Dealing with stress.

Or: Captain I think it’s gonna blow!

Over the years I have seen a lot of folks leave this industry for one reason or another. Some leave because they wanted a career change. Some were forced because they couldn’t find work in the field. Some simply got fed up. In the last 5 years or so I have seen many people leaving because of stress and the burnout syndrome. This is a relatively new medical diagnosis that became established around 1980 and has been seen as a modern illness.

A quick definition from this site: the burnout syndrome is,

“a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficiency”. Exhaustion is the feeling of not being able to offer any more of oneself at an emotional level; cynicism is contemplated as a distant attitude towards work, the people being served by it and among colleagues; ineffectiveness is the feeling of not performing tasks adequately and of being incompetent at work.”

I am sure that many of you reading this will be able to draw a correlation to where your head is at right now but if you read a little further down the page you will find this:

a life event is not what produces stress; rather, it is caused by the appraisal the affected person makes of it.

And then:

A person will be psychologically vulnerable to a determined situation if he or she does not possess sufficient coping resources to handle it adequately, and if at the same time, he or she places considerable importance on the threat implicit in the consequences of this inadequate handling . From this perspective, burnout syndrome may be seen as a progressively-developed process resulting from the use of the relatively ineffective coping strategies with which professionals try to protect themselves from work-related stress


Burnout syndrome may be seen as the continuous perception that efforts made to carry out tasks are not effective, because expected gratitude, recognition or success at work are not being achieved

The research goes on to suggest three types of burnout, “Frenetic”, “under challenged” and “worn out”.

The Frenetic type works increasingly harder and then will try and find satisfaction that it feels is equal to the emotional investment made.

The Under challenged feels stuck in a boring job that has little reward and is frustrated from lack of given motivation.

The worn out type gives up after being faced with too much stress or too little satisfaction from the job.

There is much more detail in the link and it is worth a full read. Of course when anyone starts to read about medical symptoms you tend to notice you have all of them… No matter what the illness you are reading!

How does one find the coping mechanisms to avoid burn out? For me I always try and remember a few things.

1. No lives will be lost in the creation of this cartoon. Try and keep some perspective of what we are achieving. Yes deadlines can become heavy and hard or impossible to achieve but if you think you are going to fail then let it be known. Scream it out that you need help. The world does not rest on your shoulders.

2. What we do may be stressful but it’s not hard work. Hard work is digging a ditch or hanging drywall or pouring concrete. As far as the stress goes: again, remember that we are not sitting there in front of a radar screen making sure two planes avoid a collision. Perspective is everything.

3. You are responsible for your own decisions. Everything that you have done in your life has led you to exactly where you are standing/sitting/lying right now. If you don’t like where you are then do something about it. If you expect the world to do you any favors then I suggest you take the blue pill.

I am not trying to belittle those that have become burned out. I have too many friends that this has happened to. It has almost happen to me on too many occasions. It would be nice, if those that feel they may be heading down this road, to pay attention to the signs and deal with it before it is too late.

As Oscar Wilde once said, ” The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on, it is never of any use to oneself.”

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