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How to Avoid Job Burnout


8/11/2011 4:01:28 PM

By Angela Rose, BioSpace.com

The alarm beeps angrily in your pre-dawn bedroom. Groggily, you smash the snooze button into silence. As your sleepy brain regains a sense of clarity, your stomach begins to churn. Maybe you should take a sick day. No, you cannot. You’re all out of sick time after that flu earlier in the month. Hit the snooze a few more times and go in late? No, you’ve been late all week and even left early yesterday. Head pounding, neck tense and already exhausted, you drag yourself from the safety of your bed and prepare for another frustratingly futile day at the office. You’re burned out.

It can happen to any of us. Whether we’re relentlessly driven perfectionists or one of the few remaining workers after several rounds of downsizing, chronic job stressors eventually lead to job burnout. According to researchers, the key characteristics include overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of frustration, frequent anger, cynicism and a sense of ineffectiveness and failure.

While you may be used to telling yourself that all jobs are stressful, or that you perform best under pressure, job burnout is a very real affliction with physical and psychological consequences. If you want to have a happy, healthy and productive career, it behooves you to learn a few ways to prevent (or recover) from burnout.

Be proactive rather than passive.
Chronic stress on the job is not natural, nor a requirement for success. If you are feeling overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by your job, make an effort to change the situation. For some, this may mean finding a new career altogether. For others, it could be as simple as learning to delegate, avoiding overtime, or asking for a more challenging project.

Work less, not more.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s common to put in more hours in an attempt to catch up. Don’t do it. As you burn out, your productivity (and work quality) suffers. Taking a break is better for both your health and your job. Avoid overtime, take a personal day or schedule a short vacation. Don’t skip lunches or eat at your desk. Take at least ten minutes several times a day to step away and think about something other than the to-do list.

Change your response.
Chronic job stress causes some professionals to drive themselves even harder. For others, it leads to isolation and withdrawal. Think about your typical response to stressors in the workplace and adjust accordingly. Pre or post-work exercise sessions are useful in reducing tension. Spending time with friends and family will keep you from becoming isolated.

Chronic job stress is not something you have to live with. When you notice yourself having more stressful days than productive ones at the office, experiencing difficulty sleeping or suffering from frequent illnesses, it’s time to recognize job burnout and make the changes you need to for your physical and mental health.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for BioSpace.com.

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