How to Prevent Burnout at Work

How to Prevent Burnout at Work

In today’s world we are surrounded by a perceived culture of scarcity that tells us we aren’t doing enough, that we don’t have enough and that we’re not enough. Too often we focus on what we lack instead of what we have.

No wonder we’re always stressed.

Job burnout is a special type of job stress, as defined by the Mayo Clinic as a “state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.”

There are ways to identify the early warning signs of burnout and simple practices you can put in place to pull you back off the edge.

First, 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’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you might be experiencing job burnout. Take a look at your daily work routine and see where you can make simple changes. For example, if you’re eating at your desk in front of your computer five days a week, try connecting with friends or colleagues over lunch more often or to exercise on your lunch break. There are proven health and productivity benefits of taking breaks during the work day.

Assess your interests, skills and passions. An honest assessment can help you decide whether you should consider an alternative job such as one that is less demanding or one that better matches your interests and core values.

Adjust your attitude. If you’ve become cynical at work, consider ways to improve your outlook. Rediscover enjoyable aspects of your work. Recognize co-workers for valuable contributions or a job well-done. Take time away from the office, like planning a vacation.

Seek support, whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope with job stress and feelings of burnout. If you have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), take advantage of the available services.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., bestselling author, Daring Greatly and research professor at the University of Houston, says to really avoid and recover from burnout we need to get off the hamster wheel and not just change our schedules but also our thinking.

Brown offers these three “Dares” that she uses to recharge after being on the edge of burnout:

“Dare to be honest about what burnout looks like for you. For me, resentment is a huge warning flag. So is judgment. I start to think, “Why is everyone always disappointing me?” My friends say that even my sense of humor changes—it has more bite. These are all signs that it’s time to recalibrate.

Dare to set boundaries. I’ve finally learned that just because I can do something does not mean I should. Sure, I could take on another car pool. But that doesn’t make it a good idea. The next time someone asks you to do something, consider whether you’re doing it out of obligation or to prove your worth. And set boundaries that reflect what’s really important: I’ll miss an e-mail (or 20) before I miss one of my kids’ games.

Dare to create a clearing for yourself. Nothing calms me down like swimming. That’s why, when I need to come back to myself, I grab my goggles and head for the pool. Maybe your clearing involves long walks at dusk, or maybe its writing. Find an activity that centers you and then make time for it—no matter what. If it feels uncomfortable at first, that’s okay. Cooling down takes practice.”

Finding a work-life balance shouldn’t be stressful or push you to the edge of job burnout. Keep an open-mind during this process and those Monday mornings might not be so dreaded anymore.