Burnout? Don't blame your employer
This essay was published on Finews.com (or see below):
Is your workplace the source of enormous stress and tension? Health coach Patricia Ordody recounts how she went from surrendering to circumstance to taking back control of her health, in an essay for finews.com.
How we treat ourselves is how life treats us back. The World Health Organization defines burn-out as a «syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.» The WHO adds that burnout only occurs in an occupational setting.
Yet today, more than ever, our personal and professional lives are intertwined. Not only digitally, but also socioeconomically, emotionally, and of course financially. Is the employer really the only culprit when employees suffer.
I came close to burning out various times during my banking career. I blamed myself for being weak – and my boss for being extremely demanding. My life would be better if only work were less grueling, I kept telling myself. Both methods are completely useless for handling difficult situations. The only outcome for blame and guilt is to propel us into victimhood and paralysis – we succumb to our circumstances.
In my case, I was definitely given too much work – because I was very efficient and available, regardless of how tired, stressed, or overwhelmed I was. Admitting that I couldn’t handle it wasn’t an option: «no pain, no gain,» and «just do it.»
Seeing my blackberry blinking in red, which it always did, disrupted every hour of my life. Did I disconnect? I wouldn’t even consider it.
I didn’t take time to eat healthily. Sandwiches, yogurts, crackers, cookies, a quick salad, maybe a piece of fruit, usually at my desk. Quite a bit of caffeine and a lot of sugar piled stress onto my body.
Instead of taking lunch, I raced to the gym to work out, answering emails and messages on two phones while on the cross-trainer.
Instead of going home and resting, I was socializing at events, drinking my one or two glasses of wine at the same speed I did everything. Who had time to do anything with pleasure?
Rather than bedtime at a decent hour, with my adrenaline and cortisol levels still raging, I went back to my Blackberry or wound down with mindless TV.
There are two sides to every coin, and the other one to my corporate reality was: I was excessively invested in my job, while completely ignoring or mishandling my life. My version of success was primarily defined by work. It became my escape from life so work became the problem. It made me feel needed and in control because I could check things off my list: Presentation done, inbox empty, calls returned.
Addressing the Real Issues
This was easier than addressing the real issues like eating habits, relationships, home life, mindset, and sleep. It felt impossible, complex, and seemingly unnecessary.
Where can you start to determine why you feel exhausted, negative, or cynical towards your job and/or unproductive in the workplace?
Most important and toughest: Be honest with yourself. Stop asking «who» and start digging deeper: Why are you resentful or discouraged at work? Is it keeping you from doing something you would rather be doing? No longer in line with your personal goals and values? If the environment or your boss is the problem, why isn’t everyone around you burning out as well? What could you do differently with respect to self-care and self-prioritization?
Look at Maslow's hierarchy: Which area in your life are you unsatisfied with or running away from, and why? Are you taking responsibility for your needs?
Start with a small change: one more hour of sleep, at least one healthy meal per day in a relaxed environment, a 30-minute walk several times a week, blocking your agenda for breaks, going away for the weekend, turning off your phone at 9 p.m. – just to name a few.
Get support from a coach or therapist as soon as you notice signs of frustrations
Last but not least, should your working environment be toxic, address the problem with HR, and take action to seek a change.
Burnouts are real and they are serious. Make no mistake: there are inept bosses, questionable working environments or cultures, and massive demands in the corporate world. Though what I didn’t understand at the time is, we glide ourselves into burnouts when we defer responsibility for our personal choices to others.
Safe Working Environment
Our employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment. However, it is not their duty to make sure we put healthy food in our mouths, sleep restfully at night, take fresh air, and maintain optimistic, fruitful relationships – these are deeply personal choices.
Employers can’t be blamed if we choose not to prioritize the essentials. Positive change can only happen when we are accountable for our decisions and actions. Our health is our wealth and without it, everything else loses meaning.
Health is Wealth – your foundation for success.
Don’t leave your future in the hands of anyone else.