Anju Jain’s new book, ‘Burnout’, offers workable suggestions to recover from workplace stress
A few years ago, Anju Jain experienced severe health challenges but couldn’t get a diagnosis — all her reports and vitals were fine. “I was working full-time at an MNC, writing my first book, managing a start-up… ‘You need to slow down’ was the doctor’s prescription,” she recalls. So she did, putting her start-up on the back-burner and altering her lifestyle.
These experiences, coupled with stories shared by friends and acquaintances, prompted this senior psychologist and business leader to write her new book, Burnout. Peppered with anecdotes of people who worked through their tough times and of others who gave up the rat race, it is written in a conversational style. Some of the recommendations, like the ones under Physical Energy, might sound basic — eat right, sleep well, work out — but are “backed up with cutting-edge research that further validates these claims”.
Millennials are more prone to burnout than older generations, according to her. “They are looking for a meaningful challenge,” she says, explaining that while they invest a lot of passion and energy on projects that they feel strongly about, they also take on a lot of stress in the pursuit of purposeful careers. However, it is not too late to “arm themselves with pertinent coping mechanisms or to acknowledge the fact that they need to focus on a few critical priorities”. The fact that this generation is more open about their mental health is a positive trend. “They seek more support, especially when stressed.”
Here, Jain addresses questions on handling burnout, no matter which phase of your career you are in.
How can employees adapt, especially if there is no managerial or institutional support?
You used the word adapt — this is a strong word. Depending on the circumstances, we have to adapt to survive and thrive. First, be grateful you have a job. Second, find something to like about it and remind yourself of it every time you feel unhappy. Third, involve yourself in hobbies, sports or community work. You will realise there is more to life than just worrying about your job.
When you say, “Out of habit, we spend more time working than enjoying personal or quiet time,” is this more prevalent in India when compared to the western world?
I would say the westerners at least know how to enjoy. They take time off on holidays and weekends. Indians and South East Asians, on the other hand, would be crunching on those days, too. The most effective solution is to give yourself the permission to take time off.
How can organisations create an atmosphere where their staff can have open conversations on burnout?
Burnout requires an upstream fix — altering the environment that triggers it in the first place. Reinforce a safe culture where people feel comfortable enough to talk about it. Train managers and leaders on burnout, the impact it can have on the employee and the organisation, how to spot one, and what to do about it.
How did you device the sample daily routine? Again, so simple, but practically, many could struggle to follow such a schedule so rigorously.
The sample daily routine is logical, backed by research, and practised by many leaders I interviewed — the ones who either stayed away from burnout or who redesigned their life after they experienced one. It is all about your emotions and mental will. If you feel the pain of burnout, you would want to do everything in your control to make a change.
Burnout by Anju Jain (Penguin Portfolio) is available in bookstores and online at ₹239
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