In the previous post earlier this week, I shared with you that a close friend of mine is currently in a rehabilitation center as she is suffering from burnout. Very little news since she left, as they have strict communication guidelines (especially in the beginning), I guess it is to avoid distraction and to concentrate on the main thing, her health and well being.
If you have not read the first part on what is burnout and how to identify it, I encourage you to read it first before continuing.
Now, I would like to show you four relatively simple ways of how you could help a colleague or friend who you believe is too stressed out these last months.
Top 4 Ways to help your colleague close to a job burnout
Burnout is a very real condition that’s easy to ignore, but we can either detect it ourselves or help someone to see the signs. Not denying the symptoms, identifying potential causes and actually doing something about it then solely depends upon the protagonist. In my view however, there is nothing wrong with some outside support to take action in the short and long term.
1. Help Him to Get Real (Recognize the symptoms)
One of the most difficult steps among the four of them is the first one. It is not easy to recognize the symptoms earlier enough, if you yourself are the person concerned. Imagine someone tries to tell you that you are not behaving as usual, commonly the most of us react with a denial. That is a normal reaction. At the same time, maybe you triggered some food for thought, to get them thinking.
Tell him what you observe. If you get on well with this colleague, you see and exchange with them on a regular basis (maybe it is even a friend of yours), this direct approach is my advice. Sometimes people are so focused, so frustrated, that they just feel stuck and do not simply think about observing themselves and their behavior. Let them know that they have changed, use one of the 10 signs as a reference, if you like.
Ask your colleague to complete a Burnout and Stress Test. This is the indirect approach of helping someone to identify the signs. It might be more helpful to those who do not tend to open themselves up. There are free questionnaires out there to check for possible symptoms. Like this one, it is a free online test with 20 questions as well as short video explanations: Burnout Test.
You can send the link around to several colleagues (including the one your are thinking about) and ask them to complete it in their own interest. The result gives an indication in which direction one is heading and it has short video explanations at the end (This questionnaire is just one out of many out there, the majority of them are based on the widely known Maslach Burnout Inventory which is based on three dimensions, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced productivity).
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi
2. Support to Honestly Assess the Situation (Identify the causes)
In this step, you could be a guiding support, a conversation partner for your colleague or friend. Encourage them to take time to address the situation with questions like:
- “What am I passionate about? Am I doing those things?”
- “Why am I doing what I am doing?”
- “What would I feel if I were to change my situation? Can I allow myself to take a break from my current situation? How long would I need?”
- “What one thing can I change today? What action can I take to alter my position? ” (source)
3. Assist to Create a Plan (Take action)
Once your colleague is understanding the signs and working on the possible causes, a plan will help her/him to see some light at the end of the tunnel and show the way.
Help your colleague to put together a plan on how (s)he is going to deal with the current situation and move on in one way or another.
Such a plan should ideally include the following elements:
Goals to look forward to: That means realistic goals. What will (s)he do concretely until the end of next month? Be patient with expectations, not everything can change by tomorrow.
A healthy balance: Include sportive activities. Identify the times of the week to work less hours to allow time to go to the gym at X pm. Sleep more. Eat slow. Etc.
A decompression technique: What will you do next time someone annoys you? Is there something that can release the tension? More sports, more time with the kids, more meditation? Do you write in a journal?
Time for yourself: Dedicate a regular daily time slot for yourself. Chance to get up earlier and read the paper for 30 minutes?
Maintain personal growth: Look for activities, articles or blogs to read which provide regular motivation, encouragement and inspiration.
A Support system: Who will be contacted when you want to discuss your problems?
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”~Mary Engelbreit, Artist and Illustrator
4. Be There & Encourage Action (Take action)
To be there for your colleague or your friend, that is a great gift in itself. As indicated in the previous step, you might be the person (s)he calls when something happens.
Support during decisions and actions. It is one thing to want to work less hours and it is another story when asking for more flexible working conditions. Maybe you can give advice on how to address the manager? Be encouraging (à la “You never know, if you never ask”).
Give advice. Small things do count. Maybe you help personalizing her/his work environment by putting up photos, a plant etc?
Encourage to do some things against the daily pattern. Stressed out people are often unmotivated to change their daily routine, at the same time they may dislike this repetitive pattern. So, encourage your colleague to do something different, just one thing can make a difference. When was the last time you cycled to work?
More Valuable Readings for the Curious
Here are some valuable resources I could find for the curious people:
- The 12 phases of job burnout explained
- 10 Tips for Avoiding Burnout and Inviting Balance
- European Program for Burnout Intervention with training courses available for Managers and Team Leaders
Now, how do you help someone who is totally stressed out all the time? Have you used one of the suggested steps? Talk in the comments.
If you loved this article, share it on Twitter by clicking here.
Image credit: iStockphoto