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In this article, we’ll explore solving burnout in the workplace, lesser-known indicators of burnout, shedding light on how it can pop up in our everyday lives. Also, we’ll discuss strategies for self-healing and providing support to others experiencing burnout. We’ll delve into the role organisations can play in recognising and addressing burnout within their teams, offering new insights and creating “a-ha” moments to manage and relieve burnout. Burnout has become increasingly prevalent in the workplace and unfortunately, it affects individuals across various facets of life, not only at work but seeps into one’s personal life. While many are familiar with the word “burnout”, there are ways that burnout shows up that go unnoticed.

What We Often Don’t Know About Burnout:  

Oftentimes, we aren’t especially aware of what burnout means, aside from feeling constantly tired. Yet it’s so important to know that the root cause of burnout is linked to stress! Burnout happens when we build up a lot of stress inside us yet don’t have an outlet to release the stress. Stress can seem like a blob of ambiguous grey clouds overshadowing us wherever we go, yet to authentically move through and heal from this, we need to start differentiating between Stress vs. Stressors.

Stressors are anything that activates stress in your body & mind. This can come in the form of external or internal and can be perceived as a threat.

Stress is a shift in your body that happens when you meet a threat, aka the stressor.

Just because we’ve dealt with the stressor doesn’t mean that we’ve dealt with our stress.

For example, you begin hiking in the mountains and realise a big brown bear starts to chase you. So your heart rate rises, and you start running! Then, all of a sudden, the bear decides to pivot, makes a U-turn, and leaves you alone.

You think, phew! Crisis averted. Thank baby Jesus! You then return to your hike, maybe share the incident with your friends as a “can you believe that one time a bear started chasing me in the woods” story, and then move on with your life.

But actually, just cause the stressor is gone (e.g. the bear), doesn’t mean the stress inside your body is gone.

So when we don’t manage the stress, which is also called completing the stress cycle, we end up accumulating all of the stress inside our minds and bodies. We’re only human and can only shoulder so much stress until it starts to manifest as burnout or other chronic illnesses.

The key takeaway is that we have to be aware of the stress lodged inside our bodies and complete the stress cycle in order to authentically heal burnout.

Recognising Hidden Signs Of Burnout:

1. Emotional exhaustion: if you’ve been feeling emotionally exhausted and more easily irked at situations that usually wouldn’t bother you, this could be a key sign. Burnout often manifests as a deep sense of emotional fatigue, which leads to one feeling drained and depleted. Individuals may experience a loss of enthusiasm, heightened irritability, or an overall sense of disconnection.

2. Physical symptoms: burnout can show up through physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, or even chronic illnesses. These ailments may arise due to prolonged stress and an imbalance between work and personal life. They might be reaching for more caffeine than they normally would and healthily should just to complete daily tasks.

3. Cognitive difficulties: you might’ve heard of the term “Brain Fog”, where your brain feels foggy and you don’t feel up to your normal tasks. This can be a sign of burnout, which can impair cognitive functioning, which results in having trouble concentrating, memorising, and making decisions. Individuals may find it challenging to stay focused or feel less productive.

4. Detachment and cynicism: a common sign is a feeling detached and cynical towards work, relationships, and life in general. Individuals may experience a loss of passion, a negative outlook, or a lack of motivation and engagement when doing tasks that used to excite them.

5. Escapist behaviour: in an attempt to cope, individuals may resort to escapist behaviors such as excessive use of and mindlessly scrolling social media, watching TV, gaming, increased use of substances, or engaging in any compulsive activities that numb their emotions. Those experiencing burnout might also have difficulty being present because it feels more tempting to numb or distract the pain.

Strategies For Self-Healing:

1. Recognise and acknowledge: the first step towards healing from burnout is recognising and acknowledging its presence. Take a moment to be honest with yourself (from a place of love, and not from judgment!), and ask yourself: “How am I feeling right now?” This technique can be helpful for emotional regulation. When you feel comfortable you can share how you feel with trusted loved ones, but the most important part is first greeting and truly meeting yourself.

