Taking the heat out of burnout
Updated: May 16
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in case you didn’t already know. The World Health Organisation recognises burnout as an important occupational phenomenon which influences our mental health. So let’s dive in and talk about what we can do to take the heat out of burnout.
Burnout is made up of several symptoms that affect work performance and they spill into everyday life. The symptoms range from exhaustion to anxiety, depression or insomnia. It is estimated that up to 10% of the world's population suffers from this problem.
Those kind beings at Headspace have identified 3 subtypes of burnout:
Frenetic Burnout. This burnout subtype is experienced by folks who are so highly committed to their work that they end up overworked and exhausted. In their heads they see themselves as ultra-ambitious go-getters who wear their “I’m busy - I’m happy” lifestyle as a badge of honour, unaware it’s their ball and chain.
Under-challenged Burnout. This cohort feels a strong sense of indifference or apathy regarding work. They clock in, clock out, coasting along. The initial shine of the role has become dull for all kinds of reasons and now they are locked into a daily grind.
Worn-out Burnout. This burnout subtype is probably waiting to be fired or made redundant. They are so disillusioned by their contribution at work and the business they’re in, they disregard the responsibilities of their position. Their get up and go and got up and left. When faced with difficulty, they may simply do everything to avoid dealing with it.
According to Forbes, the marketing industry experiences a burnout rate of 83%. Marketers could be the most prone to burnout syndrome because of the “always on” nature of the job. Marketing is a lively beast to keep up with from new tech to new competitors, it swims at quite the pace. Earned, owned and paid media campaigns 24/7 create an environment where standing still and switching off feels at odds with what you’re trying to achieve with your marketing efforts. In communications, we’re slaves to the news agenda. As much as we plan to react, things change on the spin of a penny and we must be poised to pounce, not relaxing on standby.
So, what are some of the symptoms of burnout? Here’s a few of the common ones you might recognise:
Feeling tired and exhausted
Pessimistic and low
Feeling useless and uncreative
Frustrated with your job
Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
Trouble focusing and concentrating
Reduced performance at work
Low-grade headache everyday
And what can we do to combat burnout? We’ve compiled a top seven of simple strategies that can work over time. They are not exactly Nobel Prize winning psychology, more common sense advice that we probably dish out to others but rarely apply to ourselves:
Your health is more important than work: this has to be prioritised. So it’s back to the basics; get good sleep, eat well and spend time outside of work doing things that take you out of your work head, such as music, art, sports, baking, coding, dog training, building a spaceship. Self care should feel fun and energising, it’s time well spent.
Time management: at the beginning of your day make a list of the things you have to do and prioritise the most important and difficult. Eat that frog, do that most dreaded item first then the day can only get better.
Take breaks and breathe: it may be frowned upon in some work cultures, but the mind will thank you and your body will take note too. Something as simple as taking your eyes off the screen for a 10-minute window gaze, meditate, make a snack, walk around the office or go outside with a cuppa, whatever the weather. Give the Pomodoro technique a try, intense 20 minute bursts of activity with 5 minute breaks.
Talk when you feel overwhelmed: if the work you have been given is too much for you or outside of your skillset, don't be afraid to say. Share ideas about how to break it down and tackle it so it is manageable. Is everything really urgent and important and could someone in the team help out too? Two heads are invariably better than one.
Just say no: sometimes you have to set boundaries. Putting your hand up for every extra piece of work and working even harder isn’t always the smartest route. It’s OK to say no if you don’t have the capacity or feel that certain work streams are a distraction. Fewer bigger better rules.
Celebrate the successes: remember to enjoy work and take the credit when things go well. Take time to reflect. Are you happy in your role at the company? Do you feel heard? Is there space to grow? Can you craft your role to make it more meaningful? If the answer is no, maybe this is the beginning of a new direction, a fresh chapter.
Get a coach or a mentor: someone you can speak openly to and who listens without judgement. There’s a lot to be said about being heard and discovering your own solutions along the way.
If you feel that everything is still getting too much, you can find a mental health specialist in your area. There’s lots of great services out there from industry specific support like Film & TV Charity, to champions like Mind, How Mental and The Samaritans.
If you're looking for a mentor or coach to navigate your next career move with less stress, maybe we can help? It's all here.