Heading Straight to Burnout

Do you dread your work shift? View work as a chore? Or feel overwhelmed and unable to meet your work demands? If so, you may be heading straight for burnout.

Burnout vs. Stress

Burnout happens over time and it can be devastating. The job you once loved is now a chore and you've become exhausted, cynical and frustrated. Despite your best attempts, you don't know how to change it. Once you experience burnout, it is hard to go back and not feel that way. That is why it is so important to pay attention to how you're feeling about your job- to determine if you are beyond the normal stress level so you don't minimize negative reactions.

It's important to know that burnout is not the same as stress. When you are stressed, you can still be optimistic. You can use healthy coping skills to deal with your stress and wake up a less tense person. In burnout, your outlook is not bright nor is your energy high; there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Excessive amounts of stress can lead to burnout, but unlike stress, where you can reduce your stress level overnight, once you are burnt out, that is where you stay.

How Could This Happen?

If you are burnt out and think "How could have happened to me? What is wrong with me?" Take the focus off yourself for a moment. It may not be about you. Did you know that "the structure of the job and work organization ultimately is a stronger determinant of the incidence of burnout than the individual's personality makeup?" (Cary Cherniss, Job Stress in the Human Services) Whew! And Maslach and Leiter in "The Truth About Burnout" provide this potential reason for burnout: "When you are working in situations of chronic imbalance in which the job demands more than you can give and provides less than you need."

Also burnout doesn't have to be the result of a high stress job. Mark Gorkin in his book "Practicing Safe Stress" describes burnout this way, "Equally dangerous (to burnout) is chronic boredom and consistently feeling that you're underutilized or undervalued at work or lacking the opportunity to stretch your mind-body muscles in a meaningful way. Such a state gradually leads to smoldering anger, depression, or burnout just as out-of-control overwork does."

So although your work place has much to do with your burnout, you have a piece too. Are you always the person who takes on extra work? Staying late, helping out co-workers and not taking your much needed vacation time? Start by saying no more often and more importantly creating a balance between work and personal life.

When you notice you're often unhappy at work, exhausted both physically and emotionally, and feel drained and empty, it's time to reevaluate your work life. The trick is to catch yourself before you go into full burnout. As you progress into no longer finding fun or satisfaction in your job, you must STOP and evaluate!

In "High Octane Women", Dr. Carter asks you to start with a weekend away of complete rest and rejuvenation. If you wake up on Monday tired and dreading your day, you are heading to burnout. Then try two weeks away- still feeling tired and dreading your shift? You, my friend, are burnt out and need to make some lifestyle changes.

If you might be heading for burnout, or are taking up residence there, here are some simple suggestions:

Renew your commitment to your job
1. Take some new classes in your field.
2. Freshen up your office.
3. Read books related to your job interests and gather with likeminded individuals.
4. Think about advancement or relocation.

Re-Energize yourself and your life
1. Take yoga, kickboxing or a cooking class; find your hobby or something you are passionate about.
2. Energize yourself so you are filled with positive energy. Give back to yourself all that you give out in a day's work.

If you are living a fun exciting life out of work, then that feeling can carry over and carry you through your job, especially if you are stuck in a less than desirable employment situation.

After trying the above two steps and you still feel no ZEST for your job, then it's definitely time to:

Re-evaluate your position or occupation
• Is this the right job for you?
• The right profession?
• Is there something much deeper going on for you?
• Maybe this was once a great fit but for whatever reason, it is no longer a great fit.
• Are you working with someone whose attitude sours the entire department? Or is that sour person you?

And remember, although burnout carries with it a negative vibe, Dr. Dina Glouberman in her book, "The Joy of Burnout" describes burnout in this unique way:

"Burnout is so powerfully transformative that it appears to be a signal not of failure, but of a challenge to create a new way of life. In fact, burnout is probably the best thing that ever happened to us."

A new direction. A new way of life. All yours for the taking. Grab it and move forward.