Health, Wellness and Burnout Prevention: Elmo Teaches Us How to Connect

  • Posted on Feb 15, 2024

Although the year is still young, people have been commenting that 2024 already feels different. Elmo from Sesame Street expressed concern.

At the end of January, he tweeted, “Elmo is just checking in. How is everybody doing?” 

Two hundred million people have seen the post, and more than 60,000 responded. The issues they face include:

  • existential dread
  • a yearning for sunnier days
  • depression
  • exhaustion
  • a hated workweek

Even Oreo tweeted:    

We all seem to be a little low on milk for our cookies these days. The daily tensions we deal with obscure the calm we seek — especially in the workplace.

No wonder Elmo’s question resonated with people. A simple puppet tapped into our need for empathy and emotional connection. His tweet resonated with people because it conveyed a genuine concern for others, providing comfort and reassurance during a difficult time.

Many people related to the tweet because Elmo’s childlike character allowed us to reflect on our emotional well-being and connect with others on a deeper level.

We’ve been burned out and needed that opportunity to connect.

Workplace Burnout

Burnout is real.

It has permeated the workplace, whether you’ve returned to your employer’s worksite, work remotely or have a hybrid situation.

The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as a syndrome resulting from unmanageable workplace stress. Symptoms include exhaustion, isolation and negativity, and reduced professional performance.

Burnout impacts workplace productivity in many ways, including 57% greater absenteeism and increased risks of health issues such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and depressive disorders. These disorders, in turn, can lead to destructive habits.

Employees often feel guilty about experiencing burnout, as though they are somehow culpable and complicit in developing mental health issues. Burnout results from several factors paralyzing workers from working at optimal performance levels. 

We need to take our cue from Elmo. It’s time to show empathy and connect emotionally with our employees at every level.

9 Strategies for Workplace Burnout Prevention

Workplace stress can impact physical and mental health and job performance. Fortunately, there are several strategies that we can use to mitigate stress in the workplace:

1. Identify and Address Stressors

The first step to managing stress lies in identifying the sources of stress in your workplace. Once you know what is causing stress, you can develop strategies to address those stressors. For example, employees feeling overwhelmed by their workload might talk to their supervisors about ways to delegate tasks or manage their time more effectively. Even temporary delegation can be helpful.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

One of the biggest causes of stress in the workplace is unrealistic expectations. When we set ourselves up for failure by expecting too much of ourselves or others, we are more likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Instead, try to set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and others by communicating with team members and supervisors. To feel more in control and less stressed, identify reasonable KPIs.

3. Take Breaks

Take breaks throughout the day, even if only for a few minutes. Getting up and moving around or taking time to relax and clear your head can help reduce stress and improve focus. Managers and supervisors can encourage mini-breaks that prevent accumulated strain.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can help to reduce stress. Try deep breathing, meditation, yoga and visioning. Taking a few minutes each day to practice relaxation techniques can help to calm your mind and body and reduce stress levels.

5. Talk to Someone

Those feeling overwhelmed by stress may find talking to someone about it helpful. Confide in a friend, family member, therapist, coach or other trusted individual. Talking about your stress can help you to process your emotions and develop coping mechanisms.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Employers must prioritize physical and mental health to manage stress effectively. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are essential to self-care. It is also important to avoid alcohol and drugs, as these can worsen stress and anxiety.

7. Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries between work and personal life is essential to preventing burnout. Avoid checking work email or taking work calls outside work hours. Take vacations so you can relax and recharge. 

8. Seek Professional Help

If you struggle to manage stress alone, it is essential to seek professional help. A therapist or coach can help you identify the root of your stress and develop coping mechanisms.

Employer Responsibility for Burnout

Preventing burnout requires effort from everyone, including employers. Many organizations already contract with an employee assistance program, and they can do more:

  • Encourage employees to discuss workplace concerns.
  • Work to find solutions and strategies for mitigating burnout.
  • Commit to a burnout prevention program that teaches identification and prevention and supports employees with ongoing coaching.

Stress is a common experience in the workplace. We can mitigate stress and protect our physical and mental health with many strategies that affect overall well-being and our ability to set ambitious goals and achieve new career heights.

If a puppet can reach out and ask about well-being, what can you do?

Let’s make the connection!

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