Almost a quarter of the Luxembourg workforce is impacted by burnout, a recent survey found. This state of physical and emotional exhaustion caused by long-term work stress can be debilitating and take years to recover. Stress management expert Anne-Claire Delval suggests the following lifestyle changes before it gets to that point.
Ensure you do a simple, regular physical activity to help release stress (walking, pedalling, singing, dancing). Be careful not to treat it too competitively (such as marathons, matches or targets).
Beware of stimulants, such as coffee, alcohol and tobacco, and any chemical substances that maintain a state of alertness which is only artificial and that, in the long run, can only be harmful;
Allow yourself total time to totally disconnect, that means no screens, even if for a short time;
(Re)take time for yourself, for your passions and hobbies—they can be calming. Regularly reading novels frees creativity, because the brain is in an open position to the unknown (Rotman Management School Study, Toronto), which makes it easier to find solutions to situations that seem uncertain or complicated.
Remind yourself of your role so that you are aware you can say “no”;
Learn how to share the workload and escape to recover;
Exchange, discuss, accept criticism and turn it into a source of motivation;
Do not isolate yourself, ask yourself about what you are working for: is the choice wanted or imposed by a situation?
Resolve conflicts directly by discussing difficulties (with superiors, HR managers or partners, depending on the situation): a bad experience or poor conditions for doing one’s job can create tensions which will gradually increase and slow you down. A simple word can often change everything. Remember the difficulties encountered are not necessarily being felt by the hierarchy;
Agree not to complete a project or not achieve objectives.
Congratulate yourself for each step taken, each success achieved, however modest;
Pay attention to warning signs: irritability, insomnia, musculoskeletal pain, repeated viral infections, eating disorders (junk food, appetite for sugar and stimulants), backache, stomachache, persistent headaches, trouble concentrating, intense fatigue, rest that is no longer restorative, desire for isolation and cynicism. Any of these signs (or even a combination of several of them) is part of the burnout spectrum;
Dare to discuss the subject with your professional (hierarchy, peers) and personal circle, your GP or occupational physician; contact an association, professionals (psychologist, sophrologist, coach) as soon as the first signs of exhaustion are felt.
What is burnout?
Herbert Freudenberger was the first person to publish the term in a psychology journal in his 1974 research paper about volunteer staff at a free clinic for drug addicts. He described it as a set of symptoms which includes exhaustion resulting from excessive demands at work, headaches and sleeplessness, quickness to anger and closed thinking. Other interpretations vary but the key component in all is exhaustion.