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It will never happen to you…until it does!

Making self-care your superpower

Thankfully, there is now a palpable movement around the need to appreciate both our own and others’ mental health, and for our workplaces to recognise their role in promoting our wellness. Companies large and small are truly starting to invest in the wellness of their employees – on a much deeper level than providing fruit on a Friday!

Last year saw a surge in the demand for workshops on resilience, with more and more coaches training to become Mental Health First Aiders and ‘wellness’ consultancies springing up everywhere.

Mental Health as a cause of absence

But mental health, stress management, anxiety, burnout in the context of the workplace, are not new phenomena. For many they were first widely discussed in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 – broken ‘city boys’, stumbling away from the big smoke to set up a more eco-friendly, sustainable existence in the Scottish Highlands.

The worrying thought is that the situation seems to be getting worse. The CIPD and Simply Health’s 2019 Health and Well-Being at Work survey of HR and Learning and Development professionals found that, across UK organisations, stress was the second most commonly cited reason for short-term workplace absence. And although in its March 2020 survey at the start of the pandemic, the CIPD found that stress appeared to have fallen from the top three causes of long-term absence, mental ill health was found to be the most common cause of long-term absence.

Understanding burnout

The term ‘Burnout’ isn’t always taken seriously and I’m afraid it’s still sometimes associated with those high-rollers who’d made their millions and were exhausted as a result of too many late nights and too much drug taking! But for those who understand burnout, have witnessed burnout in others, or have experienced burnout themselves, it is anything but fluffy.

Simply put, burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterised by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job) and feelings of reduced professional ability.

Symptoms include

  • Alienation from work-related activities. Individuals experiencing burnout view their jobs as increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may grow cynical about their working conditions and the people they work with. They may also emotionally distance themselves and begin to feel numb about their work.
  • Physical symptoms. Chronic stress may lead to physical symptoms, like headaches and stomach aches.
  • Emotional exhaustion. Burnout causes people to feel drained, unable to cope, and tired. They often lack the energy to get their work done.
  • Reduced performance. Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work or in the home when someone’s main job involves caring for family members. Individuals with burnout feel negative about tasks. They have difficulty concentrating and often lack creativity.

We all have a responsibility

We all have a responsibility here. Stop and have a good think about those around you – it’s highly likely that someone in your network is suffering from burnout or at least heading down that path.

Thankfully there are people and practices that can help and it’s important for those suffering to proactively take up support, self-care practices and build their mental resilience. And for those who recognise the illness in others, to support them to do so.

Does this resonate?

Caroline is one of our coaches. Until recently Caroline was a hugely successful and well-regarded global executive, who led teams across multiple time zones. She loved her job, made a real difference, was trusted, and relied upon by her employer. Caroline worked long hours, she coped ‘one day at a time’, learnt to block out the real and severe physical pain. She convinced herself she could keep going: ‘I just need to get a good night’s sleep and I’ll feel better’. It’s an all too familiar story.

But in 2019 Caroline suffered from severe burnout. It took her 12 months to recuperate and resulted in a complete transformation of her life.  Now a coach, Caroline uses her own personal experience of both corporate life and burnout to help individuals proactively avoid, or recover from, burnout as well as helping organisations and leaders recognise the symptoms and understand what their role is in creating an environment where burnout doesn’t happen.

If you are committed as an organisation to providing wellbeing support to your employees, then please do give us a call and we’ll be delighted to chat to you about how we might be able to help. We’d like our clients to benefit from Caroline’s story, whether that’s by way of a webinar, a lunch and learn session, a workshop or coaching.


Selina Van Laere

Selina is MD of Aziz Corporate. She builds relationships and provides impartial advice to HR and L&D professionals.


Burnout – prevention is better than cure

Driving honesty and safety in teams

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 40 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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