It’s rare for me to write serious pieces. If we can’t poke fun at our psychological quirks, we’ll all end up in a straitjacket, and I don’t know about you, but white really doesn’t go with my complexion. But every once in a while, real life issues require me to show a little austerity (although personally, I think laughter is the solution to all of life’s problems).
A friend asked me to tackle this topic, and what the public demands, I usually provide.
Her husband starts his work day at 4 in the morning and ends it around 8 at night. His shift actually finishes earlier than that – but being the noble person that he is (I call him crazy), he covers for whoever is sick, needs to cut out early, or just isn’t getting the job done. When he gets home, he has just enough energy to eat dinner and then literally collapses into bed, only to start the whole routine all over again a few hours later. He’s convinced that he’s not stressed or worn out, but after being with him for over 20 years, his wife knows him better (like most spouses). When she asked me for advice, I could only offer one simple but sobering suggestion: She had to encourage him, if not force him, to take time off. “He may not feel like giving up,” I said with a sympathetic smile, “but eventually his body will give up on him, whether he wants it to or not.”
Based on data collected from Queendom’s Burnout Test, these are the top 10 signs that you’re experiencing (or about to experience) burnout:
- At the end of your work day, you feel emotionally empty. You just can’t seem to shake off a sense of despair, hopelessness, disenchantment, or discouragement.
- You feel frustrated or unappreciated. Your job lacks meaning or purpose, and you don’t think that what you do makes a whole lot of difference.
- You feel tired or depressed just thinking about the tasks (or people) that await you at work. You literally have to force yourself to get out of bed.
- You go through periods at work where you feel like crying or ripping people’s heads off.
- You feel physically run down, tire easily, or don’t seem to have enough energy to get your work done.
- You’re not motivated to do your best. Even putting in the bare minimum to get work done feels like a struggle.
- You care less and less about making clients or anyone you work with happy. You have difficulty empathizing with them or understanding their needs.
- You feel there is too much weight on your shoulders, or that the expectations that others set for you are unrealistic.
- You have difficulty sleeping. You can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or tend to experience nightmares.
- You feel the need to alienate yourself from coworkers, and prefer to be on your own.
If you don’t want your spouse (or mom) to say “I told you so,” here are some tips to ward off burnout before it puts you out of commission. As always, I recommend getting professional help if you’re experiencing a serious case of burnout.
- Try walking meditation. This is a great way to combine the benefits of meditation with a change of scenery, fresh air, and a little bit of exercise. It involves walking slowly and very deliberately.
While you are walking, concentrate on your breath (breathe from your lower abdomen) and imagine your feet gently pushing against the earth as you take each step. Breathe so that for every breath in, you take 3 or so steps, and for every breath out you take 3 or so steps. Adjust this to your liking, but the slower the better. This exercise forces you to live in the present moment (and not be mentally embroiled in the past and the future), and the deep breathing works to calm anxiety.
- Improve your time management. Learn to prioritize your tasks. What needs to get done now? What can wait? Create a checklist of all your tasks. Aside from focusing your energy on what’s important, crossing stuff off your checklist is deliciously satisfying, like two apple pies.
- Give yourself a break. Schedule “down” time for yourself, and make sure you stick to it. Turn off your phone, say no to any social invitation and then do something you enjoy. Watch the game, get a massage, or have some apple pie.
- Fight isolation. Resilient people lean on others when they need to, and develop meaningful relationships that help pull them through. difficult times Although you shouldn’t depend exclusively on others to hold you together when you’re an emotional wreck, a support network is beneficial. If you don’t feel you have people you can turn to, go out and find them. Join an offline or online support group.
- Don’t get caught up in competitiveness. Of course you want to want to succeed – and a little bit of competition is healthy – but too much can push you towards the brink of burnout. Ask yourself if being number one is really worth jeopardizing your health.
- Cut nasty habits. Even though a cigarette or an alcoholic drink may initially calm you down, the after-effects will leave you feeling worse than you felt before. As with other drugs, alcohol physiologically brings you down and intensifies your negative feelings once the initial high subsides. While moderate indulgence might not be totally hazardous, it is best to avoid drinking when extremely stressed. If you’re a smoker, giving up the habit will give your mind and body an extra boost against the physiological impact of stress.
- Seek help if you can’t cope. Don’t be afraid to get professional help if you just can’t deal with things. Burnout is a serious condition, not a personal weakness.