Take Relaxation Seriously
Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.
Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life
Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going—whether a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community (along with other items we mention here, like relaxation, being able to “turn off” and participating in rewarding non-work activities).
While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.
Get Enough Sleep
Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout, not least because poor sleep can have negative effects on your job performance and productivity. It can lead to fatigue, decrease your motivation, make you more sensitive to stressful events, impair your mental function, leave you more susceptible to errors and make it harder to juggle competing demands. The reverse is true, too: We’ve seen that sleep can actually improve your memory.
Recovering from chronic stress and burnout requires removing or reducing the demands on you and replenishing your resources. Sleep is one strategy for replenishing those resources. For inspiration, check out our tips to get better sleep.
Often, when people are burnt out, they spend a lot of time worrying that they’ll forget to do something or that something important is going to slip through the cracks. Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize. That way, you don’t have to keep thinking about those things because you’ll have systems in place to remind you.
It’s important to tune into the precursors of those conditions, physical signs that you might be under too much stress: more headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. In terms of mental health, burnout affects depression, and if you’re depressed, that can also affect your level of burnout—it goes both ways. So, if the issues you’re struggling with are really serious and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help. Talk to a psychologist to get help beyond support from just your friends and family members.
Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them
Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors, Dr. Ballard says, and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones. In the first case, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” so you can figure out what’s stressing you out, and how to maintain your internal resources to keep yourself motivated, doing your best work and functioning well.
Some burnout really is the fault of work. “In a survey we did in 2011, more than two-thirds of respondents said that their employers had taken steps to cut costs as a result of the recession,” like hiring freezes, layoffs, cutting work hours, rolling back benefits, requiring unpaid days off, increasing hours, etc. All that increases demands on workers,” he says. “Those are the two components that play into burnout: There are more demands and fewer resources.” To find out whether it’s time to move on, figure out whether your position is a “mismatch between your needs and what you’re getting working for that particular organization.”
Figure Out When Enough Is Enough
Consider talking to your manager or HR about EAP services, mental health benefits or stress management training—or at least about how to improve communication and create a better, more positive work environment. Angle the conversation about how those cultural shifts will enable you to continue to serve the company and become an even better employee.
“I do think there are times when, no matter what you try to do, the organization is unable or unwilling to make those changes,” Dr. Ballard says, “and in those cases, it is just time to move on.”
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