Stress vs. burnout and what can be done about it

“I’m stressed”. It’s a phrase we hear daily. But do we fully appreciate how stress impacts us, and our teams? Most importantly, do we know how to help?

The demands of a career can sometimes feel overwhelming. Especially if, through no fault of your own, expectations feel unrealistic. Left unchecked, stress can take its toll on your health, relationships and state of mind – eventually leading to burnout.

But how do you tell the difference? If constant stress has led you to feel helpless, exhausted, or completely disillusioned, you may be experiencing burnout. When you’re burnt out, problems seem insurmountable. Everything looks bleak, and it’s often challenging to muster the energy to care, let alone do something about your situation. Unhappiness and detachment caused by burnout can threaten jobs, relationships and health.

The good news is that burnout can be overcome. There are many practical things you can do to regain balance and start to feel positive and hopeful again.

Positive steps for everyone

  1. Overwhelmed by your workload? Approach your manager or trusted HR representative to review priorities and deadlines.
  2. Prioritise face-to-face social contact with supportive people.
  3. Make time to disconnect from technology each day.
  4. Move your body frequently – don’t sit for over an hour.
  5. Prioritise laughter and recreational activities.
  6. Reduce your consumption of alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine.
  7. Get plenty of restful sleep so you feel your best.

What to do if a colleagues or team member appears burnt out

  1. Take time to listen in a non-judgemental way. Show that you care and do what you can to resolve the core problems in a way that preserves your colleague’s dignity.
  2. Visit www.headsup.org.au to explore the business cost of not tackling this important area of employee wellbeing and to pick up their tips for businesses. Heads Up will help you establish a work culture that supports balance, emotional health and mental health.
  3. Consider stressors you can remove:
    • a. Workload: Review the staff member’s workload. Is it realistic? Review deadlines and priorities and facilitate the redistribution of work.
    • b. Encourage the taking of leave. Avoid contacting colleagues when they’re away. A genuine break is vital for their emotional wellbeing.
  4. Help your colleague or team member access relevant and free professional services, like those offered by MindSpot. Encourage them to consult their GP.

Where to turn if you’re the one feeling stressed or burnt out

  1. Speak with a trusted colleague.
  2. Contact a helpline:
    • Beyond Blue offers excellent phone and online support. Complete their easy anxiety and depression checklist. beyondblue
    • MindSpot offers a helpline and 100% FREE, Federal Government-funded courses that achieve excellent outcomes for people with anxiety, burnout or depression, mindspot
    • HeadsUp has a great conversation planner to help you plan how to raise your concerns with your manager. headsup
  3. Follow up with your GP, psychologist or social worker.

Know that you’re not alone. At any given time, 1 in 5 Australians in the workplace experience anxiety, stress, burnout or another mental health condition.