If anyone thought we were over this pandemic, well, the secondary effects of it – such as burnout – are very much still around. UNLEASH spoke to author, speaker, consultant and transformation expert Dr. Geraint Evans about his new book, ‘Do One Thing‘, and how to manage the ongoing issues of stress, detachment and cycnicism that many people are still experiencing.
Tell us about your book and tell us about the warning signs of burnout, because it’s something that’s obviously very much still on people’s minds. And it’s still happening a great deal.
Yeah, definitely. Over the course of many years, I became more and more aware of different signs of stress in my own life, and as I was putting the book together, I started to research the whole personal development and self-care space as well. One thing that luckily has become really prevalent is people are [openly] talking about burnout now.
So even having an opportunity to talk to someone about what burnout is and about how stress affects us is a relatively new phenomenon. Even until quite recently, there’d be very few articles about this topic that were easily accessible, so a lot of the book came from becoming more aware of my own self-care and then looking to see what I can do to help people as well in this area.
Some of the common things that people say around things to look out for are a growing or constant feeling of exhaustion or feeling that your energy is depleted. This is often one of the first signs.
Obviously, we all have difficult stressful lives trying to balance different things and that’s been made harder in many ways by the pandemic, but this sense of generally feeling depleted on an ongoing basis is definitely a warning sign to look out for.
Another one warning sign that gets covered a lot which I think is really quite interesting is a feeling of detachment, or cynicism towards what you’re doing in your job, or in part of your life. That is connected to a third bit around burnout, which is a sense of ineffectiveness – a feeling of a lack of accomplishment in your role, feeling that you’re not quite getting out of it, what you put in.
Those three things are often cited as ones that come up quite a lot. Connected to that are all the things you expect like a lack of energy, an inability to concentrate…
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If you do unfortunately experience burnout, what things can you do to get back on track before you get into a downward spiral, as can often happen?
Burnout can be extremely challenging for a lot of people. One thing that I do talk about a lot is trying to seek help, and speaking to somebody about it, if you feel able to.
Finding someone to talk to someone that you trust to do that, whether that’s a friend or a family member, or a colleague or professional help, encouraging people to talk about how they’re feeling and to start to acknowledge it if they’re starting to feel some of the symptoms or feel a high degree of stress for a long period of time [is important].
There’s also elements of self-care that we all know we should do a little bit more of; making sure that we get enough sleep, making sure that we try and eat as well as we can, exercising too, and those things can be very beneficial for us generally.
The other thing is the work-life balance piece again. It’s a bit of a cliche, but I think it’s really connected to this topic too – having the ability to not just be at work all the time.
That’s been kind of hard during the pandemic, where the lines blurred between home life and work life, but I think the more people could focus on developing interests outside of work, or something that they’ve always wanted to pursue something that fulfills them, the better.
For some people it’s meditation, for some it’s breathing exercises, playing guitar, whatever it might be, but I think designing and embracing those positive elements outside of your work life can definitely be beneficial.
One thing we know is that people are statistically working longer because it’s harder to switch off. So aside from burnout, what kind of other work-life crossover dangers do we need to look out for in 2022?
We all struggle with switching off, right? I think we sort of fall into this a little bit over the years, where you roll out of bed, and the first thing you do is check your emails and your messages. Avoiding that kind of practice, as a starting point, is beneficial to not blurring the lines.
While a lot of us are lucky to have a space to work in, other people during this pandemic might be working off their kitchen table or in various other environments in a house, and I know how hard that can be. So, getting some form of separation between the work environment and the home environment is really useful.
Also, I don’t use the word ‘curfew’, but I think that being strict with yourself about your start time and end time for work helps. When you haven’t got a natural break that you had before of commuting in or out from a job, that forced you to get the train or drive-in before the traffic was bad, now it’s just starting work at an earlier point and finishing at a later point.
One thing we don’t often do is reflect on our own practices, and we just tend to roll into each day, and sometimes into the weekends as well. This was becoming more and more common during the lockdown – a lack of boundaries. So, I encourage anyone reading this to try to become aware of their own practices, to try to spot those pattern, to notice if you’re locked in a pattern of working long and unproductive hours.
Ask yourself: are you getting the best out of that working day?
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