“when you stress, you must rest”
In this interview post, I sat down with Dr. Jacinta M. Jiménez (also known as “Dr. J”) an award-winning Psychologist and Board-Certified Leadership Coach with a 15+ year career dedicated to the betterment of leaders. She has worked with individuals in top organizations in Silicon Valley and throughout the world.
1)Difference between stress and burnout?
2)Manifestation of burnout in three components
3)Six mismatches that lead to distress
-Conflict of Values
-Lack of Reward
4)Micro-moments of replenishment
And, now the interview begins:
Nishant: What’s the difference between stress and burnout?
Jacinta: Burnout is conceptualized. It was recognized recently in May 2019 by the world health organization as an occupational syndrome resulting from work product — workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. So I think the difference between burnout and stress is that burnout is this prolonged stress that has not been managed and it’s tied to the context of the workspace specifically.
And, then what’s interesting is burnout manifests itself in these three core components:
1) Exhaustion: where you feel immense emotional, physical, or cognitive fatigue.
2) Cynicism: where you feel low levels of job engagement.
3) InEfficacy: which is a lack of productivity and feelings of incompetence.
When these three elements come together due to chronic stress that has not been successfully managed or mismatched between the nature of a person or the nature of work — that’s where the stress arises from that’s where burnout happens.
So, it’s pretty complex. A lot of people think burnout is just from overworking to the point of exhaustion. But really what research has found — especially the incredible research of Christina Maslach that there are these six mismatches that lead to distress. So overwork, maybe one of the causes of the mismatch, but there are also other causes that can cause someone prolonged stress and if it’s not identified and managed, then it could lead to burnout.
Nishant: Could you describe some of the mismatches?
Jacinta: The obvious one that I talked about is workload — too much work with, too little time and resources, but there are other, not-so-obvious ones:
2)Conflict of values: if your organization or your boss is telling you to do something, or you’re working on a work stream that doesn’t align with your values, that will take a toll on your — what I call in my Book: The Burnout Fix, your personal pulse, your vitality — doing something that doesn’t feel aligned with what you stand for, even if you’re not overworking, that’s going to cause problems or prolonged stress.
3)Fairness: If it feels like the policies and procedures at your work are not fair, let’s say promotion policies or your boss buys into the motherhood penalty, what we call it, where people assume that mothers are less invested in their work because they have children. That can take a toll too and cause stress.
4) Lack of Reward: This can be a financial, social, or intrinsic reward where you’re working really hard and you don’t feel like the reward matches up with the effort that you’re putting in. That will take a toll and will cause stress.
5) Social support: A big one that people don’t associate with prolonged stress. at the workplace is social support. We spend so much of our waking lives at work and if we don’t feel like we belong or we’re included, or if we’re in a toxic work environment or we don’t have anyone to confide in — that can create chronic stress or that mismatch.
6) Control: If you are micromanaged or you have little control, that will create what we call learned helplessness — where it’s like — “why even try”. If I can’t even control my environment and that’s incredibly stressful, we want to feel certainty. We like to feel in control. And so to not have control is very stressful for us as humans in general.
So burnout can come from a lot of different places if chronic stress has not been successfully managed.
Nishant: In your book, you talk about how burnout is not always related to individuals, it could be due to organizations and companies. We cannot blame individuals all the time. Yes. We have to take personal responsibility, but there are other factors that you’re describing.
Jacinta: Absolutely. That’s the thing I want to say. I’m like this pulse five core capabilities are important because it gives the individual power to build out capabilities. But it’s only one half of the story. Workplaces also have to invest in setting up work streams, and managers and people leaders need to also invest in setting up conditions that guard against those six mismatches as much as possible.
When it’s done on both sides — the individual level and that team and organizational level, that’s when the magic can happen. So it has to have a multi-system approach.
Jacinta: On micro-moments of replenishment:
Just like we monitor things that are very important — I wear a smartwatch to check my steps. If you had a heart condition, you check your blood pressure. I really think that we would be all better off if we were tracking our well-being on a consistent basis. And so we catch when we start feeling little levels of exhaustion and go, oh my gosh, I have to do something to replenish myself.
I really believe in micro-moments of replenishment that we shouldn’t wait until vacation — that we can do these things on a consistent and persistent basis and in small doses. But done over time, again, consistently and persistently because little by little, those little things add up to a lot, and they’re also much more doable.
So something I say to people is — when you’re stressed, just find moments to rest, to counterbalance it. And if we keep that balance in place, we won’t find ourselves in that throes of exhaustion. And if we do find ourselves exhausted, what can we do to replenish ourselves even in small doses at a time to leave us a little bit more fulfilled.
Because it’s pretty tough. Once, we get to the point where we are psychologically attached, over time because of stress that wasn’t counterbalanced — that’s when we get into the danger zone in terms of getting closer to conditions for burnout, or just not feeling effective on the job
Nishant: for me personally, it is sleep and taking lots and lots of naps. What are your personal micro-moments of replenishment?
Jacinta: Yeah. So mine is — going out in nature. When I do a lot of talks for my book and after every talk, I know my nervous system has been activated in the talk. I’m not stressed but the nervous system is activated because I’m excited.
I’m eager to share my knowledge and share about this book. Your nervous system doesn’t know the difference between if you’re happy, mad, angry, pumped up, or excited. It just knows you have physiological arousal. So in order to allow my nervous system to get back to a calm state to counterbalance the stress — I’ll go outside for five minutes, that’s it.
I live in San Francisco. I’m lucky to live by the bay. So I’ll go out and watch the seagulls, smell the sea air, and breathe and let my body and my nervous system calm down. And now the stress is over and then also restart my work. And then maybe I’ll go through another meeting that’s a little bit stressful and I’ll go, okay, let me stop.
And I’ll do some coherent breathing, which is really powerful in that. It’s just slowing down your breathing to about six breaths a minute. And what that can essentially do is hack your nervous system to turn down that fight or flight response to turn down the sympathetic nervous system and turn up the power of our parasympathetic nervous system, which is tied to rest and digestion.
And then maybe throughout the day, I’ll counterbalance it with another micro thing, like gratitude writing. And so I’m looking for opportunities throughout my day. When I feel stressed, I counterbalance with replenishment. And so I had this mantra that I say to my clients, “when you stress, you must rest”. And it’s just done on these microdoses, but just like my little gratitude jar, right? Those little things add up over the month and there are beautiful loads of memories and things.
I feel grateful for that add-up. And it’s the same thing with our resilience. We add more and more to it — I call it your metaphorical or piggy bank. And then when a stressor happens, you can take some out of the piggy bank and you still have some reserves in the tank so that you don’t break the bank when adversity hits.
And that’s kind of how I think about building out a buffer for burnout.
Thanks for reading this far. If you enjoyed it, please share it with one person you know who may be stressed out. Sharing is caring.
You can supplement this post with the full interview with Jacinta: ‘The Burnout Fix: Overcome Overwhelm, Beat Busy, and Sustain Success’, Science-backed steps to address Burnout and increase Resilience, and More (#168)
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