couldn’t have been anticipated.
Have You Ever “Called in Sad?” Many mental health challenges are symptoms of genuine workplace problems and the root cause is more circumstantial than it is completely psychological or medical. I’ve had a significant number of clients suffer from anxiety, depression, and burnout due to job-related issues. Sometimes there’s a poor match between the person and organizational culture, but in other cases, there are serious interpersonal problems such as bullying or harassment.
Are You a Workaholic… or is Your Job Just Too Demanding? Workaholics have a very strong need for work which has become so excessive that it has a negative impact on their health and well-being, relationships, and social functioning. And there’s a significant link between workaholism and burnout.
Leaving a Toxic Job “I started to burn out. Between the toxic upper management and the angry, depressed people around me. That job derailed me – my career and my mental health have never been the same.” Most people don’t know how to resign from their position without a huge financial loss, or permanent dent in their resume, not to mention the emotional challenge. Take a look at the dos and don’ts for leaving a toxic job.
Summer Burnout – What is it and How Can it Affect Your Job? Over the years I’ve seen a common trend where many professionals experience some form of burnout during the summer, either feeling distracted, unmotivated or overwhelmed. For many hard-working professionals and entrepreneurs with heavy workloads and responsibilities, the stress never really ends.
As an Organizational Psychologist, I follow research and trends related to Psychology. Since the pandemic started, Psychologists have been predicting a tsunami of mental health problems. Now, many anticipate that the mental health fallout from the pandemic will take longer to resolve than the economic fallout. I hope they are wrong, but in the meantime, we should err on the side of caution and prioritize our wellness and mental health.
Check back for my next blog which will cover the Signs of Burnout.
Do you need to discuss a career, HR, or training-related matter? Reach out today for a free and confidential initial consultation by phone, email, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services Inc. – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™