BURNOUT, referred to as “the plague of our times” by psychologists, is a term heard with increasing frequency. This is hardly surprising, given that the stress-filled lives we are living at warp speed in the 21st Century is causing people from all walks of life to experience burnout as never before. John Nesbitt says in his book, Megatrends, “Technology and human potential are the two great challenges and adventures facing humankind today. The great lesson we must learn from the principle of high tech/high touch is a modern version of the ancient Greek ideal — balance…we must learn to balance the material wonders of technology with the spiritual demands of nature.” At the very heart of our well-being is the need for a healthy integration and balance between the four basic dimensions of life — spiritual, mental, physical and social.
There are different ways to help visualize the concept of balance. For me, the old scale of justice helps: the base being our spiritual dimension, the pivot being our mental capacity, one arm being our physical condition and the other being our social lives. Burnout caused by job stress is a global problem. Read this excerpt from a Japanese newspaper. “Waitresses in Sweden, postal workers in America, bus drivers in Europe and assembly line workers everywhere are all showing increasing signs of job stress.” – Mainichi Daily News. A specially-commissioned poll by the Gallop organization shows that 89% of Americans are concerned about “managing their time and energy among the various demands and priorities of life,” and that 56% are greatly or very greatly concerned. According to the same poll, the higher a person’s income level is, the more concerned he or she is about balance. Worry over balance peaks among people 30 to 45 years old — people who may be raising a family, climbing the corporate ladder and building a business at the same time. In a Time/CNN poll of five hundred adults, 69% said they would like to “slow down and live a more relaxed life,” compared with only nineteen percent who said they would like to “live a more exciting, faster-paced life.” Furthermore, 61% agreed that “earning a living today requires so much effort that it’s hard to enjoy life.” One study concluded that the effects of stress are costing about $150 billion a year in the United States. The Canadian Mental Health Association says that depressed workers in Canada cost their employers more than $300 million a year in long-term disability claims. This potentially fatal illness afflicts an estimated 670,000 workers, the association says.
Symptoms of burnout in the workplace include:
♦ Inability to concentrate and make decisions
♦ Decreased productivity
♦ An unusual increase in errors and a decline in dependability
♦ Irritability and in some cases hostility
♦ Alcohol or drug abuse
Sources indicate that one out of four workers today is suffering from stress symptoms in one way or another, be it depression, chronic fatigue, chest pains or headaches. It is also believed that, in the very near future, job-related stress will soon be the number one source of worker’s compensation claims. What is burnout? – For me it was a state of spiritual, mental and physical exhaustion that left me without hope, without energy, without any sign of relief. Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, who may have coined the term, says that “burnout is a depletion of energy and a feeling of being overwhelmed by other people’s problems.” Being in business for myself, I became overwhelmed with my own problems. Molehills became mountains to me. Stepping stones now looked like stumbling blocks.
Psychologist Samuel H. Klarreich, in his book The Stress Solution: A Rational Approach to Increasing Corporate and Personal Effectiveness writes, “Burnout is the depletion of your resources, both physical and psychological, caused by a compulsive desire to achieve, due to exaggerated expectations which you feel must be fulfilled and which are typically, but not always, job related. Once these are not fulfilled, there is an overwhelming tendency towards cynicism, pessimism and negativity.”
Is burnout caused by overwork? Ann McGee- Cooper, a brain researcher, says that burnout is “the result of living out of balance, typically in an all-work/no play spiral.” I am personally convinced that if balance is our number-one priority, it is impossible to burnout from overwork. We all have the same built-in limiting factor called, “The 24-hour Day.”