5 Ways to Tell If You’re Burned Out (VIDEO)

Are you feeling stressed out …but don’t know if you’re burned out? In this 2-1/2 minute video short, you’ll discover 5 common signs that you might be burning out AND get tips on how to overcome each.

Dr. Geri Puleo is the President/CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc. with a mission to eradicate workplace burnout — once and for all! To learn more, please check out the blogs and eLearning site listed at the end of this video.

Stress, Fatigue, and Burnout: What to do now to finally get some sleep

ANW2W 2019-08-05 - Tired Workers

If you’re feeling tired, you’re not alone.  According to a recent NSC survey,

  • 73% of Americans reported that they felt too tired to function at work
  • 53% admitted they are less productive
  • 44% had trouble focusing

But is there an underlying cause for our fatigue?  Sleep deprivation may be the underlying factor.

Heavy workloads, extended work hours, and jobs that are cognitively or physically demanding are becoming the norm in the modern workplace.  OSHA has identified 9 risk factors in jobs that can increase a worker’s propensity for fatigue.  These include:

  • Working at night or in the early morning
  • Working long shifts without regular work breaks (either mandated by the employer or self-imposed by the employee)
  • Routinely working over 50 hours per week (NOTE: Japan has identified the 60-hour work week as a contributing factor to kairoshi, or death by overwork)
  • Long daily commutes to and from work

In the previously cited NSC survey, 97% of participants self-reported having at least one of these leading risk factors for fatigue in their jobs.

Are YOU one of the 97% who is at risk for occupational fatigue?

Why We Need Sleep

Unlike machines or robots, human beings have a hard-wired need for daily, restorative sleep.  Sleep is necessary for us to perform at optimal levels.  Unfortunately, ___% of American workers get the recommended 7-8 hours of restful sleep on a nightly basis.

According to NIH, 40 million American workers experience chronic, long-term sleep disorders; an additional 20 million have occasional problems with getting a good night’s sleep.  Insomnia is a clinical term covering a wide range of sleep disturbances, including:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Waking too early in the morning (anecdotally this seems to be around 3:00 AM)
  • Feeling unrefreshed upon awakening

Prolonged sleep disorders that lead to a sleep deficit
have been linked to lasting physical and mental health problems. 

A sleep disorder is any “abnormal sleep pattern that interferes with physical, mental, or emotional functioning” (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).  One of the primary causes for sleep problems is stress.  According to a recent National Sleep Foundation Study, 43% of 13-64 year olds have lied awake at night due to perceived stress in the past month.

Stress-related sleep disturbances do not discriminate on age or gender, but employees whose jobs require cognitively demanding tasks may be more susceptible to fatigue:

  • Monotonous tasks that are unstimulating (such as jobs with little growth or development opportunities)
  • High alert tasks that require vigilance (such as assembly line work that requires constant monitoring of products for even slight abnormalities)
  • Repetitive tasks that use a limited number of muscles in their performance (such as data entry or other positions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome)

According to OSHA, jobs that are at high risk for fatigue can be any job that requires sustained attention OR places significant cognitive or physical demands on the worker.

Sounds like just about every job across industries and organizational levels, doesn’t it?

Fatigue and Burnout

Stress and fatigue are closely associated with burnout.  But why?

A stressor is a situation or event, but the stress that we experience is the result of how we interpret and perceive the stressors.  Do our manager’s constant threats of termination threaten our financial well-being?  Challenge our self-confidence?  Undermine our feelings of self-worth?

While often viewed negatively, the human stress response is actually a protective evolutionary response that chemically enables us to effectively deal with important or dangerous situations.  In other words, our perception of the stressful situation triggers the fight or flight response of adrenaline and cortisol surges to support the heightened awareness and vigilance that are necessary to defend ourselves.

But here’s the problem:  our human bodies cannot endure a constant barrage of these hormones surging through our bodies.  In a constant, prolonged, heightened state of hypervigilant awareness, the cortisol and adrenaline trigger “rapid, anxious thoughts to occur at night” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

In other words, our survival instincts (when left unchecked), prevents our bodies from succumbing to sleep.

And here’s another problem:  bragging about our ability to function with little to no sleep has become a badge of honor for high-performing professionals.  It’s like your father’s fishing stories where the size of the trout eventually becomes the size of a whale!

But our professed need for less sleep is a delusion that stresses our bodies, decreases our mental energy and acuity, and contributes to the onset and maintenance of burnout.

