Are you overworked, overstressed, overwhelmed, and overcommitted? Are you constantly tired and irritable? Are you experiencing distressing physical symptoms such as crankiness, headaches, back pain, and intestinal problems? You could be well on your way to burnout. It’s important for you to recognize the signs of burnout before you hit the wall, so you can make some necessary changes.
Some experts believe that burnout comes from unusually high expectations that are, in reality, illusions. For example, you think you can do it all, but are overwhelmed by the reality that you can’t. We are all at risk. The people most susceptible to burnout are those who feel they either have no control over their work and/or have been given more responsibility with fewer resources. New statistics show that it’s young, front-line employees and middle managers that suffer the most. People with little control over time within their jobs (receptionists, assembly line workers) have up to 70% higher risk of heart disease than those who can control what they do and when they do it.
Learn to recognize the five stages of burnout:
- Physical – Loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, back pain, tension headaches. Minor accidents and errors in assignments. If these persist for two weeks, burnout is likely the cause.
- Social – Employee perceives a heavy workload with no time to finish work. Personal relationships decrease.
- Cerebral – Employee is acting like a broken computer exhibiting strange patterns in writing and speech. Exhibits inattention and watches the clock.
- Emotional – Withdrawal from friends and family. Person often escapes through drugs, alcohol, affairs, excessive spending, missed deadlines, and minimal productivity.
- Spiritual – Person feels totally empty inside, seeks major change, career, spouse, home, often clinically depressed.
If you recognize any of these symptoms, what can you do to ban burnout in yourself or others? Start by lowering your stress level. You cannot eliminate all stress in your life; in fact, some stress may be positive. Positive stress is called motivation, excitement, and drive. However, when stress is constant and unrelieved, it can become negative and destructive. So stress must be balanced with relaxation.
You can break the cycle by learning ways to relax and cherish yourself. Take time out for yourself in some way on a regular basis. Give yourself a chance to unwind and get ready for life’s next challenge. Do whatever works for you. How about giving yourself mini-breaks every hour to relieve stress, stretch, and get a cup of coffee? Take a 1/2-hour bath every night, with candles, wine and soft music. The key is to learn to pamper you! Learn what relaxes you—whether it’s dancing, watching movies, walking, or deep breathing—and make time for it. Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar if you have to. You make time for everyone else in your life, and you are equally (and more) important. Controlling your time will help control your burnout.
Lastly, do the same old things to promote good health: eat well, exercise more, and get more sleep. Nothing has changed much in this area over the years. Unfortunately, many people look at these principles and believe they have to do them all at once. So they stress out and don’t do anything! Embrace the idea that health is not an “all or none” proposition. Do something small like climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Discover what works for you, and be focused about doing the few things that consistently reduce your stress level. Commit to it. Your productivity and your sense of accomplishment will increase, and you will ban burnout.