Today, we live in an environment characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (the so-called “VUCA environment”). According to a study carried out by CinfaSalud on stress in Spain in 2017, nine out of ten Spaniards (96,0%) have felt stress in the last year and four out of ten (42,1%) have done so frequent or continuous, a percentage that is equivalent to almost 12 and a half million Spaniards (12.413.000). These data are alarming and we cannot ignore them. When a worker is constantly under stress and does not have the resources to effectively manage their situation, emotional exhaustion appears that worsens their performance, health, relationships with colleagues and personal well-being. When the employee does not use effective stress coping strategies, when he does not have social support, when he does not find an intrinsic motivation or a meaning to his work, he has a low self-concept or perceives the situation as something uncontrollable and in which you can't do anything (external locus of control), chances are high that you will end up with Burn Out Worker Syndrome.
What steps can we take to prevent and combat burnout?
- Incorporate the habit of personal supervision. With the whirlwind of life, sometimes we work on “automatic pilot”: the days go by almost without us noticing, without being aware of how we are, where we are going. We have to learn to make frequent reviews, that is, to stop in that maelstrom, and to dedicate some time to ourselves and to evaluate: how am I right now? Is this how I want to be? How is my work and personal life? Is there something that is not working? Is there something that is?
- Spend time taking care of ourselves on three levels: physical, mental and social. Those are the THREE pillars of health and that should be our priority.
On a physical level, we need to rest and sleep a minimum of 7-8h, eat healthy and do physical exercise regularly (even taking walks). Most of us know what healthy habits we have to incorporate, but many times we do not find the motivation to do so. We have to find the engine that moves us little by little, make changes in our physical health.
On a mental level, we have to invest our energies in what we can change, what is in our room for maneuver. There is a prayer used by Alcoholics Anonymous groups that says, "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference." There are things that we cannot change, but many others that we can, and we have to know how to distinguish what they are. Spend time practicing mindfulness (attention in the present moment; not in the uncertain future or in the past that has already happened and we cannot change), to modify limiting thoughts about our situation or ourselves, or to develop our capacity for gratitude These are some of the tools that will help us “bounce back” and emerge stronger from the complex situations that we encounter in life (the long-awaited capacity for resilience).
Finally, on a social level, we must rely on colleagues, family and friends. Sharing our problems, accepting the help and support of people who love us and listen to us, builds resilience. This is essential.
Sometimes, even putting the aforementioned into practice, we continue to be exhausted and burned at work or personally. It is then time to ask for help from a health professional, a psychologist.
Maria Jose Ortega