Have you heard about “karoshi”? In Japan, this term is used for “death from overwork”. Just before 2016 ended, a horrifying story was trending on social media. A 24-year-old employee of an advertising agency committed suicide after 105 overtime hours in one month. She was the third officially acknowledged case of “karoshi” at her company.
What is even more horrifying? This phenomenon has a name in more countries. South Korea knows it as “gwarosa”, China as “gualosi”.
What is the situation in Europe? Can a “burnout”, to use our well-known term, end tragically?
The concept of the word burnout was introduced by Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1980. What are the 12 phases of it and therefore the signals you need to watch for?
1. The compulsion to prove oneself
Do you know someone who constantly and even desperately wants to prove himself? Or is it your case? Be careful that it does not turn into compulsion. We all know this picture trending on social media:
Print it out and put it on your notice board at work.
2. Working harder
Do not think of yourself as irreplaceable. Focusing on work is fine, as long as you do not neglect the “outside world”.
3. Neglecting their needs
Do you feel like after work you do not have time, energy or you are not in the mood for anything else? Make an effort to eat healthy, sleep for a reasonable amount of time and meet family and friends. Sometimes you can’t get a job done because the brain and body are tired. Give it some rest.
4. Displacement of conflicts
Can you admit to yourself that something is wrong? Sadly, usually people do only after the physical problems start. They can vary from being sick often, insomnia and weight loss to stomach problems. Stop thinking that accepting the hard truth or seeking help is a sign of weakness.
5. Revision of values
For some people, their job turns into their new value system. Make time for your friends and hobbies. To quote the famous movie The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
6. Denial of emerging problems
When problems pile up, people tend to get irritated and dislike being social. They may be seen as aggressive and sarcastic. A little sarcasm never killed nobody, but a little party never killed nobody either. Embrace “me” time, but also “the more the merrier” social situations.
People who minimise social contacts and know they have a problem tend to silence it with alcohol or drugs. Rather try talking about it with a friend and having a glass of wine alongside.
8. Obvious behavioural changes
Do you notice changes in the behaviour of a co-worker, family, friend or your partner? Do not be blind to them.
Have things that you once did with passion turned into mechanical actions? Do you feel detached and just like an observer? Change your routine. Make a list of things you want to do. Plan a holiday so you have something to look forward too. Treat yourself.
10. Inner emptiness
Do you try to overcome empty feeling with activities that harm your health? Apply the same solution as in number 7.
Burnout may include depression. Clinical depression is more than just “the blues”, “having a bad day” or “being down”. According to WHO, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide.
12. Burnout syndrome
The final stage. Do not let this happen. And when you start to feel that the work stress, anxiety and deadlines avalanche is running down the hill, repeat to yourself: Burnout is not a sign of weakness. It means you have been strong for far too long.