It is normal to feel disengaged from work, every so often. Just like any chosen path, there will always be humps on the road that challenges one’s ability to adapt to change. Such situations, when properly channeled can lead to growth and development.
However, if the “disengagement” leads to emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and work inefficiency then you could be suffering from burnout.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as a syndrome from unmanaged chronic workplace stress. Characterized by feelings of depletion or exhaustion this can lead to cynicism and feeling mentally distant from one’s job. WHO emphasized that burnout is a phenomenon within the occupational context and must not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Common signs of burnout include losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable and feeling unmotivated at work. Some literally dread Mondays because of the stress and heavy pressure.
In a recent webicon organized by Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC), entitled “Beat IT: Different Self-Care Strategies to Combat Burnout” the audience listened to the insights of Clinical Psychologist Ma. Araceli Balajadia-Alcala. With over 20 years of experience, Alcala tackled the physical, behavioral, and emotional barriers that lead to burnout.
Skipping work or habitual tardiness is a behavioral sign of burnout. This is crucial because it can result in inefficiency and reduced productivity. Increased smoking or frequent drinking session among workmates is another indication because these “soothing patterns” can easily combat stress and pressure.
There are also personality factors that are predisposed to burnout according to Ms. Alcala. “For example, having a pessimistic view of yourself and the world, or having a high need for control and perfectionism,” can translate to excessive pressure that brings about mental and emotional exhaustion.
Citing the fermata in a music piece as an example, an effective way to prevent burnout is to observe a productive pause. “We need to pause to be aware of what we are thinking or experiencing at the moment.” She added that the “pause” is not simply an immediate solution., It should be strategically placed and must be an integral part of the work experience.
Workplace stress must be addressed because the overwhelming feeling can trigger a fight or flight response, a psychological reaction to a threatening situation, where the person can either resist or run away. “Our minds are revved up, even if nothing is going on. Pausing allows you to increase your focus. It helps slow down and increase your awareness to help you make more healthy choices.”
While at work a productive pause can mean taking a few minutes to calm your mind and senses. She recommends straw breathing exercises, where one inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth slowly, as if one is blowing through a drinking straw. If one is seated taking a few moments to notice something, can help keep emotions in check. “It can be a photo of a loved one, the sound of birds outside the window, or a pleasant smell. As you describe the details in your head, pay attention to how you feel.
A healthy work-life balance can be attained by engaging in activities that enrich the mind and body. Having an exercise regimen, and engaging in pleasurable activities not related to work like gardening or doing volunteer work are meaningful pauses that can calm the emotions.
With the recent focus on mental well-being especially during the pandemic, organizations are taking steps to prevent employee burnout, which is prevalent among workers in the service and healthcare industry.
During the webicon, CSMC’s HR Specialist Mikaela Joie Pascual shared the hospital’s psychosocial support programs help prevent or manage burnout “For us to create a safe and comfortable environment for our employees, we needed to build a culture where everyone was accountable for their own health and safety.”
The hospital has a program called Ohana, a Hawaiian word that refers to extended family. For CSMC family means “nobody gets left behind.” With their employees at the frontline of the global pandemic, along with the hectic day-to-day operations are several programs on mental health and fun activities that prioritize self-care. CSMC also has a lounge and a healing garden where employees can relax and enjoy some quiet time in between work.
To ease the ill effects of workplace frenzy, Alcala emphasized the importance of setting clear boundaries to focus on self-care.
“What has worked for me in the pandemic is to setting a moment at the end of the day to quiet down, pray and meditate. I also tried to keep Sundays free. This means creating that structure in your daily life that will help you have a greater sense of control. For some, it could be having more time with loved ones, having a good night’s sleep, or having a rich spiritual life.”