How to recognise burnout (and what to do about it)

Picture of a burning match

Four steps to reducing stress and potential burnout.

Stress impacts all of us at one time or another. Yet it can still be a taboo to discuss these feelings in the workplace – whether that’s on a mine site or in a corporate office.

Sadly, it is this inability to talk about stress, this growing feeling of isolation, that contributes the most to making it worse.

While stress and mental health challenges can and do affect everyone, the mining industry in Australia has come under particular scrutiny recently, concerning the link between the FIFO lifestyle and stress.

Extensive research has been conducted on the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers. A report from the WA Mental Health Commission produced in 2018 contained, among other data points, a comprehensive analysis of 59 FIFO studies, a survey of more than 3000 FIFO workers, in-depth interviews, and surveys of former FIFO workers. The results overwhelmingly pointed to greater mental health risks for FIFO workers. One-third (33%) reported experiencing “high” or “very high” feelings of anxiety and depression. FIFO workers also scored significantly worse on suicidal risk and intent compared to the benchmark group. You can download the full report here.

RELATED: Poll results: How does the mining industry treat mental health

No more brushing off stress

We’re not doctors and we strongly encourage you to seek professional medical help if you’re feeling stressed out. However, what we can offer are some tips on how to identify the warning signs and how to try to mitigate stress and burnout.  

Work-related stress typically comes as a response to demands and pressures that challenge an employee’s ability to cope. Every work environment will provide these challenges at times and, for the most part, people can adjust and overcome short-term stressors. It is when people begin to feel out of control, or overwhelmed that these demands and pressures are not easing, that it may start to affect a person’s psychological and physical health.

Physiologically the stress response in all of us is designed to be used in short bursts and then switched off. If it is activated for too long, the body has no time to repair, so fatigue and damage kick in. From here, the stress hormones begin to destroy the body.

The warning signs:

  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Frustration, cynicism, negative emotions
  • Cognitive problems
  • Slipping job performance
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Inability to let go of work, even outside of work
  • Decreased satisfaction in and outside of work
  • Health problems

RELATED: Mental health in the mining industry: an expert response

Burnout is a state of resource depletion; you cannot counter it without replenishing what you've been neglecting. Here's where to start:

Get out

Take relaxation seriously. Go for walks; sit in a green park; go hiking. Do something outside of the home or the office that allows you to breathe and unplug from the environments that trigger stress.

Get enough sleep

The average person is scientifically proven to require seven to eight hours of sleep each night; otherwise, you are gradually depleting, even if you think you’re okay with only six hours. Get an app like Sleep Cycle, which tracks and analyses your sleep to help you learn about your sleep requirements. 

Get work perspective

When you’re in the thick of workplace stress, it can be hard to look at it from the outside. It is essential to pull yourself back and analyse your situation. Talk to your manager about how you’re feeling. Then make peace with what you cannot change, or make the decision to move on.

Get life perspective

When work has been all consuming, it is too easy to forget about life outside. But your life outside is a lifeline to health. Focus on your relationships and connect with people who lift you and whom you can talk to constructively and honestly about your life and your stress.

If you’re feeling burned out and it’s time to change mining jobs, register with MPi . Our expert mining recruitment team can find you the right new mining employment opportunity.

Sarah Mitchell
Mining People International