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Managing Burnout and Stress

Managing Burnout and Stress

Often stress and burnout are words that we use to describe our current life and we can even associate or blame our work for these conditions. That certainly might be true because work demands are more likely to exceed what is actually possible, for example a client demanding the impossible at very short notice, a new product being launched, or your colleague is on leave and you’re covering for them. It honestly isn’t difficult in this day and age to feel overwhelmed, anxious and out of control in balancing life’s demands. We know it isn’t good for us because our health suffers, our emotions are all over the show, our productivity is not great and not to mention our relationships take strain. We are all fully aware of what the costs of stress and burnout are, but we cross our fingers and hope that one day it will all work out somehow. But it doesn’t and it won’t until you decide to take control of your life!

We need to say “STOP, that is enough”. We need to draw the boundaries, learn to say NO and to manage our life. If we don’t others will manage it for us and that’s precisely why we end up being burnt out. It is easier said than done and you may think that I don’t understand, but trust me I do and I had to learn the very hard way. There comes a point where either your body resigns and forces you to your knees, or a cherished relationship ends. I know we all think we are immortal and that we will be spared!

So, what is the way forward? Well, firstly you have to decide what to scale down on, pass onto others or start to re-negotiate deadlines. You know best and will know what takes away from your time and drains you. Gently begin to change that. Reduce your work demands by say 10% which might equate to two hours, but hey it’s two hours more to do things that you value and that are good for you.

Secondly, learn to say NO and understand that NO is not towards a particular person but rather the given task. It could be “NO, not now but next week” or “NO, this work is better done by Moses, because he is naturally good at it”. No, means you need to question if this is actually your job and responsibility. We often don’t question, we just accept like law-abiding citizens

Thirdly, think about the role model you are setting for you colleagues, peers, friends and children. Are you demonstrating that life and especially work life is difficult, draining and exhausting? How motivating is that and how can you effectively lead and inspire others if you can’t lead yourself?

Trust me I know how difficult this journey is, but if you put your mind to it, get focused and start by taking baby steps, you will lead a healthier, more abundant and happier life!

The Optimism / Pessimism Tug of War

The Optimism / Pessimism Tug of War

The analogy “the glass is half empty or half full” is commonly used to differentiate between an optimist and a pessimist. However, there is much more to this concept than ones mindset or point of view.

We begin by understanding the difference between these two thinking patterns as well as what causes them. We are not born either optimistic or pessimistic but learn a certain thinking pattern through our environment. By the age of eight children have learned their explanatory thinking style which is the style they use to understand the world and people. The mother, as the primary caregiver, has a large influence on the child in the way she absorbs and relates to the world rubs off on the child. Later, school teachers influence the child’s thinking pattern. A child subconsciously absorbs a thinking pattern and if this pattern is not verified in adulthood for its value and benefits then the acquired style might stay with them for life.

We are getting ahead of ourselves! Let’s first clarify the different thinking styles.

Defining characteristics of a pessimist are that they believe bad events will last a very long time, even up to an entire life time. Everything they attempt or try to do is futile. This results in pessimists giving up quicker or perhaps not even bothering to try. Science has proven that lasting pessimism leads to depression and anxiety.

In contrast, optimists are confronted with equal life adversity and misfortune. They however view these as temporary setbacks. Optimists have an abundance of perseverance which results in them being prone to greater success, performance, aging and health.

The important point is that both styles are habits relating to how we think and view the world. Habits can be changed and so can our thinking pattern. A pessimist can learn to be more optimistic by learning to dispute their negative thinking pattern.

That all being said, pessimists have one fundamental advantage over optimists. They are absolute realists in all life situations, which means that they can interpret and assess a positive as well as a negative situation with equal accuracy. Optimists overestimate their level of control over life events, especially in situations where they are helpless and have no control at all. Their view of failure and success is slightly lopsided as failure is regarded as temporary, passing and caused by external factors. Comparatively, success is seen as permanent and self-created. A pessimist sees success and failure caused by the exact same factors.

Looking at both thinking styles we can see that there is a time and a place for both. Now let’s put this concept into the workplace. Certain work responsibilities require us to be extremely realistic about risk and safety. Careers have been identified which require a certain primary thinking style. Careers in which a pessimist will thrive in are engineering, technical and cost estimators, contract negotiators, financial controllers and accountants, statisticians, technical writers or business administrators. These are all careers that require caution, risk assessment and specific technical skills.

Optimists enjoy initiative, persistence and dreaming of a brighter future. Careers in which optimists excel in are sales positions, brokering, public relations, presenting, teaching, training, acting, creative jobs, and highly competitive and high-burnout jobs.

It makes one wonder if ones employees are in the right job based on their habitual thinking style? Also, it might explain why certain people might be succeeding when others fail in the same job role. By way of an example, a sales person has to be high on optimism because that gives them the edge to succeed. The question is: do we ever test this in our recruitment process?