Date posted: 8/10/2019 3 min read

What is burnout and are you feeling it?

For many CAs, the feeling of burnout can be all pervasive. With World Mental Health Day upon us, now is the time to start a conversation about what it is and how to prevent it.

According to Professor of Organisational Psychology at Deakin University, Michael Leiter, 5-7% of the workforce suffers from burnout and the rate seems to be increasing.

Burnout is a syndrome that combines chronic exhaustion and cynical disconnection to your work. The feeling that you used to enjoy it but now you can’t get excited about it. There is a lost sense of efficacy or accomplishment, like you have lost confidence that you are doing good work.

Professor Gordon Parker from the Black Dog Institute describes stress as the feeling of being in fight or flight mode. Adrenaline is high, you’re fired up and performing at a high rate. Some stress can enhance, motivate and focus energy in short bursts but burnout is long-term and debilitating.

Burnout is when that fire is no longer present, you’re disengaged and not performing as well as you should be. 

Who is most likely to experience burnout? Perfectionists and workaholics are top of the list. For personality styles like this, dealing with burnout is not straightforward and it can be more difficult to tackle the issue. A person who tends towards perfectionism is often constant striving to do more and more and more, becoming a victim of their own need to be perfect at everything they do.

Many accountants are high-performance people who at the same time tend to suffer imposter syndrome meaning they may secretly and erroneously fear they will be discovered to be a fraud. This is the exact reason that many people would not complain or say they are feeling burned out. They wouldn’t seek help from others, often preferring to wear busy-ness as a badge of pride.

Finding ways to get back in touch with what makes your life meaningful will help people handle stress and burnout. Some simple self-care tips include: prioritising sleep, watching alcohol and caffeine intake, getting regular exercise and turning off phone and email notifications when you leave the office.

Don't let burnout put out your spark

Accountants are compelled to get things right, but pursuit of the perfect can leave conscientious CAs vulnerable to burnout.

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