Authored by: Dr Karina de Bruin, Managing Director: JvR Academy and Counselling Psychologist
The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings with it technological advances and innovation that are not only changing the world we live in, but also the world we work in.
This new world offers an abundance of opportunities, but its unfamiliarity also creates uncertainty in our lives. Too much uncertainty leads to anxiety, which often escalates into uncontrolled stress, emotional exhaustion, and eventually burnout.
Most people have occasionally experienced feelings of anxiety in their lives. Although it is normal to have feelings of anxiety at particular times, it may become a problem when it is excessive and prevents someone from coping with everyday tasks and enjoying life.
If people are highly stressed, their bodies react by releasing stress hormones into the blood and activate a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.Long-term, accumulated stress often leads to emotional exhaustion, where you find yourself in a state of feeling emotionally overwhelmed, empty, and drained.
Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout. Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson constructed the Maslach Burnout Inventory which explains occupational burnout through three interrelated components, namely emotional exhaustion, feelings of depersonalisation or detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment.
The difference between the signs of stress and burnout is only a matter of degree. Burnout slowly stalks us and announces itself once it is too late.
The earlier one recognises the signs, the better one can manage it to avoid burnout.
Burnout, when left unchecked, can destroy your career, health, and relationships.However, there are ways to find out when you are on the path to burnout.
Ask yourself the following questions and be honest about those you have answered yes;
Employees have a responsibility toward their employers to perform at their best and if they are not able to do so, because of whatever reason, to discuss it with their supervisors. This is not always an easy task.
Many workplaces offer support through employee assistance programmes or provide mental health resources in the community to help employees manage stress factors.
Although burnout is not a permanent state, it takes quite a long time to recover. And if not managed properly, it is possible to go down the same path again.
As a first step, be attuned to your body and your emotions. If you experience some of the signs and symptoms, and if your friends and colleagues tell you that you are showing these symptoms, acknowledge the fact that you may be suffering from burnout, or are on your way there.
Identify the root causes of stress in your life.
Use a stress diary to list all the situations that make you feel stressed, worried, and helpless. For each of these stressors, think about one change that you can make to reduce its impact on your life – and implement those.
Learn to say ‘no’, delegate some of your tasks, and trust that the tasks will be completed successfully.
Create a support system through friends and family, and use it. Social support is one of the most important resources in trying to overcome the harmful impact of stress in our lives.
On a very basic level, make sure that you get enough good sleep, exercise regularly, and eat healthy.
Remember, stress does not have to be negative. If managed effectively, it can be a motivator and contribute to a healthy, successful life.
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