Job stress is piling up. The last thing you need is to feel burned out. There’s too much at stake.
You believe in your work, your company needs you, but you’re finding yourself increasingly short-tempered. You’re not sleeping well. You’re starting to make mistakes.
Burnout expert Davida Ginter has made it her life mission to prevent burnout. She helps change-makers and leaders spot the signs of burnout before it’s too late. Through her work at Enkindle Global, she teaches organizations to integrate wellbeing into their DNA.
In this week’s YBTV interview, you’ll learn why burnout isn’t something to be ashamed of or ignored. Burnout won’t resolve itself once work slows down or you take some time off. The best way to address burnout is to cultivate wellbeing, both on a personal and organizational level.
What You’ll Learn
We don’t have to suffer in order to reduce world suffering.”
Saving the world is a tough job. Whether it’s addressing climate change, income inequality, or reproductive rights, social change is slow and hard won. For each step forward, it can feel as if you’re slipping two steps back.
Davida Ginter was talking with a friend and colleague about the stress and burnout they were seeing in their fellow leaders and change-makers. It was as if these people were forgetting “to sustain themselves while they work towards sustainability.”
She thought she might write an article about it. But as she researched, she discovered that the issue of burnout was much bigger than she’d thought. “Burnout is cross-cultural, cross-sectoral. It’s all over the world,” she says.
As she interviewed leaders and change-makers across the world on their experiences with burnout and how they overcame it, she realized she had much more than an article. She had a book.
Burning Out Won’t Get You There: Cultivating Wellbeing to Successfully Lead Social Change came out in September. In it, Davida shares the lessons she learned about not just recovering from burnout, but creating systems that actively prevent it.
Who Gets Burned Out?
We often think that you can’t get burned out if you love what you do. Surely people who don’t like their jobs are at the greatest risk of burnout.
But that’s not true, according to Davida. Burnout can strike anyone, especially people who love and give everything to their work.
When you are passionate about your job and committed to a cause, you tend to identify with it. You care deeply about making an impact.
“But when you identify with what you do, you sometimes forget to separate yourself from your mission,” says Davida.
You work longer hours. You take on too much responsibility. You forget to put boundaries between your work and your personal life.
“But it’s more than that,” Davida says. “It’s the question of how society puts a value on work that is aimed at creating social impact.”
She notes that people who work towards social change often don’t get paid for all the hours they put in. “This is not charity; this is work,” Davida says. “But when we don’t get paid for that, we are financially unsustainable. This is another burden, another pressure to add to the system.”
Creating social change often bucks up against resistance. “When we are, for example, fighting climate change, we are basically telling people or organizations to change their behavior. Have you ever tried to tell someone to change their behavior? They push back.”
It can be frustrating, not to mention exhausting. Especially when you don’t see any real change, despite all the work you’ve done.
Are You Burned Out or Just Tired?
Doing stressful work doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get burned out.
“Stress is not necessarily a bad thing,” Davida says. “It’s actually proven that stress can drive us forward [and] create adrenaline to pursue a goal.”
It’s when we don’t manage stress well that it ends up piling up. Eventually, we hit a wall.
Signs of burnout include exhaustion and negativity. You’re “not just tired, but exhausted all the time. You have problems getting up in the morning, and you stay up late up at night, because you can’t fall asleep. Your mind is occupied all the time. Also, you feel disengaged at work. You feel cynical or negative about what you do.”
She adds that one of the strongest signs of burnout is no longer recognizing yourself. You overreact. You snap at people. You don’t like who you’ve become.
So how do you fix the problem?
Tips to Overcome Burnout
You might think that the solution is taking some time off. Go on vacation. Clear your mind.
But burnout won’t resolve itself with a week off work.
“It’s more about finding a really healthy routine both for life and work,” Davida says, “and finding the right practices that suit you to integrate more wellbeing.”
“There’s no one solution to prevent burnout,” she explains. One person might need more mindfulness and stillness, while another person might need to go out with friends and listen to loud music. Meditation works for some, but not all.
It’s up to you to explore what practices make you feel better. Knowing what you know about yourself, how can you ensure that you thrive both on the job and at home?
But burnout isn’t always something that you can fix on your own. It’s often a systemic issue within organizations.
In her work with Enkindle Global, Davida supports people and organizations in preventing burnout. They hold workshops, events and seminars to raise awareness and create organizational change. “We don’t come with solutions,” she says. Instead, “we hold that container for people to engage in the topic of burnout and well-being.”
The Power of a Conversation
The best way to deal with burnout is to start a conversation about it.
When you share what you’re going through with others, you no longer feel alone. “You can actually turn this challenge into an opportunity to grow by talking about it,” Davida says.
She urges people to find “connections [with] people you trust, people who make you the best version of yourself, [who can] support you in overcoming stress and burnout.”
Enkindle Global facilitates “capacity circles” where people can be open about what they’re going through and seek advice from other members.
But Davida recognizes that not everyone will respond positively to a discussion about burnout in the workplace.
If your management is old-fashioned or conservative, they may not understand “that sharing what you’re experiencing is courageous—it’s vulnerability, it’s leadership—as opposed to bottling up your fears or your failures.”
She believes it’s worth taking the risk to have the conversation anyway.
Powerful leadership is not about being mistakes-proof. When you are courageous and authentic about what you’re going through, you not only feel relief; you’re setting an example to all the people you are leading that it’s okay to talk about your challenges and your setbacks.”
Learn more by getting your copy of Davida’s book: Burning Out Won’t Get You There: Cultivating Wellbeing to Successfully Lead Social Change.
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:19 How Davida came to write a book on preventing burnout
4:36 Why passionate, committed people are often most at risk for burnout
7:57 The frustratingly slow pace of change
8:57 Burnout solutions
11:50 The problem isn’t stress but how we manage it
12:30 The signs of burnout
15:37 The value of being open about burnout
18:17 Enkindle Global
21:58 You’re not alone
Davida is the founder of Be the Change and co-founder and CEO of Enkindle Global, which supports changemakers and organizations in preventing burnout and cultivating wellbeing. She is a participatory leadership facilitator and non-violent communication trainer, and the author of Burning Out Won’t Get You There.