Are You Burned-Out?
Debbie Brown, SPHR, MBA, MSW
What is burnout? And how do you know if you’re suffering from it?
Burnout is various physical, emotional and mental reactions caused by repeated stress.
Effects of Stress
The negative affects of stress have been documented by research studies. Prolonged, unrelenting stress can produce psychological and physiological consequences including:
- Impaired Immune System Functioning and
- Increased risk of coronary heart disease and cancer
Who is at Risk?
Therapists, lawyers, health care professionals and others in the various service professions are frequently at risk for job burnout. Also at risk are executives, and those who work long hours or get little fulfillment from their work.
With a greater percentage of single parent families and longer workweeks, more people today suffer from burnout. Single working parents are often stressed from the pressures of working the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Corporate downsizing has placed increased responsibilities on those who survive, adding more pressure and longer hours. Small business owners are at risk since there are fewer people to do all the work.
Certain personality characteristics often make some people more susceptible for burnout. These include perfectionism, idealism and workaholism. People with these characteristics sometimes have difficulty delegating and frequently feel that there is too much work for them to do. Service professionals can suffer from not setting limits with work hours and availability to clients, and from taking work home with them.
Symptoms of Burnout
How can you tell if your are suffering from burnout? If you are experiencing three or more of the following, you probably are.
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having trouble making decisions
- Low energy-tired all the time
- Loss of enthusiasm for work
- Increase in use of cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine
- Moodiness and irritability
If you think you are suffering from burnout, first determine if the main source of the stress is coming from work. Could it also be your home environment, family demands, your health, a relationship, or a combination of some of these? To gain clarity, keep a journal. Write down your thoughts daily.
Create a plan to nurse yourself back to health. The following lists contain steps you can take to get rest and relief from the constant stress that results in burnout.
- Take it slower, take breaks from work. Leave work a little earlier.
- Don’t strive for perfection, but for “good enough.”
- Use support services effectively and delegate when possible.
- Try to keep to a regular schedule, and don’t be constantly available to clients.
- Don’t take work home with you.
- Reduce your commuting time and leave the driving to others by taking public transportation when possible. This also has the positive affect of reducing air pollution.
- Take regular vacations from work. Long weekends once a quarter are good ways to avoid burnout without taking off long stretches of time. Don’t take work with you or check voice mail messages or e-mail when you are away.
- If you are unhappy with your job, determine what changes are needed and develop an action plan.
- Eat healthy – 3 small meals every day, including fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly- aerobic exercise is a great stress release.
- Connect with nature daily- take a walk; eat your lunch outside in nice weather.
- Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night. We are a sleep-deprived society and this lack of sleep contributes to accidents, low productivity and mistakes.
- Get help with chores. Hire a housekeeper and someone to do yard work.
- Don’t be a perfectionist who strives for the Martha Stewart/Better Homes and Gardens look. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook and live in a designer showplace to be happy.
- Organize your household so the burdens are spread around.
- Get help with childcare.
- Practice simple living techniques.
- Live under your means.
- Pay off your debt.
- Reduce your tendency toward consumerism. Buy only what your need or cannot live without. This will reduce trips to the store and save you money.
- Live under your means.
- Practice yoga or other relaxation techniques.
- Listen to relaxation tapes.
- Play with your children and pets. They tend to center us and get us in touch with what’s important in life.
- Keep a journal
- Listen to music
- Massages are also great ways to relax.
- Take Hot Bath
“In order to burn out, a person needs to have been on fire at one time.”