The big burn out (and how to avoid it) in 15 handy steps

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Could you be experiencing job burnout?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing job burnout. Be sure to consult your doctor or a mental health provider, however. Some of these symptoms can also indicate certain health conditions, such as a thyroid disorder or depression.

If those physical factors are taken care of, here are some handy tips to avoid burnout and to  manage or reduce stress:

  1. Know yourself– realize when you are getting tired/irritable and act on this immediately.
  2. Work with purpose. Set out your tasks and accomplish them. There is no such thing as ‘multi-tasking’, try your best to complete a task as best as feasible and move on. If there is time afterwards, get back to the task that was completed and refine it as needed.
  3. Perform a job analysis, and eliminate or delegate unnecessary work.
  4. Eat well, and with others, keeping the phones OFF throughout. Drink lots of water and keep the coffee/tea and other stimulants to a bare minimum. Keep larger meals to the start of the day (skipping breakfast is a no-no; get up earlier and have a large breakfast, or get up even earlier and exercise, then have breakfast).
  5. Give to others. Spreading joy whether it be a gift of a latte or a nice note or email to a colleague can help change your perspective away from you-you-you. Share your time and attention, and offer to mentor.
  6. Take control, and actively manage your time. Set up a pie chart or even a GANTT chart to structure your day as a ‘project’ in and of itself- what needs to be done before other tasks can get done?
  7. Get more exercise. It reduced stress, keeps you healthy and looking your best.
  8. Try a Digital detox (unplug on weekends, for example, if this is feasible or make it known that you do not reply to emails, texts or phone calls after, say, 8pm).
  9. Take your breaks– stretch and look at far-away things if you work on computer screens all day, do this several times per day. Check your posture and breathe deeply as often as possible.
  10. When you do have days off, travel and change your environment regardless of the weather (‘no bad weather, just bad clothes’).
  11. Pursue your passions when off work; don’t have a hobby? Find one, and practice it daily, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
  12. READ a book. Get away from the internet and screen generally every day for some length of time, and especially as you approach your bedtime. Non-digital novels and non-fiction or essays help you exercise your ability to maintain focus and attention in a world of instant distractions. Reading on a mechanical device usually means you are tempted to answer a call, look something up and get distracted.
  13. Get your sleep; keep your bedroom clean, uncluttered and don’t eat or watch tv/computer screens/phones/ipads… in bed. Keep it cool as well (18 degrees), and maintain a regular sleeping pattern even on weekends. Whether you need  7, 8 or 9 hours per night to feel rested, so what it takes to feel your best.
  14. Nap or meditate. Instead of a coffee at 2:30pm to perk you up, take a 20 minute shut-eye (but no more than that!)
  15. Don’t beat yourself up– as in meditation and focus, if you find your focus wavering or if you miss a day or meal, don’t fret over it and cause yourself more trouble. The way to wellness can be a winding road: accept that.

Be well.

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