Not long ago, burnout – the feeling of exhaustion caused by chronic workplace stress – was classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a clinical syndrome. In the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), it was included as an occupational phenomenon, following alarming increases in workplace stress reported in recent years.
Coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, studies have long attempted to explain the condition most commonly likened to anxiety. In the latest revision of the ICD – a handbook designed to guide policymakers and medics in their diagnoses – burnout’s definition changes from its previous: a “state of vital exhaustion”, to an altogether more comprehensive evaluation:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions: 1/ feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2/ increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3/ reduced professional efficacy.”
Indeed, in the UK, the Health and Safety Executive attributes as many as 12.5 million workdays lost to burnout. The causes are manifold, but possible causes as outlined by Mayo Clinic include lack of control, unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, extremes of activity, and work-life imbalance.
Should you be vulnerable to any of the above, here we’ve tailored three mindfulness techniques you can do throughout the working day to safeguard yourself from burning out.
1/ Envision and flow on your morning commute
Firstly, remind yourself of the things that inspire you about your job, and how your contribution matters. It’s important to have an appreciative attitude towards the role you play, no matter what your job title is. Consciously or unconsciously, we all have an impact on the environment we are in – for example, dustbin men and women who keep the city clean provide an extremely valuable service to all of us.
Once you have ignited your motivation, it’s time to make a mental list with three micro-actions you should take on that day to make you feel in control of your time and be intentional with your efforts. Write down what matters most to you and block out a slot later that day to get cracking with them.
This process shouldn’t take more than five minutes and we recommend doing it whilst listening to an uplifting song.
2/ Stabilise your mind and establish boundaries on your breaks
Throughout the day, use the mini breaks you have – be that going to the loo or getting a cup of tea – to be aware of your internal landscape. You can do this in three deep breaths:
Breath 1 Bring your attention to the process of breathing. When you inhale, simply feel the air travelling down your nostrils; your chest expand; your abdomen rise, and when you exhale, release any tension.
Breath 2 Relax your body
Breath 3 Ask yourself “How do I feel now?”
The answer you get will guide your next set of actions. If you are overwhelmed by deadlines, seek support and don’t be scared to say no to further demands – this is the only way you’ll be able to change an imbalanced work dynamic.
If you are upset because by an office bully, move from existential mode (where you are heavily identified by your emotions) to an experiential mode (where you acknowledge that emotions come and go. Instead of saying to yourself: “I am sad,” simply say, “I experience sadness.”
3/ Check out and chill at the end of the day
Don’t be a slave to your phone. Switch it off when you leave work and schedule time to recharge your battery and reset your energy.
Find an activity that feels relaxing for you. This could be anything from playing with your dog to cooking a meal, having a bath, booking a massage or trying restorative yoga – anything that helps you decrease stress levels and bring your mind and body back into harmony.
Form’s range of nootropics could also be useful in relieving some of the stresses associated with burnout such as lack of control or extreme activity. Most pertinent of our range in this instance is ZZZZs, which uses 5-HTP and calming amino acids L-Glycine & L-Theanine to support regenerative, quality sleep.
Our daily cognitive enhancer, Edge is great for reducing feelings of tiredness and lethargy, too, and it also includes Bacopa Monnieri, a South Indian herb traditionally used in Ayurveda known to reduce anxiety. Boost, meanwhile, offers a calming energy lift using caffeine, L-Theanine and CDP-Choline that’ll enable you to perform your best in high-pressure moments.