2. Self-care and boundaries: prioritise self-care by engaging in activities that bring you authentic joy and relaxation. While watching Netflix for days might seem like a form of self-care (I know! It’s so tempting), this is a way we deny our feelings through escapism. Establish clear boundaries between work and your personal life, and genuinely give yourself time for rest, hobbies, and meaningful connections that allow you to be as present as possible. A powerful way to establish healthy boundaries is by completing this sentence: “___________ is no longer working for me. I would like ___________”

3. Seek support: reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals who can provide emotional support and guidance. Note that sometimes they might not have all the solutions, but find those who can practice active listening to be there for you. This establishes a sense of connection that allows you to be seen and heard authentically, which is incredibly healing. When you feel ready, consider therapy or counselling as a valuable resource for understanding and addressing burnout.

4. Practice mindfulness and stress management: cultivate mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling to reduce stress and increase self-awareness. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and stress relief, such as yogic breath work, sound healing, moving your body through yoga, pilates,  taking up a non-competitive sport or nature walks.

How To Support Others In Their Healing Journey:

1. Foster open communication: while stigmas and stereotypes are shifting, we still have to show up with an open mind and heart to contribute to a culture of kindness. The key is to create a safe and non-judgmental space for those going through burnout or having a hard time expressing their feelings and concerns. Encourage open dialogue about burnout and mental health. Practice active listening, and taking turns to speak instead of interrupting them and projecting how you might feel. Ensure that others feel genuinely heard and supported. Most importantly, know how much you can extend because as the oxygen mask analogy goes, we have to put on our oxygen masks before helping others! Do what you can but don’t over-exert yourself. The world needs a healthy you, and the gifts you have to share! Know that the kindness that you extend to others and those in need is extended to you.

2. Offer resources and encourage help-seeking: educate others about the signs and symptoms of burnout. Provide information about available resources such as therapy, support groups, or wellness programs, especially the resources from Bright! Kindly encourage individuals to seek professional help when they need it.

What Organisations can do to address burnout:

1. Recognise and address organisational factors: organisations should acknowledge the role they play in contributing to or alleviating burnout. They need to assess and address factors such as heavy workloads, unrealistic deadlines, lack of autonomy, and inadequate resources.

2. Foster a culture of well-being & lead by example: prioritise employee wellbeing by integrating wellbeing initiatives into the organizational culture. Offer wellness programs, mental health resources, and training on stress management and resilience. Because once employees see that organisations prioritise this, they’re more likely to contribute and do their best authentically. We spend 60% of our waking days at work, therefore it’s key for employees to know that this is a place they look forward to being instead of dreading. The best path forward is for leaders within organisations to lead by example and prioritize their own well-being. By demonstrating a healthy work-life balance, open communication, and a commitment to self-care, leaders inspire others to do the same.

3. Promote workload balance and support: ensure that workloads are manageable and realistic. Provide support mechanisms such as mentoring, coaching, and access to professional development opportunities. Promote a healthy work-life integration by encouraging employees to take breaks, vacations, and time off. The more you trust your employees, the more they’ll be willing to contribute and do their best work. Actively discourage a constant availability or online culture and create a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable setting boundaries.

Burnout is a pervasive issue that affects individuals and organisations across various aspects of life. When we familiarise ourselves with the hidden signs of burnout, we can support ourselves and others in their healing journey better and more meaningfully. The key is to prioritise self-care, recognise the importance of boundaries, and seek support when needed. It’s time for organisations to lead by example, and address systemic burnout seriously by fostering a culture of wellbeing, promoting work-life balance, and providing resources and support to their teams.

When we collectively acknowledge and address burnout, we can create a healthier and more supportive environment for individuals to thrive and find balance in their lives. Most importantly, be bright and kind! Remember: healing from burnout is a journey, and with compassion, understanding, and the implementation of effective strategies, we can emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Yinki Wong is a Sound Healing and Meditation Facilitator, Wellness Coach, Director of Wellbeing at Body Banter and a member of the Bright Collective. Yinki blends holistic and mindfulness wellness techniques to help you achieve mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity.

To find out how Bright can help you and your organisation to address burnout through compassion, understanding and implementing effective strategies to strengthen your businesses and people, reach out to us here.