Updated: Jun 13
One of the things that fascinate me about burnout is how quickly we renegotiate our personal boundaries with ourselves. We reward and guilt ourselves for the “greater good” until we’re broken. We live in the space of “I can’t” because of our commitments to work.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as:
Burn-out among safety professionals is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
● feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
● increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
● reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
“Workplace stress that has not been managed successfully”
See if any of these sound familiar.
“I can’t make it to dinner, the game, the gym, grocery store. I have to work late because of: an incident, concrete pour, meeting with the client, third party inspection, pre-qual to review, pre-qual to complete, safe work package to send out, I’m just waiting to crossover with so and so. Pick one; they’re all viable options. And while burn-out refers specifically to the management of the workplace, the reality is burnout affects all aspects of your life.
WARNING EFFECTS OF BURNOUT INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:
Loss of sleep, loss of appetite, loss of interest in personal relationships, erectile dysfunction, muscle atrophy, extreme weight gain or loss, thoughts of hopelessness, resentment of others, increased smoking, increased alcohol consumption, thoughts of loneliness, thoughts of suicide, and extreme agitation.
● On an annual basis, burnout costs $125 to $190 billion dollars in healthcare claims.
● Burnout leads to disengaged employees costing companies 34% of their employees’ annual salary.
My Personal Experience As a Safety Professional
Just like watching a bad accident, I can look back and see myself burning out in slow motion, and just like an actual accident; I am still dealing with the physical and mental fallout. The struggle is real.
What I Noticed:
● Mental Erosion: I became increasingly more emotional, and defensive about knowing my limits and staying within them when it came to how much of myself I gave. Before long, I wasn’t proud of the material I had produced; just angry and bitter, I had once again put the project's needs before mine.
● Interest Erosion: I am not sure if it was a loss of interest or just a lack of time that sucked the joy out of cooking for me. I found myself uninspired to cook, and if I did, I wasn’t inspired to eat it.
● Physical Erosion: I stopped showing up for the gym; my exercises produced more pain and discomfort, negating any good I was doing for my mental health.
As the last of my coping skills eroded, I drew the proverbial line in the sand and chose my last day.
The mind is a beautiful thing. Burnout, as I was to learn, was much bigger than I ever expected.
I did what many of us do. I took some time off to get myself “right.” First, I needed to get some rest. But I couldn’t rest because my body hurt. I had difficulty finding my way back to the gym consistently because the exercises weren’t helping with the pain, even the modifying. It was like I was getting weaker, and my body was getting heavier.
By the time my last day had come, I had been working on average 12 - 13 hours a day, 6 - 7 days a week for two years straight.
I realize now my journey through burnout had cost me my entire self-care, everything.
I am happy to report I am on the upside, but it wasn’t anything I could fix overnight. There were a lot of things I had to deal with regarding the state I had gotten to. The worst thing you can ever hear a health and safety advisor say is, “I don’t care.” That’s heart-wrenching for me to type, let alone know I had heard those words come out of my mouth a few times. I needed to understand how I got to that point and prevent it from happening again.
I found my way back into the kitchen, and I was able to find new exciting techniques which allowed me to create some phenomenal dishes and desserts.
Physically it has been a bit of a go. Along the way, I stopped caring how I sat at my desk ergonomically, throwing my posture out of alignment. I have had to reconstruct myself with a routine focusing on foundation.
The most straightforward answer when it comes to avoiding workplace burnout is to not put yourself in that situation, but the truth is when we put our responsibility caps on, there are several reasons we make the decisions we do. Family, for most of us, is the driving force behind those decisions and the life we want to provide for them.
So what are one’s options:
If there is an open-door policy, but you’re too nervous to test the waters, you can reach out to your local Employment and Labour Standards Associations for advice.
We at Humanology Partners offer help to individuals learn skills to navigate their stress and worry.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide line at 833 456 4566.
As mental health architect, Leslee Montgomery leads construction company’s through the uncomfortableness of mental health by creating supportive strategies leading to lower turnover and increased profits.