New Year’s resolution: avoid burnout in 2014

BURNOUT – that unpleasant sense of frustration and disengagement that just keeps getting worse is an experience all too familiar to plenty of competent accountants.

In the short term, many accountants attempt to battle through it; perhaps, by taking on bigger and better projects hoping to put them back on track and re-energise them about their careers and impress the partners.

But, many may already be suffering from what the world-famous Mayo Clinic calls a “state of emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work”. If you are, you are not alone.

It’s a worldwide problem – Germany’s Labour Minister, Ursula von der Leyen estimates burnout costs her country’s businesses eight to ten billion Euros in lost output every year. While Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the 2012 World Economic Forum, has talked of: “a global burnout epidemic.”

As we start the new year accountants should be aware of the ten steps to get rid of burnout risks and prevent any future concerns.

1. Be aware of the early signs. Low energy levels, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, feeling overwhelmed by simple tasks, or doubting the value of what you do are all indicators. Don’t ignore them, as burnout can damage your long-term physical and mental health – ulcers, high blood pressure and panic attacks are just the tip of the iceberg.

2. Acknowledge that burnout isn’t a sign of personal weakness. In fact, it’s often the most talented and well-motivated who are at greatest risk because of trying to meet unrealistic expectations set by themselves or others.

3. Analyse how burnout is affecting you. Keep a diary of how you feel. When are things at their worst? What thoughts come into your head? And what are the triggers for these? Notice any patterns. While this may be a somewhat painful process, treating your burnout problem as an academic exercise can give the objectivity you need to cope better with what’s happening.

4. Have work-free times and hobbies. Keep weekends work-free and give yourself ‘treats’ – going for a walk, reading a good book or taking in a film – for example, are all simple but excellent pick-me-ups that can make you feel better about yourself and the world.

5. Practice being positive. When you’re burnt out, negative thoughts can easily fill your head so you see the worst in every situation. However, by deliberately looking for positive alternatives, it’s possible, with practice, to become more emotionally resilient.

6. Seek out the support you need. If you’re experiencing physical or emotional symptoms that worry you, go and see your doctor for reassurance or treatment. Sometimes self-help alone isn’t enough.

7. Get physically fitter and healthier. If you’re run-down, you’re more susceptible to colds and infections, and feeling poorly will just add to the misery. So make sure you eat well and take exercise, which is itself a terrific way to enhance your mood.

8. Focus on the future by setting new goals and challenges outside of what you’re doing now. Making major changes is one of the best ways of moving forward. It’s like shrugging off your past life and starting again, something we all should do from time to time.

9. Find an entirely new direction. The recent downturn may have left you thinking you had no choice but to hang on to your current job, but improving economic news means that more and more opportunities will arise to start again with another firm, or even begin a new career.

10. Now all that’s left is to promise yourself you’ll take action – not the usual New Year’s resolution, made more in hope than expectation, but one that you will actually carry through, making you happier and healthier as you leave burnout behind.

Maite Barón, is CEO of London Consultancy The Corporate Escape.

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