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One of the biggest issues many Managers face is burnout from overload and overwork. What follows below is five points that I shared with a correspondent on this subject recently.

Dear Maggie,

I took on a manager job in a children’s home. I have been doing it for six months now, but I feel as if it has been six years. I never seem to get home on time, and I am totally worn out. Even on the weekends when I am supposed to be on a break I find myself working all the time whether it be on paperwork, policies, care plans or just answering calls to concerned staff members. Can you give me some advice on how to deal with burnout because I feel as if I am at the end of my rope?

Dear Colleague,
Different individuals have varied ways of dealing with stressful situations such as burnout. When you’ve reached that stage in your career where you have become disillusioned with your job and no longer get any satisfaction and fulfillment in everything that you do, it is time to take a break. You are doing the right thing by thinking about it now before you reach the point of no return, and no one can talk you out of whatever decision you have already made. The first step in conquering burnout is to understand what is going on.

Burnout, Stress & Anxiety

Burnout is characterised by a deep-seated sense of disillusionment and exhaustion with a job or career that used to provide so much excitement and motivation. It happens even to highly committed and passionate individuals who encounter problems or get involved in situations where their enthusiasm and passion gradually strip away, and eventually they lose the drive to continue going on.

Stress is anything that causes bodily and mental tension which may lead to anxiety and other illnesses. It can be a situation or thought that can weigh you down or make you feel frustrated and angry. On the other hand, anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension over something that is recognized or unknown.

Stress and anxiety are normal parts of everyday life. Both can motivate a person to be productive and to rise to the challenge of difficult situations. However, too much stress and too much anxiety can be harmful and may cause physical, emotional, and psychological problems like infection, heart diseases, depression and difficulties in relationships at work and home. Stress and anxiety in the workplace can itself lead to burnout.

1. Dealing With Burnout

Different individuals have varied ways of dealing with stressful situations such as burnout. Taking a much needed holiday may address the problem of exhaustion but may not be effective in totally eliminating the sense of disillusionment, stress and anxiety. My advice would be to take a look at your workload, your time, your tasks and get these organised in a manageable way. You may need to learn new techniques to manage your duties, training staff to tune into what you need them to do and how to do it and making boundaries around your time while protecting your private time. Also, you need to talk to someone your trust. Ideally, this should be your supervisor but if not them then you need to learn to open up to someone you can trust. However, don’t make the mistake of turning to someone on your team, which can lead to a load of other problems. Find someone who is either above you or not directly involved in your day to day work.

2. Don’t ignore it

Some people deal with burnout by not dealing with it at all. To accept it and not do anything about it is one of the worst ways to deal with burnout. Indifference will soon result in frustration, anger and bitterness and this will impact your effectiveness in the role. Eventually, you will feel doomed unless you change the situation. You deserve to have a life you enjoy, and you can fix the problems. It will take some effort, but you can achieve it.

3. Be kind to yourself

First of all, you need to give yourself a break. Taking on a Managers role in a busy and challenging Children’s Home is something that is difficult for anyone. Think positively about why you were chosen to do the role, what you hoped to achieve and how to reignite the passion and drive that used to inspire you to do your best. You have given many reasons for burnout in your question, and those are the areas that you need to tackle first. First I would look at breaking things down into manageable bites. Download the planner here and start to plan your work time into ‘must do’ segments. Get the things you need to do every day, done. Once tackled you can look at the rest of the things you need to change.

4. Protect your time

You are taking an active step to eradicating burnout, and this means changing how you value your time. Once you start to do this your team will begin to recognise there are times that you are available and times when you are not. I suggest two periods during the day when you are available. If the situation is not life and death, steer your team toward those times and keep to them. They will soon come to realise you are available, and they will feel secure if they know when they can check in with you. If staff are continually phoning you at home, then this may be a lack of confidence or they don’t feel empowered or qualified to make decisions. Take a look at your workplace culture and how you can change this. Challenge your team to make decisions within the confines of their role, give them guidelines for how on-call should be used and share it out with your leadership team.

5. Listen to yourself

Some people consider recognition of burnout, a trigger to re-evaluate their lifestyles and what they want to achieve. This form of stress management is one of the most positive ways to cope with burnout. It is dealing with the sense of failure by talking with somebody who may have experienced the same situation and help you realise without bias why after all the input you have generously given, and efforts you have exerted have not worked to your advantage. Sometimes, this is all that is needed to relieve stress and anxiety that leads to burnout. Above all, you must not allow yourself to add to your burden with feelings of shame or guilt. Nearly all Managers have had to deal with this at some stage in their career. It is what you choose to do to change it that will make your future success.

6. Get organised

Hopefully, this situation will teach you that hard work is not the only thing that matters, that significant achievements need the support of other people, and most importantly, you are not superhuman. You will have learned to spot and communicate problems early on to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Now take some time away from your desk, make a plan that only you can deliver and make it in your favour above all look for systems that can help you to organise, manage and deliver what you need to in the time that you have. Start with the monthly ‘must do’ planner and see how it goes.

Be good to yourself


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