Burnout: How to Protect Yourself?

12manage is looking for contributors...

Work Presenteeism > Forum Log in

Burnout: How to Protect Yourself?
Anneke Zwart, Moderator
An increasing number of business leaders, managers and workers are showing signs of burnouts (~ being emotionally exhausted and cynical due to work stress, both chronic and acute).

So burnouts are caused by work stress. In turn, this stress at work can be caused by:
  • The increasing uncertainties and speed of change in the world around us and in our organizations.
  • People are overworking quite a bit ('work presenteeism') and the line between home and work seems to disappear further and further.
  • Conflicts with colleagues and other personal factors add up to stress levels and lead people to perceive their work as a burden, rather than as a fun and rewarding activity.
Based on a study from Wiens (2016), a part of the answer to this question can be found in practicing one of the categories of emotional intelligence: "EMPATHY" (~ aiming to be compassionate towards other people by understanding their needs, wants and opinions; expressing them and acting according to them).

Most interestingly, the above research shows that compassion does not only benefit others, but also yourself. How does that work? The act of expressing empathy creates certain physiological reactions that make us relax and calm and enhance our long-term sustainability. It also triggers the parasympathetic part of our nervous system (responsible for unconscious processes like digestion, salivation defecation, etc.). Expressing empathy also has a reverse effect on the stress levels caused by our sympathetic nervous system (stimulates psychological reactions on attacks or harmful events).

McKee en Wiens (2017) recommend to engage in empathy towards yourself (self-compassion) and towards others to protect yourself against a burnout:
  • SELF-COMPASSION: Take care of your body, mind, loved ones and make sure you get enough sleep. Be kind and forgiving to yourself.
  • GIVE EMPATHY: Nurture friendships with colleagues you like. Appreciate people. Coach people. Put people at the center.
⇒ Can you think of more ways to practice self-compassion and empathy toward others?

McKee, A. and K. Wiens (2017. “Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit” HBR May 2017
Wiens, K.J. (2016. “ Leading through Burnout: The Influence of Emotional Intelligence on the Ability of Executive Level Physician Leaders to Cope with Occupational Stress and Burnout” University of Pennsylvania

Empathy Diminishes Stress. Try it!
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
Thanks Anneke for sharing this article review.
For me this was a bit of a revelation. You see, since a couple of years I work as a care volunteer in a hospice (~ a place offering a specialized type of compassionate care for those facing a life-limiting illness or injury). This role involves giving a lot of empathy to the patients and their family. Since then, feelings of stress I used to have diminished, and I feel emotionally strong and in balance. Isn't it a miracle of creation/evolution that by helping others you are rewarded with emotional wellbeing of yourself? I never anticipated that, let alone did I understood the reasons behind it…
This article gave me some good insights and serves as a reminder for me to apply more compassion and empathy in my daily work and personal life too.

By the way, also have a look at active listening, which I found to be a useful technique for the first 2 elements of giving empathy (understanding, expressing).

Being Empathetic is Good for Yourself
Philippe Barteau, Member
I learned from this article that being compassionate to other people decreases your own stress level. Merci beaucoup!

Accept your Situation But Try to Improve It
Jorge Rodriguez Fonseca, Member
1. In life we have to face bad moments and situations that cause stress. So, first we have to understand that much more people are facing such moments.
For example, if we can't buy great toys for our children, we can think that there are a lot of people that can't even give food to their children. This liberates our stress in that situation. We need to evaluate the relative importance of the situation, because otherwise we might "drown in a glass of water". If we find that the situation is not so important after all, this helps us to liberate the stress.
2. To face the situation probably already lowers the stress. For example, if your boss request you to work hard for a month, and you already feel fatigued, it's better that you tell your boss what is happening with you and how it affects your results. At least, talking give you an opportunity to express yourself. This liberates your stress too.
3. Self-Compassion is good too. For example taking time to do whatever you like to do is a good way to avoid distress.

BURNOUT: How to Protect Yourself
Graham Williams, Member
Have a look at the contents of my soon-to-be-released book: Building Your BounceBackAbility. The book is about the factors contributing to personal resilience to adversity, change and burnout. And empathy and other factors mentioned in this discussion are included.

