Jason came to see me looking for help managing his anxiety and stress. He practically lived at the high-tech start up company where he worked. He ate all his meals there, hadn’t seen friends outside of work in months, and barely went home to sleep a few hours. Jason loved his job when he started a year ago, but now he couldn’t stand his boss who would micromanage and hoover over Jason as he worked. He’d developed headaches and panic attacks that were probably made worse by the huge amount of caffeine he drank. No one at Jason’s company took an entire weekend off, let alone a vacation. Only three years out of college, Jason wondered if he’d chosen the wrong career. Jason was burnt out already.
The best way to deal with burnout is to prevent it in the first place. And the best way to prevent it is to be aware of the signs of burn out and your risk factors.
Who’s at risk?
- people who dislike their job
- people who work at emotionally draining jobs or jobs with high stakes for failure (firefighters, doctors, etc)
- people who travel a lot for business
- people with high stress levels
- employees who have little control over their work assignments, schedule, etc.
- people with demanding managers or unrealistic expectations
- employees who feel under appreciated
- people who get little time off
- dread going to work
- Sunday night blues
- feeling tired all the time
- health problems (headaches, stomachaches, muscle aches)
- difficulty concentrating
- decreased productivity, missing deadlines
- giving up or not setting professional goals
- conflicts with colleagues or supervisors
- use of unhealthy coping (alcohol/drugs, food)
As you can see, burnout can be a serious problem. It’s not just hating your job or needing a new career. It can affect your health, personal relationships, and finances.
Hacks for preventing burnout:
- Take time off regularly. Use your vacation and sick time. They are there to help restore your body, mind, and spirit. You should come back from vacation rested and refreshed, which allows you to perform at your best.
- Do things you enjoy on your time off. Pursue a hobby. Learn something new. Enjoying a meaningful activity can offset some of the negativity at work.
- Set boundaries at work. Say “no” to extra assignments, unrealistic deadlines, working on weekends, filling in for coworkers.
- Practice self-care. Get enough rest, exercise, eat well, get out in nature, socialize, have some fun.
- Don’t let your job define you. It’s only one piece of who you are.
- Listen to your body. If you pay attention, it will tell you if you’re under stress. Things like aches and pains, insomnia, food cravings, anxiety, or depression are signs of problems.
- Get support. This could be in the form of a supportive friend, colleague or supervisor. A therapist can be really helpful in sorting out causes and solutions.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Moods are contagious so be mindful of who you spend your personal time with. Limit time with negative coworkers as much as possible.
- Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Forgive yourself for mistakes and don’t create unnecessary work for yourself through perfectionism.
- Consider whether you’re really at the right job or company. Explore what you like and dislike about your job and this particular company/department. Think about how it fits in with your long-term career goals.
©2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All Rights Reserved.
Image “Businessman Need Help Under A Lot Of Documents” by Sira Anamwong at freedigitalphotos.net