Stress: Stress and Burn Out
Stress and Burnout:
Coping with burnout at work. All about burnout and stress

Coping with burnout. Stress at work. The incidence of stress and burnout are usually high for human service professionals.

Burnout, what is it?

Burnout and stress: « Stress » describes negative feelings resulting from work that may include anger, frustration, tension and/or depression that threaten a professional's sense of well-being. « Burnout » refers to negative consequences associated with chronic job stress. It involves affective components such as exhaustion, depersonalization, a reduced sense of personal accomplishment (Huebner, Gilligan & Cobb, 2002). Survey data suggests that some jobs are considered a « high stress » profession. Consequences of stress and burnout are damaging for professionals, companies and the education field in general.

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Main Sources of Stress and Burnout

Sources of burnout for workers

  • Working with people who lack motivation;
  • Maintaining discipline;
  • Time pressures and workload;
  • Coping with change;
  • Being evaluated by others;
  • Dealings with colleagues;
  • Self-esteem and status;
  • Administration and management;
  • Role conflict and ambiguity;
  • Poor working conditions.

Best Strategies to Reduce Burnout at Work

Coping strategies for burnout

Psychologist dichotomizes coping strategies into direct action and palliative techniques. Direct action refers to strategies workers can do to eliminate sources of stress. For instance, if time pressures and deadlines are creating stress, a direct action to reduce the problem would be to seek a time extension, or to seek a change in deadline. Palliative techniques do not deal with the source of stress itself, but focus on reducing the feelings of stress from those sources. Some strategies may be physical in nature, such as relaxation training aimed at reducing feelings of tension and anxiety.

Others may be mental and involve the worker modifying how they appraise stressful situations.
  • Try to keep problems in perspective;
  • Avoid confrontations;
  • Try to relax after work;
  • Take action to deal with problems;
  • Keeping feelings under control;
  • Devote more time to particular tasks;
  • Discuss problems and express feelings to others;
  • Have a healthy home life;
  • Plan ahead and prioritize;
  • Recognize one’s own limitations.
These strategies consist of both direct action and palliative techniques. Direct action may appear the best strategy for reducing job stress. However, sometimes these strategies may not be possible to implement. In that case, helpful, palliative techniques are critical.

Cognitive Restructuring Techniques

How to Remove Burnout

Techniques borrowed from cognitive therapy may be one type of palliative technique that can help workers reduce job-related stress. Psychologists demonstrate that much of what workers who work with difficult employees do to reduce their own feelings of stress revolve around how they think of stressful situations at work. Moreover, workers who leave a profession after working difficult employee show certain characteristics. For instance, they may blame employees or colleagues for perceived failure to cope with difficulties in job, or appear to be overwhelmed by their employees’ personal problems.

Example: How a Worker has to Cope with Burnout

In order to reduce negative emotions associated with stress (like frustration) it can be helpful for workers to change how they think about stress-inducing situations. One way to do so is to construct different ways to conceptualize these situations in a way that refutes, or is incompatible with current thoughts. It is possible to know if these new thoughts are truly incompatible with the old ones if they start to decrease feelings of stress and frustration.

List of common thought distortions that may be refuted

Often thoughts that lead to problems are distorted in some way. Below is a list of common thought distortions that may be refuted in this process:
Arbitrary inferenceDrawing conclusions without sufficient evidence, or when evidence is contradictory
OvergeneralizationDrawing a conclusion based on just one incidence
Selective abstractionAttending to a detail while ignoring the entire context of a situation.
PersonalizationWrongly attributing the cause of an event to yourself rather than to something else beyond your direct control.
Dichotomous thinkingThinking in all-or-none, black or white, fashion
Magnification or minimizationVery something as far more important (or less important) than it really is.

Conclusion: How to Fight Burnout

Remember that this technique takes practice and consistent use for it be begin to be effective. It may be beneficial to begin using it after the job day when it is possible to take a few minutes to reflect on the day’s events. With practice, it will be helpful to begin using these techniques during stressful situations, not just after they have subsided. 

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