Burnout: How to Protect Yourself as a Leader!
Greg Johnson, Member
Interesting discussion. The 2 prescriptions sound manageable, but (as being a manager/leader) there are a couple of steps and commitments we should consider as well:
1. PROACTIVE VERSUS REACTIVE - Many of us as leaders and managers have become reactionary in our daily duties. We have psychologically laced ourselves in the position of Leader of the Reactionary Squad in the executive suite. We are NOT leaders of such kind nor should we allow ourselves to think like this. Managing the big picture anticipates and plans for diversions. Managing the big picture also is constantly building a team of focused specialist to address issues of planning and anticipation.
2. WHO AM I AS A LEADER - Making the investment to learn one's management of leadership style is important. Through this assessment, which should include a 360 addendum, you find your style at the moment and you can build to adjust your style accordingly.

Empathy Requires Sensitivity which in Turn Develops the Capability to Withstand Stress
srinivas, Member
I think that to walk the shoes of someone else SENSITIVITY is required so as to understand the other person's point of view and to develop the capability to adapt and withstand stress.
This requires first to know about the conditioning (the past ideas associated with the person) and current situation at a physical and intellectual level, negative emotions, joy derived out of the inner being, conscious, and subconscious being and the energy in the being (the energy which guides and enables to perform action, the energy which engages the being to better quality of experience and the energy which enables the person to have a complete focus). Then the mentioned capability can grow in order to develop a solution which is necessary to adapt to the current situation which is again dependent on the time and place.
I think it is possible to be aware and be sensitive by having the right guidance by way of association with the wisdom and making it available to the context.

Very Interesting
Monchal, Member
Thank you very much for this very interesting post. I was aware of the fact that self compassion and paying attention to our body and emotions is an important shield against stress and burn out. I was aware too of the fact that this self compassion makes us stronger and as a result makes us more able to help others and being empathic to others (in French we say "bienveillant" not sure to find the good translation)…
But I wasn't conscious of the fact that being empathic itself makes us stronger against stress…
This is really interesting and I am surely going to provide this very good news to a maximum of my relationships… :-).

Interesting ~ Burnout How to Protect Yourself
Katie Pawley MBA, Member
I never considered the word empathy in relation to burnout. The suggestion for looking after self and others makes sense.

Masked Burnouts in Toxic Enterprises
Salvador Castro, PhD, Member
Erika Villavicencio Ayun PhD, explains about "workaholics" and their relation with enterprises. She says a workaholic has "an addiction that is rewarded" and discovers in a survey "25 to 30 percent of 3000 workers said that they are workaholics".
But, if we try some bad thought about Google's innovator job paradigm, we can see that the house environment has been inserted into the job environment, so workers don´t need go home because now home is into the job! Great, high productivity and eficiency for business.
So is this a masked burnout?
See: video interview with Erika Villavicencio Ayun (Spanish).

Give a Hug to Yourself
kadi, Member
In this fast running world, we forget ourselves. Often when I think about it, I realize how unfriendly I was toward my self, as if I was allied to this stressful environment against my self. It may sound weird but I "hug my self" sort of consolation, believe me I feel better then :).

They Say This About 'Hate' as Well
Ivan Kohlinsky, Member
Yes - They always say that if some ill has been done then if the person on the receiving end continues to 'hate', then it harms them more than the culprit.
So - yes having empathy (including for oneself) and creating calm must de-stress BUT again, nature & nurture comes into it 'big time'. Some people are just resilient and 'cope ers' or have learnt coping mechanisms while growing up, studying under pressure, disappointments etc.

Transform Burnouts Into Positive Blowouts
D P BABU, Member
There is a difference between a burnout and a blowout. The former is the result of accumulated stress relinquished of by oneself which is channelized by a sort of prejudice on others.
Instead, a burnout can be channelized through positive energy blowout (eruption, outburst) towards others by giving them a chance to prove themselves.

Plan-B Readiness also Helps against Burnout
Naser M. Elmusrati, Member
Thank you all for this important discussion.
I think if we have a ready Plan-B in our pocket, we will feel more safe against burn-out and we will be able to level and balance any fatigue we may face. It is similar to an auto-pilot for our unconsciousness that gives us a sense of "safety".
Also, fragility and tendency to burn-out differs from one personality to another.
Take a look at the book "Who Moved my Cheese" and consider the differences between "Panic" and "Choke". Thanks again.

How To Protect Yourself Against Burnout?
ann musembi, Member
Thanks for this discussion.
Self-compassion is really important against stress.
I have learned that you should be compassionate in order to lower stress levels. Thanks so much.


  Do you wish to study further? You can learn more from the summary, forum, discussions, lessons, courses, training, instructions, expert tips, best practices and education sources. Register.  

Special Interest Group Leader

You here

More on Work Presenteeism
Best Practices

Expert Tips


About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us / Cite us | Privacy | Suggestions | Terms of Service
© 2018 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.1 - Last updated: 21-7-2018. All names ™ of their owners.