Eboni D. Howell, LPC
Addressing Burnout Before It Starts
When we don’t prioritize rest and rejuvenation burnout can quickly become an undesirable consequence. It has the potential to significantly affect your mind, body, and relationships causing you to suffer from exhaustion, anxiety, and even depression. If unaddressed, burnout can lead to even more severe health problems such as heart attack or stroke.
In her book Understanding the Burnout Experience: Recent Research and its Implications for Psychiatry, Dr. Christina Maslach defines burnout as a “...prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.” The World Health Organization holds that burnout can only be applied to describe workplace stress. However, since the start of the pandemic, the boundaries between work “space” and home have been blurred. Furthermore, the same symptoms of burnout can be applied to other life domains and therefore should be considered within the definition of the WHO.
In order to circumvent burnout, it is important to get into a habit of recognizing the warning signs. In her research Dr. Maslach identified 3 critical dimensions of burnout.
Overwhelming exhaustion – feeling drained or mentally unwell. There may be disturbances in sleep and appetite. You may feel less alert than usual and find it difficult to focus and concentrate when it comes to routine tasks.
Cynicism – Feeling alienated and underappreciated. In other words, compassion fatigue.
Inefficacy – Low morale, lost sense of purpose and accomplishment, an inability to cope and reduced productivity.
Here are some strategies you can try to keep burnout at bay:
Analyze Your Workload. It's quite easy to take on too much without realizing it. Although you can do anything, you don’t have to do everything. Continuously running on overdrive without taking a break will eventually lead to burnout. When it comes to changing your workload, you have two options:
First, you can utilize time management techniques in order to work more efficiently. You'll be able to improve the quality and productivity of your work. Time management also helps to decrease stress and increase energy.
Second, you can remove a few tasks from your workload. This may not be ideal, but it's important for the sake of your health and happiness. Those items that you have not completed can be attended to at another time.
Avoid Exhaustion. When you're in sync with your body, you'll be able to tell when you're getting tired. Stop and make a change as soon as you see yourself feeling this way. You can take a stay-vacation. Take the time to create a home environment that is conducive to rejuvenation and relaxation. Go on a day trip or spend time doing something creative. Consider a media fast. If this means no access to cell phones, TV, or computer, then so be it!
Embrace Change. If you recognize that burnout has been a reoccurring stressor in your life it may be time to make a major change.
Is it time to consider a career or department change?
Is it time to let go of a toxic relationship?
Reevaluate and make a lifestyle change.
Take Breaks. There is a reason why it's mandatory to offer breaks to employees. You need breaks to refresh, rejuvenate, and renew your mind. Go for a 10-minute walk, play a Sudoku puzzle, or just get away for a few minutes. That means no “working lunches” at your desk. A change of scenery is in order.
Ask For Help. Sometimes we feel so alone with our problems that we forget to ask for help, yet that just might be the antidote to our stress! Talk to your partner, friend, or a therapist to vent your frustrations and seek counsel.
Give Yourself Permission to Say No. There is a difference between someone who is open and accommodating and someone who says yes to everything. If you tell everyone yes, it's likely that someone will take advantage of you at some point or another. Learn that sometimes saying no is in your best interest. You don't need to give yourself extra stress!
The Time Factor
In the end, the most important tip is to listen to what your inner self is telling you. If you've taken on too much, make a list and prioritize the most important things. The other stuff will have to wait or someone else will have to complete the tasks.
Take Time To Vent
When feelings of overwhelm begin, take a few deep breaths or go out for a walk. Vent your emotions. Journaling is a wonderful way to express and clarify your emotions. Pent up emotions are likely to lead to unwanted physical and emotional stress.
These are just a few strategies to stop burnout in its tracks and enjoy your life. Take action and implement these tips, today, and you'll soon be free from the crushing pressure of burnout!
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