5 tips for keeping work burnout at bay

Many workers experience the symptoms of burnout, but there are strategies for employees and their managers to deal with it.
Workerburnout Panel

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worker burnout is classified as an occupational phenomenon.

WHO says burnout is characterized by “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” WHO notes that in order to diagnose true burnout, mental health professionals first need to rule out anxiety, mood disorders, and other stress-related disorders.

The Mayo Clinic acknowledges that “burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis. Still, “some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout,” notes a Mayo article. “Some research suggests that many people who experience symptoms of job burnout don’t believe their jobs are the main cause. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health.”

Burnout symptoms

Though burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, generally it is feelings of depleted energy or exhaustion because of continual stress.

The symptoms of stress can include headaches and muscle aches, upset stomach, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, lack of focus, overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, and social withdrawal. No one is superhuman. You need to recognize and respect your limits.

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

If you think you may be experiencing burnout, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you become cynical or critical?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with others?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job or place in life?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Here are five tips for keeping burnout at bay:

1. Ask yourself, “What’s important now?”

Practice being present in the moment. If you’re driving, pay attention to the road. If you’re having dinner with a friend, be engaged and present. Don’t play around with your phone. It’s not only distracting, it’s also disrespectful.

2. Quantify the commitment.

Before you agree to sit on a committee or host a dinner party, recognize that it means giving up time that can’t be replaced. Anticipate that the time commitment probably will be longer than your initial estimate. Factor that into decisions about what’s worth your time. Be willing to say no.

3. Make yourself unavailable.

It’s OK and important to set aside time for yourself. Schedule it on your calendar, and don’t let other responsibilities encroach on that time. This may mean saying no to some requests.

4. Seek support.

Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends, or loved ones, support and collaboration can help.

5. Practice healthy habits.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night, eating healthy meals during the day, and exercising regularly to help give you the energy to take on life’s myriad of responsibilities.

When employees are experiencing burnout, it can lead to lack of focus, procrastination, tiredness, mistakes, and bad attitudes that can have a negative impact on their performance and contribute to a toxic work environment. Professionals who are burnt out may find themselves searching for new career opportunities to escape and achieve better work-life balance.

Mangers looking to help their employees avoid burnout should consider these tips:

  • Stay connected.Meet regularly with team members on an individual basis to get a sense of their workload and help them prioritize.
  • Promote health.Encourage staff to participate in wellness offerings at your company. Participate yourself, too, and even consider organizing team stress-relief activities.
  • Have a sense of humor. Keep the mood light around the office. Laughter builds camaraderie and can improve employee satisfaction.
  • Encourage time off.Employees who take their vacation time are happier and more productive. Set an example and take time away to create a workplace culture of healthy work-life balance.
  • Provide options.More and more companies in Madison are offering perks and benefits such as telecommuting, flexible schedules, and additional vacation days.

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