Job burnout continues to be a major epidemic in this country with each passing day and little end in sight. A global survey of 10,243 workers by Future Forum reported that 42% of U.S. workers say they feel burnt out. According to The World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome 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 the job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to the job
- reduced professional efficacy.
A Deloitte survey found that 77% of employees say they’ve experienced burnout at their current job, 91% say having an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration negatively impacts the quality of their work, and 83% say work burnout affects their personal relationships negatively. An April, 2023 poll by Monster showed that the majority (63%) of workers describe the state of their mental health as poor (38%) or fair (28%) in the workplace, while three in four (75%) don’t think their employer is doing enough to address their mental wellness at work.
Experts have come up with solutions from time management hacks to Bare Minimum Mondays—a form of self-care to help workers ease into the workweek without major deadlines, meetings and sifting through inboxes. But some of the best solutions come from Thrive Global founder and CEO, Arianna Huffington. In 2007, Huffington had a personal bout with burnout, lying on the floor of her home office in a pool of blood. On her way down, her head hit the corner of her desk, cutting her eye and breaking her cheekbone. She had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. She had been working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to build the Huffington Post, expand their coverage and bring in investors. The burnout was a classic wake up call for her to make changes which she did. In 2017, Huffington founded Thrive Global and set out on a mission to end the burnout epidemic once and for all.
I spoke with Huffington by Zoom about ways we can prevent burnout in the first place since it’s difficult to remedy once it sets in. “Now that workplace burnout is more prevalent, there’s a lot more talk about it,” she told me. “What we found at Thrive and in my personal life is to prevent burnout we need to look at five basic daily behaviors and take small daily incremental micro-steps and change them—not in a huge way, but in small steps.”
Huffington shared how five basic daily behaviors have the potential to break the stress cycle and prevent burnout. These actions are easy and quick, and you can accomplish some of them during the workflow of your day: sleep, food, movement, stress management and connection.
- “Sleep. This is foundational to manage our stress and to build our immunity.
- Food. There’s universal science showing that if you limit processed foods and sugar, your health and cognitive performance will improve.
- Movement. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym. You can take a walking meeting, move and stretch in between Zoom meetings or find a simple way to bring movement into your life.
- Stress management. Stress is inevitable in life, but cumulative stress is avoidable, and that’s the key because cumulative stress leads to hypertension and burnout.
- Connection. We have all the latest data from the Surgeon General’s report about the loneliness epidemic. Loneliness is affecting our physical and mental health. Making social connections can mitigate both mental and physical illnesses.”
Science shows that it takes 60 to 90 seconds to move us from the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-digest response) and interrupt the stress cycle. “At Thrive we bring in the 60 second interventions into the work flow,” Huffington told me. “We focus on deep breathing, reminding people to think of what they are grateful for, get up and stretch—anything that interrupts the stress cycle. I’ve never heard anybody say they don’t have 60 seconds in the morning when they get out of bed to take some deep breaths or set their intention for the day.”
These five behaviors are very manageable, Huffington concludes, and it’s important to share them with family, friends and our working network so that we can support one another to end the burnout crisis and bring health and well-being to the workplace.
Arianna Huffington will speak on these five strategies at Resiliency 2023 on September 8, 2023. Registration is free: www.resiliencyandhappiness.com.
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