Jennifer Akullian, founder of Growth Coaching Institute, an organization that provides coaching to tech executives and organizations, offered three steps that people can take to help alleviate or reduce burnout:
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- Sleep: Sleep deprivation mimics a mental illness. According to Akullian, for most people, when we sleep, we are able to process thoughts in the absence of norepinephrine, which is a stress-inducing hormone. “The expression ‘sleep on it’ is recognized across dozens of different languages because there is this universal understanding of the problem-solving benefits of sleep,” she said. “If you’ve ever struggled a lot on a problem, gotten sleep, woken up and it’s just come to you, that’s kind of what I’m talking about. So the sleep has an impact on the brain that allows you to cognitively move forward in a way where you might have been stuck before having that sleep.”
- Unplug: Take a break from technology, and step outside. According to Akullian, there is significant research around mental health and the brain and being in nature. Fifteen minutes outside can significantly reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and 45 minutes can significantly increase cognitive performance, she explained. “There’s also a piece around attention, where because nature has fewer things to attend to, if you go outside and put yourself in that environment, when you return back to work it sort of resets your brain and helps you with attention moving forward,” Akullian said.
- Talk: According to Akullian, the act of talking can reduce stress or feelings of anxiety. When a person talks, the neural activity shifts from the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain, and into the pre-frontal cortex, which is where rational thinking and problem-solving occurs. “There is a word for the relief that comes when you talk. It’s called catharsis. Talking is cathartic,” said Akullian. “There is a whole field of therapy that is based on research and science around the act of talking. It doesn’t make the problems go away, but it takes a little bit of the sting out and makes it easier for you to move forward and address it.”
OSMI has a number of resources on their websites to help tech employees deal with burnout or mental illness.