A friend confided recently that he was feeling absolutely shattered, ‘wiped out,’ was how he put it, ‘completely exhausted, but that he had no prospect of a break, or a holiday to unwind, until the traditional break at the end of the year. He was doing what men rarely do... asking for help.
I advised him to talk to his employer, who, if he understood the depth of lethargy, (let’s call him ‘Tom’), was feeling. ‘Tom’ rejected that immediately, saying that one of the reasons he was so exhausted was because he was trying to stay “ahead of the game, on top of everything, because redundancies were expected due to poor results over the last year, and I want to make sure I’m not one of the ones that gets the DCM (Don’t Come Monday!).”
I could understand his perspective and explained that I felt that in that case he had two different issues concerning him: It was clear that he was worried about keeping his job, one thing, and he was exhausting himself trying to work twice as hard to stay ahead of his colleagues, second thing. Chasing swallows does that to you... if you let it.
I offered, knowing ‘Tom’ as I do, that redundancies are a fact of life, they are not his pay grade, but also that knowing what great relationships and camaraderie he has with his work colleagues, he's not going to feel great whoever gets the push. I know, it’s not much consolation, to ‘Tom’ himself, but initially I’m just trying to settle the ship a wee bit, to get him to relax, and for clarity.
Redundancies happen, and they are never fair, someone is always hurt, and it’s natural to be anxious. The only saving grace is that most employers are slightly disingenuous, in that they will know who they will dispense with before they announce redundancies. Their ‘due diligence’ if you like, as to who ‘goes,’ will have been done prior to any in-house announcement, so if you have been effective, proven reliable, and resilient, why would you not be fine?
‘Tom’ is a good person, respected and appreciated by colleagues, a confidant of his supervisors, so I see no genuine reason for anxiety. Working, while worrying, is the least productive state of mind one can possibly engage with, and its deep-seated mental and physical fatigue can be incredibly debilitating, and regardless of the actuality, our lack of worth tends to be reflected in negativity, irritability, cynicism, even disengagement, and that’s mainly what I cautioned him against.
Clinical psychologist, Karen Nimmo writes that, “burnout is similar to moderate depression,” as sleep problems, low motivation, low energy, bad mood, irritability, and exaggerated emotions, disinterest, and exasperated responses are symptomatic of burnout, which is also a temporary form of depression, and I genuinely felt that is where ‘Tom’ ‘is’ now. So, I felt confident in giving him quite modest, easy to achieve perspectives, for his home life that I felt would benefit him all-round, at home and work.
I urged him to eat and drink healthy, well healthi-er, for a while. To get some ‘fresh air,’ to leave the car on the driveway and walk to the shop, to ‘smell the roses.’ I was adamant too, that he should spend time with his wife and kids, whether its shopping, football, or whatever. This sort of situation is perfect for remembering what brought you together, taking you back, putting the smile back on your face. I also offered some of Nimmo’s other advice that instead of watching TV, to read a book or a magazine, exercising your brain, not entertaining it. Refresh, and reboot!
Of course... ‘Tom’ was retained, the company did a U-turn, and as is often the case, it was ‘much ado about nowt!’ ‘Tom’s final thought: “A hug, more than a handshake, worked wonders.” So why would it not for you?