PMI Basel Event on 9th May 2019 on "Identifying burnout and how to counteract its effects" presented by speaker Dina Blanco-Ioannou
Author: Pierre Aichinger, PMP
Attracted by the prominent topic, we listened attentively to our speaker Dina Blanco-Ioannou - and received a truly passionate, dynamic and inspiring talk loaded with highly interesting and valuable insight. The interactive presentation was blended with exercises, in which we were invited to experiment and experience at various points.
Dina took us through the subject out of her own intense experience, having used burnout as an opportunity to re-evaluate, re-vision and re-ignite her life through ‘Lessons-in-Self’ her Education for Life programmes, which includes ‘Burnout to Brilliance’.
Dina started by providing information on burnout for context, then shortly outlined key concepts with a new theory of well-being from Positive Psychology which supported and linked to the last part focusing on practical applications: interactively sharing five strategies with tools that Dina implemented and is still using in her life.
Burnout, with various definitions presented, can be seen essentially as a state of exhaustion and can be heard as ‘that voice finally telling us what we are doing or being is no longer serving us – whether this is within our professional or personal life. It’s telling us to stop, to rethink and find a new way forward’. Nearly everyone can be affected, with those likely to be most prone to burnout who are driven to evolve, perform and achieve the most - and might expect and see it coming least.
It happens for a reason, with this reason lying (and hiding) within ourselves, and not seldomly it is about our beliefs, self-esteem and self-worth - with work as a coping strategy, an escape from our self. It does not happen overnight but develops over time, as illustrated by the 12 stages of burnout after H.J. Freudenberg (with the stages not necessarily happening sequentially and to the same extent, depending on the person):
Stage 1 - A compulsion to prove oneself (to others and oneself, doing whatever is needed to be acknowledged).
Stage 2 - Working harder (having high expectations of oneself, taking on more than one can do).
Stage 3 - Neglecting one’s needs (work comes first, own needs come second or are ‘non-existent’).
Stage 4 - Displacement of conflicts (something not right, but not listening to it, ignoring the signs).
Stage 5 - Revision of values (dismissing important things, self-worth determined by work only).
Stage 6 - Denial of emerging problems (viewing others as incapable, becoming intolerant, losing one’s temper easily, becoming quite cynical).
Stage 7 - Withdrawal (reducing social contact, personal relationships becoming a strain; escapism).
Stage 8 - Obvious behavioural changes (others noticing the change in one’s person, no longer being the person one once was).
Stage 9 - Depersonalization (losing contact with oneself, valuing oneself less and less).
Stage 10 - Inner emptiness (seeking other ways of filling the void that one feels, or rather ways to ignore the signs that one needs to stop and listen).
Stage 11 - Depression (becoming overwhelmed; becoming indifferent, hopeless and exhausted, not daring to think about the future; life loses meaning).
Stage 12 - Burnout syndrome (‘Almost all burnout victims now have suicidal thoughts to escape their situation. A few actually carry them out. Ultimately, they suffer total mental and physical collapse. Patients in this phase need immediate medical attention.’).
To counteract and prevent burnout in daily life, Dina presented the following strategies and tools as bringing numerous benefits and positive effects:
- Mindfulness meditation: being aware of the present moment, present, mindful. We tried ‘the three minutes breathing space meditation’ as an exercise.
- Obstacles to well-being: taking full responsibility for our life, making choices. With the visualization technique tried in an exercise, and the use of responsibility stem sentences (for taking small steps to gradually remove the obstacles to well-being) and the focus on the good things in life presented as tools.
- Believing in yourself: with the power pose as a tool, which we tried out in an exercise, whereby you stand up and assume the wonder woman/superman pose (with 60 seconds generally already being effective in increasing confidence and making one feel stronger).
- Acknowledging yourself: with acknowledging our strengths and successes as another tool. We did the pairwise exercise of having one person describe a success and the listening partner note the strengths applied for ensuing feedback.
- Gratitude: capitalizing on the power of acknowledging the good things that happened, which needs to be done consistently to get the positive effects. For instance, every evening when going to bed, focusing on three good things that happened or went well during the day and reflecting on why we are grateful for these.
At the beginning, Dina had highlighted burnout as being an opportunity. In the end, she also said that we do not need to burn out before doing small changes. For projects, it is recommended best practice to consider existing lessons learned. How about our own lives?
Video of the session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYf2cA8cBEk&feature=youtu.be