3 ways to beat job burnout

Chinie Diaz
Whatever changes you decide to make, just do them before it’s too late. If you’re feeling burned out – act on it. Whining will get you nowhere.

I’m a little disturbed that we’re only in the first month of the year, and I’m already seeing signs of job burnout — not just in myself, but in other people at the office and all over my social media feeds.

I blame New Year’s resolutions, to be honest. The zealous fire of good intentions burns really strong and fast at the beginning of the year — resulting in long, ambitious to-do lists that overwhelm us both mentally and physically.

The result? Stress, fatigue, short tempers, depression and guilt, over and/or under-eating and all the other nasty things that come with work-related burnout.

If you think you might already be suffering from job burnout, here’s a quick quiz to find out for sure. Please note though that being “burned out” implies that you were actually “burning” (i.e., working really hard) to begin with. If that’s not the case, call your mystery fatigue/bad mood something else, slacker.

Note also that there are different stages of burnout. In an article on, Martha Beck describes the 5 levels of burnout identified by Jesse Lynn Hanley, MD in her book, “Tired of Being Tired.”

Go have a look and figure which level you’re at.

I think it’s safe to say that we’d all like to address the problem before we hit Stage 5 Burnout, when we’re lying in the hospital all alone because we’ve alienated everyone by being Emo McGrumpster. So if you think you might be on your way to a full-blown burnout, here are 3 ways to try and avoid it.

1. Activate your “Off” switch, and bring back some balance in your life.

You might think that being the last to leave the office makes you some sort of superhero, but it doesn’t. In fact, working overlong hours at the office can actually increase your risk of heart disease by up to 80%. (Incidentally, it also increases your risk of having a crappy personal life by 100%.)

Work is important, but it’s important to remember that it’s only ONE part of your life. Burnout happens when there’s nothing left to fuel your fire – so you need to turn your work switch OFF at a certain point each day to allow yourself to rest and refuel.

Get enough sleep. Take breaks. Eat healthy food. Interact with actual human beings instead of your computer or smart phone. Try to find a way to balance out your day so that it isn’t consumed by work. 

The 8/8/8 Rule is a good starting point, but you can fine-tune it if it’s unrealistic given your specific situation.

 2. Unplug from “heaters” and plug into “coolers.”

One of Beck’s tips to bounce back from burnout is to identify the “heaters” and “coolers” in your life:

  • Make a list of all the people with whom you regularly interact. Next, list environments you inhabit — your office, your car, rooms in your home. Finally, list your usual activities, from relaxation … to laundry to office meetings.
  • Now imagine each item separately while noticing how your body reacts. Tension, jaw-clenching, or churning are signs you’re plugged to a heater. Muscle relaxation, spontaneous smiles, sighs of relief show you’re chilling.

“You may not be able to eliminate the “heaters” from your life, but you can — and must — unplug from them every few hours and plug into “coolers” instead.” – 

3. Do something new that’s just for you.

Do something new and different that inspires you and gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Start a new hobby or project. Take a vacation, or try doing old things in new ways.

I started a (mostly silly) blog last year, and the joy I get in the hour or so I spend blogging each day really helps to counter the more serious — and considerably less fun — hours of work that follow.

If you can’t decide on your new “just for me” activity yet, try doing routine job tasks in different ways. Last week I started a new email productivity hack called OHIO (Only Handle It Once)  and I swear, that small adjustment made such a big difference.

Shake things up. Get up from your desk and work from somewhere with a view for a while. Take a coffee break with someone totally random. Rearrange your to-do list and do things in the opposite order. Leave an anonymous affirmation note on someone’s desk and see how they react. Mime your next meeting agenda. Whatever! Just do something different to break out from the monotony of your daily grind.

Whatever changes you decide to make, just do them before it’s too late. If you’re feeling burned out – act on it. Whining will get you nowhere, and it’s not your employer’s (or anyone else’s) responsibility to prevent your pending personal meltdown. It’s up to you to make the changes in your life to make sure your fire burns steady and strong.

Good luck! 🙂 –

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