10 Tips For The Overworked, Burned Out Professional
Are you suffering from a case of job burnout? Job burnout is a very specific type of stress that differs from the stress that we experience as part of a “normal” life experience. The folks at the Mayo Clinic define job burnout as a “state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Having experienced a severe case of job burnout myself at one point in my professional life, I have some suggestions that I would like to share that might help you avoid or overcome the pain of burnout on the job. Try one or more of the following 10 tips if you’re feeling overworked and burned out. (I wish I had.)
1. Drink The Recommended Amount Of Water & Make Healthy Eating Choices
When feeling stressed, it is far too easy to default to eating for comfort instead of for health. “Comfort foods” are those that are high in fat and sugar, and they do, in fact, help you feel better because they boost the level of dopamine in your brain. In the long run, however, they do more harm than good. Your body needs the minerals and nutrients that whole foods offer. You also need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Your body flushes out the toxins that it manufactures daily when it is properly hydrated. Eating and drinking more mindfully help to a degree if you are feeling the ill effects of job burnout and the stress that accompanies it.
Just as it is far too easy to make poor choices concerning what to eat when you feel stressed, you may default to not wanting to work out regularly. Exercise, however, can help you destress and get rid of some of the frustration and pent up anger that may be accompanying your job burnout symptoms. Work out for at least 30 minutes a day three to four times a week even if it is nothing more than taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Working up a good sweat may help to alleviate some of your pent up emotions around work, and vigorous workouts can help to produce endorphins that will help elevate your mood.
3. Get The Sleep You Need
Sleep is routinely ignored as a bodily need. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can either delay or defer the sleep that we need for optimum health and performance. We should neither delay nor defer sleep, and we need a certain number of hours each night.
More and more research is supporting the notion that everyone needs between six and a half and eight hours of sleep per night in order to operate at their optimum level. If you are staying up late in order to get extra work done, you may be engaging in counter-productive behavior. Your brain needs to turn off from work periodically. Working late hours and failing to get the rest your entire body—including your brain—need can hurt your productivity rather than help it. Do yourself a favor and decide to make sleep a priority. Your mood will improve and perhaps your attitude about your job will, too.
4. Organize And Prioritize Your Work
Your sense of job dissatisfaction and burnout may be due to a sense of overwhelm which is only exasperated if you have allowed things like books and papers to pile up around you. Take the time to organize your workspace. Put papers in folders and label them. Throw out what is no longer needed. Prioritize tasks and projects. If you need help, ask for it. There is more harm to be done in trying to do everything yourself and letting things fall apart than in recognizing that you need help and asking for it in a timely manner.
5. Leave Your Desk At Lunchtime & During Breaks
Gold stars are not awarded to the workaholics who never step away from their desks, even when they need to. You may be working for a raise or a promotion, but doing so at the risk of your health and well-being is not a good strategy. Research supports the fact that you need to give your mind—and your body—periodic breaks throughout the day.
Take a morning break. Go out to lunch with friends or colleagues and try to talk about something other than work over your meal. Take a mid-afternoon break by walking around the building rather than going to the vending machine or the coffee maker. Steer clear of late afternoon snacks that are high in sugar or caffeine. Do take a break, however, in order to help your brain reset itself every few hours.
6. Take Time Off
If you are feeling a real sense of job burnout as in you are considering quitting your job altogether, take some time off first to see if that might be what you need. Perhaps you just need a long weekend or a couple weeks of vacation instead of a whole new job. At least by taking some time away from the immediate source of your stress, you may gain some perspective that you are currently lacking. Don’t do anything rash. If you have some time to take, do it before making any life-changing decisions.
7. Seek Support When You Need It
Most companies offer an employee assistance program or EAP. These services are free of charge for the employee, and they are confidential. You can make an appointment, go in and talk to someone, and share your concern about yourself and your sense of burnout. Perhaps all you need is someone to talk to so that you can talk through whatever it is that is getting to you. If you use this resource and you still feel like the job is the problem, at least you will have taken the time and made the effort to get some perspective on the matter.
8. Unplug From Your Electronic Devices & The Constant News Cycle
Turn off your computer, cell phone, and even the TV for a short period every day. We tend to stay so plugged in that it is difficult to turn off our brains. Part of the sense of overwhelm that some people experience is the result of the inability to relax and get away from things…ever. This is especially true if you are in the kind of job where you need to be reachable 24/7.
I know that for me, part of my job burnout was the result of feeling that I had to be available all of the time—even when I was supposed to be “off.” In four years, I never got to take a decent vacation where I could responsibly turn off the phone or not check email. As a result, at the end of those four years, I was so exhausted that I needed six months to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Most people don’t have six months that they can take out of their lives like I did. Do yourself a favor and pace yourself so that you don’t get to that point.
9. Consider Making An Attitude Adjustment Regarding Your Work
It is possible that most of the pressure you feel is self-imposed. Do you really have to be burning the midnight oil or giving up on the family vacation in order to do what needs to be done at work? The pressure you feel may be coming from your sense of obligation or responsibility, but is it really necessary? Take a look at that possibility, at least. If it turns out that your sense of burnout is self-imposed, adjust your schedule and your attitude accordingly. You may feel an immediate sense of relief as a result.
10. If An Attitude Adjustment Doesn’t Work, Consider Other Viable Options…
If, after considering all of these options and taking some time away from the situation, you still feel depleted and unfulfilled by your current job situation, it may be time to think about making a change.
Is a new job a realistic possibility? Is it possible for you to find a position in which you might operate with more autonomy and less stress? Do you need to consider what those options would be? Do you need a job with less responsibility? Do you need more help in a similar position? Do you need more clerical assistance? Do you need a different job altogether? Only you can answer these questions, just as you are the only person who can determine if you are experiencing job burnout and how severe your job burnout may be.
The bottom line is that job burnout is real. It is not something you made up. If you are feeling emotionally depleted, and you are experiencing a sense of just being “worn out” physically, emotionally, and mentally, then you may be experiencing job burnout. You need to take a look at it and consider what you can do about it.
Life is too short to spend it feeling constantly overwhelmed. Consider what you need to do for yourself in order to take better care of yourself. You need to do this for you. You also owe it to the family and friends who love you and may be feeling like you are “missing in action” because you mind is always on work even when your body is somewhere else.