Preventing Burnout
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/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Preventing Burnout

Many of us start our jobs with a great sense of purpose and optimism about what we can accomplish. Over time and under certain workplace conditions, people can experience constant work-related stress and little appreciation or success. In these circumstances, we can become overwhelmed and disillusioned.

Continuing to work in this way can lead to chronic stress, including feelings of apathy, anger, or failure; exhaustion and lack of motivation; self-doubt; procrastination; being late for work; and withdrawing from workplace conversations. If you are unable to recover your sense of joy, even during time off, it’s called burnout. It can even progress to the point where it causes depression, irritability, headaches, stomach aches, and other physical symptoms.

Preventing burnout and recovering from it share a lot in common. Here’s a quick list of things you can do to maintain or regain your sense of joy at work.

Pay attention to your level of motivation, and be honest with yourself about the need to tweak your work life when your eagerness to work begins to decline. This step, recognizing the problem, is an important part of recovering your sense of purpose, before it declines irrevocably.

Prioritize self-care. As the old saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” Establish a daily routine that allows you to replenish your physical and emotional resources. Adequate sleep, a nourishing diet, some stress-relieving exercise, journaling, deep breathing or mediation, time with friends and family, or just doing nothing can remind you what life is all about and puts work into perspective. Spending your lunch break on activities that restore you, rather than working through lunch, can pay off all afternoon.

Be honest with your boss. Your supervisor may be able to help you adjust your workflow, develop clearer or more efficient workflows, or adjust priorities. Don’t be afraid to let them know what you need to be successful. That could be more feedback about your performance and a better sense of how your work is making a difference to the company and the world. Still nervous about speaking up? Don’t forget that providing this support and guidance is their job, even if they don’t know it yet.

Learn to say “no” or “not right now.” This is a very difficult skill for many of us. We derive self-worth from being able to handle anything that comes our way. So, telling a boss or coworker that we are unable to help or unable to help on the timeline they have requested can feel like a defeat. But being able to focus on doing a good job on a manageable set of projects can restore some of our work-related satisfaction.

Follow good work hygiene. Especially if we work from home, it can be tempting to say, “I am just going to answer one last e-mail.” You know how that one e-mail turns into an hour of work. Set a schedule and stick to it. Disconnect from work during the evenings, weekends, and during time off. Have an exclusive method of emergency-only communication, and don’t answer other communications during off hours.

Take time off.  Whether it’s a personal day to focus on your own needs and desires or a full-on vacation to relax and reset, time off is a great cure for burnout. Getting some distance between you and the workplace can remind you of the big picture. Vacations can help you evaluate whether you are ready to reinvest in your current position or look for something new. Finally, vacations also allow time to explore deeper meaning in other areas of your life, like your relationships and your hobbies.

Get help, if you need it. If you find yourself unable to cope or slipping into depression, get more help. Call United Counseling Service at 802-442-5491 to access trained professionals who can direct you to additional resources and support. You can also talk to your primary care provider for help.

We can’t expect that our work lives will be entirely stress free. Following these recommendations can restore some of the purpose and joy we feel at our jobs and keep the dissatisfaction we feel at work from disrupting the rest of our lives.

Doris Russell is assistant director of Substance Use and Mental Health at United Counseling Service in Bennington.

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