With the Thriving at Work report just released by the UK Government, Ali Williams is talking about how to recognise and prevent burnout.
Last week an independent review of mental health and employers was released by the UK Government as the Thriving at Work report.
The summary on the UK government website says:
Thriving at Work sets out what employers can do to better support all employees, including those with mental health problems to remain in and thrive through work.
It includes a detailed analysis that explores the significant cost of poor mental health to UK businesses and the economy as a whole. Poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.
The review quantifies how investing in supporting mental health at work is good for business and productivity. The most important recommendation is that all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt 6 ‘mental health core standards’ that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health. It also details how large employers and the public sector can develop these standards further through a set of ‘mental health enhanced standards’. The review also makes a series of recommendations to government and other bodies. (Emphasis my own.)
The 6 'mental health core standards'
So what's that got to do with me?
Well, last week I almost hit burnout. For those who don't know, I don't cope very well with being bored. I'm one of those people who always has a project or two on the go, and I need to keep busy. At the moment I'm one of the editors for the PHS; I'm doing a PhD part-time, which consists of academic research and writing a novel; I'm doing freelance editing work; and I have a full-time job in a university which I love, but keeps me busy.
And for some reason I thought it'd be a good idea not to have a week off between April and October.
And two weeks ago it got to the point where I was beginning to not adult all that well. My washing was still sat in the corner of the room from the beginning of the week; I'd got myself into a bit of a panic over some very basic paperwork for my PhD; and I forgot to do myself dinner one evening - which is unheard of!
Luckily, I have a very supportive partner who sat me down and asked me what was wrong. But here's the shocker.
I hadn't even realised that I wasn't coping.
The moment I stopped and thought about it, all the warning signs that I usually pick up on had gone by unnoticed suddenly flared in my face, and it was almost embarrassing to realise that I'd been working my way towards burnout and I didn't even know!
I've got a great boss, who was more than happy for me to take some overdue annual leave, so I basically had most of last week off, and I took that time to recharge and engage with what fulfils me emotionally. So here're my top tips on how to prevent stress from turning into full blown burnout:
This means different things to different people. For me it means making sure that I take the time to do the things that make me feel better.
Sometimes that means booking in an overdue chiropractor's appointment, to sort out my back pain; sometimes it's getting my hair cut.
And sometimes it's as simple as letting someone put some pretty nail varnish on my nails so that I see something that'll make me smile whilst I'm typing away.
It's scientifically proven that exercise is good for depression; the hormones released during sex or when you eat chocolate - endorphins - are also released when you do exercise.
Now I'm not a gym bunny, but I've taken to going for a brisk walk every day at lunchtime, and I am taking each flight of stairs I face at top speed (which may well kill me as we live on the fourth floor).
I've also looked at my diet and am forgoing junk for a while, instead embracing delicious hearty soups at lunch and healthy dinners in the evenings.
It may sound pretty strange, but I'd kind of stopped laughing so much. I'd been getting quiet and withdrawn, and so focused on the large lists of things I had to do, that I hadn't truly been enjoying myself.
Only Fools and Horses. Pure slapstick genius, and such moments of joy, and you can't help but fall about laughing!
There's nothing quite like a spring clean to help your mind get itself in gear. Reorganising your surroundings makes you feel more in control of the little things in life, and helps make the large things seem less insurmountable.
I've tidied things away, reorganised my wardrobe and got rid of the rubbish that I seem to collate no matter what I do!
I've ordered myself a new desk and office chair. Curling up on the sofa to study, because my old desk was too small and the chair gave me back pain, wasn't exactly dealing with the problem.
This way I've both got something to look forward to, and I feel good because I've found a solution to a problem that wasn't helping my mindset.
Now this isn't a solution that's going to suit everyone (and neither would my alternative - professional wrestling), but having days out, to something you really enjoy, makes a lot of sense.
For me the football works really well. We go, I love joining in with all of the songs and chants, and there's nothing quite like living and dying with the action on a pitch along with thirty thousand other people.
And when stressed, roaring your disapproval at incompetent referees is so cathartic!
And finally, reconnecting.
I had to reconnect with lots of things, and for me this is more about finding the heart of the things you do, and reminding yourself why it is that you do them.
We're not always going to love everything that we do, but when you get stressed and tired and worn out, even the things we love the most can seem onerous or just too much to take. Having the time off to reconnect with what it is you love, as well as the people you love, can be exactly what you need.
Have you ever suffered burnout? What did you do when it threatened, or helped you recover? Let us know on social media. We'd love to hear from you!
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