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Stress at Work - Understanding Burnout

My whole life I have heard the word “burnout” used in relation to stress at work. There’s news stories about it all the time. I’ve had many of my friends say they feel burnt out when it comes to their job. I have also had more than one friend go on actual medical leave for this reason.

Personally, I am a highly stressed person, and one would think that I would suffer from this as well, considering my constitution. I’ve been a hard worker my whole life and yet for most of this time, work has been fun, rewarding and exciting. For most of my career, work seemed to fulfill me and Mondays were always my favourite day of the week. So for me, hearing about “burnout” seemed to be something that I wasn’t afflicted with and so I didn’t give it much thought. Until I experienced it.

Apparently, 215 million people suffer from burnout. With our modern day lifestyle and new working arrangements, this number will get worse. Burnout isn’t that you don’t like your job or that you feel overworked. Burnout is when you're exhausted, cynical and seem to not be able to do your job effectively and your performance suffers. It comes when there is too much work, or the wrong kind of work. The latter is what happened to me.

I was hired in my company to grow sales throughout North America in the natural products channel. This is my wheelhouse and it's where my contacts, friends and colleagues live. Helping brands get into retailers across the country was my jam. My most favourite parts of my job were visiting health food stores across North America and creating partnerships to help them help their customers live better lives. It’s a busy, time consuming job, but it filled me up and made me feel purposeful.

However, Covid hit and all of a sudden everything changed. I was spending my days on zoom calls and stuck at home on a computer. Then (like many companies) the company I worked for had financial challenges and had to lay off many people. All of us who remained absorbed others' positions and work tasks. While this created a lot more work stress it wasn’t what actually caused my burnout. It was that soon I was doing everything else from administrative work, marketing, to pricing and very little of the things I loved; like selling and connecting.

At first this new work situation seemed fine. I was just actually thankful to have a job and be needed. However, I started to resent my company and my productivity went down. I started to become critical and negative. My productivity went down and I started to feel depressed. At home, I started to watch more TV at night and stopped going out with friends. I just had no extra energy at the end of the day.

Lucky for me, I have an amazing therapist and an external drive to help myself and others. Here is what I have learned.

Burnout’s direct opposite is engagement. Engagement is actually why most entrepreneurs don’t experience burn out. Which is interesting because being an entrepreneur is stressful.

Likewise, it is noted that people who feel they have a calling also tend to be more resilient to burnout.

There are a few things we can do to help with burnout and increase engagement. First, take care of yourself. Get sleep, eat well, meditate and exercise. Set and manage your work hours and fight perfectionism - you’re never going to get it all done. Learn to be okay with that.

Since your workload and environment might not be able to change too much, learn to identify the best part of your job. Then spend a little more time on these activities. Lastly, do an audit on whether you can feel engaged and purposeful in your current work situation.

Over the next few months I will be writing more in our newsletter on the topic of burnout and stress. We’ll be connecting with experts in this field to help us all cope better with burnout and stress.

Please feel free to share our newsletter with anyone who you think might be interested.

Love, Amber.