Think twice before you chalk up your fatigue to the fast-paced lifestyle we all lead.
Chronic weariness, depression, alcohol and substance abuse, and even anger and irritability result from job burnout. That’s a specific type of physical, emotional and mental fatigue that experts at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, caution can adversely impact your health.
Executive coach Monique Valcour writes in Harvard Business Review that workplace conditions contributing to burnout include:
- Low levels of job control.
- Ridiculously high workloads.
- Uncivil behavior.
- Insufficient social support.
- Stressed leaders who exhibit poor behavior.
Bottom line: Burnout can put your health at risk and, due to erratic eating and too little exercise, can create problems like weight gain and high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, says the American Psychological Association.
Wonder if you’re burned out from work? If you agree with even one of these descriptions (devised by Mayo Clinic researchers), consider talking with a physician or seeking other support:
- You’ve grown critical or cynical about work.
- You’re impatient and cranky with colleagues and clients.
- It’s hard to go to work and hard to get going once you’re there.
- You can’t focus or concentrate.
- You’re feeling disillusioned with the job.
- You don’t get enough sleep.
- You have trouble staying productive.
- Even your achievements don’t deliver satisfaction.
- Drugs, alcohol or a poor diet are familiar crutches.
- You’re plagued by headaches, stomach aches, bowel problems or other miseries.
Even if you can’t leave your job, you can take the following five steps to reduce stress and minimize damage to your health.
1. Talk to your boss
If you don’t want to look for a new job, Mayo Clinic researchers recommend discussing work options with your supervisor.
Flextime, telecommuting and job sharing are some alternatives that may help reduce burnout.
2. Walk it off
Use your feet in these two ways to combat stress recommended by the American Psychological Association:
- Walk away when you feel your anger and frustration rising. Count to 10, take a deep breath and take your attention — and yourself — elsewhere.
- Put on your walking shoes and leave the building. Physical activities of all kinds are great for letting off steam, the association says.
3. Choose your battles carefully
Organizational psychologist Karlyn Borysenko, writing at Forbes, advises stressed workers to “avoid being dragged into the fights that don’t matter.” If you do enter into a conflict, she says, make sure for the sake of your mental health that it’s one you can win.
4. Accept that the boss is imperfect — just like you
Bosses are the largest source of workplace stress, Borysenko says. Your boss may truly be an incompetent stooge, but it’s possible she may just be, like yourself, overworked and completely human. See if you can reframe what drives you nuts, or at least focus less on it. That can help lower your expectations and calm your frustration.
That’s not to say the boss shouldn’t be accountable, only that you must take care of yourself, your sanity and your health.
5. Get enough healing sleep
Explore Integrative Medicine, a University of California site, says:
“Stress can greatly interfere with sleep and contribute to a downward spiral of declining health.”
Among the article’s recommendations:
- Use acupressure, a type of easy self massage.
- Fall asleep quickly by warming your feet warm in a warm bath or by wearing socks. Warming your extremities helps you sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy exercise near bedtime.
Are you suffering some symptoms of burnout? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Marilyn Lewis contributed to this report.
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