Workaholics Anonymous: Burnout or Passion?

A space for young professionals who experience symptoms of burnout to share and learn from one another.

Quokka News

25 March 2020


Workaholics Anonymous: Burnout or Passion? was created to provide a space for young professionals who experience symptoms of burnout to share and learn from one another. This session explored the experiences that each participant went through in their workplace and also explored potential coping mechanisms which they have tried. With us on that day we had Clarrise from Mentalogue and a trained counselling psychologist, John. 

What is Burnout?
John clarified that burnout only occurs when there is a mismatch between a person and their job and emphasised that external stressors can also be related to feelings of distress which sometimes can be misunderstood as burnout. This could be due to: 

  • A difference of values 
  • Workload being too much 
  • Workload not being engaging enough 
  • Not being recognized for their achievements 
  • Company culture may not be the right fit
  • What were some of the sharings?

There were a mix of members from the corporate, nonprofit, and social entrepreneurship sector participating in the session. All of them experienced different things within their jobs, however everyone shared a similar relationship toward burnout. 

Cause of Burnout – Perceived expectations of oneself and others

  • “I feel inherently guilty from the pressure of not being as passionate as we should be about what we’re doing.” 
  • “The people I work with are great, so I don’t want to let them down” 
  • “The people around us are all so amazing so we have to put in ‘equally’ as much effort as them in order to feel the same level of achievement in our lives.” 
  • “Putting in those long-hours helps us avoid that feeling of disappointing the ‘ideal’ image of ourselves and those around us.” 
  • “It’s normal to be able to juggle between multiple responsibilities and, with all that pressure, still perform excellently in all of them.” 
  • “Why am I so slow?”

These are just some of the sentiments shared during the session.

In this fast-paced, performance-driven society, working long-hours and being able to endure perpetual stress is seen as a mark of strength rather than a cry for help. When entering the workforce, excellence can easily be measured by two things, how well one achieves their KPIs (or in most cases goes above and beyond) and also perceived notion of colleagues’ achievements.

In this fast-paced, performance-driven society, working long-hours and being able to endure perpetual stress is seen as a mark of strength rather than a cry for help. 

In our discussion we saw that almost everyone was worried that they were feeling the pressure to constantly do better than the KPIs that they set for themselves and also felt pressured to be as ‘amazing’ as their colleagues. Some of us shared that even they felt that they were inspired by and respected their colleagues, to the point where they didn’t want to let them down. This translates into more overtime and less rest for the individuals. Being in a high-pressure situation like that day-in and -out can cause people to quickly feel overwhelmed and exhausted, yet this is the self-imposed pressure that we place on ourselves. 

Before we get to the point of burnout, what can we be mindful of so that we can be preventative instead of reactive.

Symptoms of Burnout
Generally, there are 3 symptoms which you can look out for in cases of burnout:

  • Depersonalization
    Occurs when you repeatedly have the feeling that you’re observing yourself from outside of your body or an emotional numbing towards the things that are going on around you or both.
  • Exhaustion 
    Constantly feeling tired or lethargic
  • Lack of efficacy
    The feeling that no matter how much you work that it’ll never be enough

If you start to develop these symptoms then it may be a good time to just take a step back and try to pinpoint if the stressors are all work-related or if there’s something going on outside of work which is adding on to the stress of daily life.

Coping mechanisms
Some of the coping mechanisms shared in the group were: 

  • Journaling
  • In order to help us identify what the root stressors are and if we are really facing burnout, it would be good to list down stressors daily or weekly and compare them with previous journals to see if there is a pattern
  • Hobbies
  • Exploring different hobbies outside of work could help a person find an alternative way to recharge
  • Creating a list of accomplishments 
  • At the end of each day, write down a list of things that you’ve accomplished to acknowledge how much you’ve done

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day everyone wants to be able to go back home from work feeling inspired, energized, and accomplished after a day of passionate engaging work. Having said that, sometimes the pressure that stems from that can hinder us and cause unnecessary added stress to our lives. So, by doing these Workaholic Anonymous sessions, we hope to create a space for people to share about their experience, learn from one another, and by doing so help equip them with tools that they can use in order to get back to feeling recharged and energized before it gets all-consuming.

This article was originally written by and posted on Quokka News

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