Tips to Decrease Stress, Avoid Burnout…and Get Some Sleep

The modern workplace rarely offers opportunities to take a break from the demands of our jobs.  Workers are challenged by both the unrelenting organizational pressure to be more productive and our own self-imposed emotional need to prove our worth in and through our jobs.  This combination increases anxiety and limits the innate restorative power inherent in our bodies to reduce stress and avoid burnout.

Here are a few commonly used ways to sleep better (and why they work):

  • Reduce stress levels by meditating on your breath. All you need to do is observe each inhalation and exhalation – just let go and realize you only have to observe without doing   (After all, your breathing is automatic.)
  • Just try to move a little more each day – even If you don’t like to exercise (or believe that you “don’t have the time”). Walk around when you’re on your phone instead of sitting at your desk.  Take the steps instead of the elevator.  Park a little farther away from the front door in the parking lot.
  • Eventually add 10 minutes of exercise to your daily routine – make sure it’s something that you enjoy doing! Yoga is particularly good for relieving stress.  But don’t exercise immediately before going to sleep:  aim for morning or early afternoon exercise sessions.  Remember:  exercise releases mood-enhancing endorphins.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and ONLY for sleeping. If you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of lying down, go into another room in order to associate your bedroom only with restful sleep.

Now, here a few other helpful tips to enhance your sleep:

  • Live your life by your priorities – not everything is important. Spend the majority of your time on those tasks that are most important.  Break major projects into small, easily managed chunks.  You don’t have to do it all – so don’t refuse to delegate!
  • Play soothing music that you love – use headphones at work. Not only will this lower your blood pressure, but you’ll also find your mind and body slowly relaxing by releasing any pockets of tension.
  • Focus on others. One leading cause of stress and anxiety is a self-absorption with our problems.  By seeking ways to help others through volunteering, your changed focus can provide new insights into your own stressors – plus you’re better able to recognize and feel gratitude for what is good in your life!  (We often forget the good stuff when we’re stressed and burned out.)

But most importantly, make sleep a priority and recognize that our human need for restorative sleep is non-negotiable.  We need it.  Our bodies crave it.  And without it, we can’t enjoy our lives.

So, don’t overlook our human need for 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night!  Losing just 2 hours of needed sleep results in the same level of physical and cognitive impairment as consuming 3 beers (OSHA).

Learning to create a soothing sleep routine reduces stress and enables our body’s restorative powers to help avoid burnout.  So start making sleep an enjoyable priority!

Copyright 2019 G. A. Puleo

Job Burnout: What It Is, Why It Matters, What to Do (FREE live workshop)

Job Burnout - What it is-why it matters-what to do - BACKGROUND

Job burnout is in epidemic proportions:  but how do you know if you are burning out AND what can you do about it?

Join me on Sunday, April 28 from 1:30-3:00 PM at the Moon Township Public Library for a free workshop to discover:

  • Your personal risk factors and workplace situations that can lead to burnout
  • The potentially debilitating emotional, psychological, and physical effects of burnout
  • Proactive steps to overcome and avoid burnout

Enjoy some tea, coffee, and a pastry along with an active discussion of this important workplace issue.

The Moon Township Public Library is located at 1700 Beaver Grade Rd # 100, Coraopolis, PA 15108.  For more information, please call (412) 269-0334.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Life Is Like Riding a Bicycle

Life is like a bicycle - Albert Einstein

Why do we tend to focus so much on arriving at the goal…but forget about the journey?  Why is it so easy to quit moving forward after we’ve reached our destination?

In other words, why do we STOP moving after a perceived “end point?”

Nothing in life is static.  We are constantly moving.  The goal, of course, is to direct our movements toward something that is worthwhile, noble, and satisfying.  If we stand still, we are more likely to retreat into our past glories (or defeats) and forego moving toward the future.

But many movements are imperceptible.  Even when we are sleeping or at rest, there is constant motion within our bodies:  our hearts, lungs, and digestive tracts continue to work autonomously even when we aren’t.

Despite the stillness we experience in meditation, certain parts of the brain continue to be highly activated. A recent study showed that our electrical brain waves during meditation are not static; instead the waves indicate a perfect balance of mental activity that is both wakeful and relaxed.

Life is all about this delicate balance arising from movement. Some of our movements will be visible to others through actions and behaviors. Other movements will be private and intangible in the form of thoughts and desires. But both forms of movement are necessary to build wisdom and growth during the journey that is our life.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

So, What Do You REALLY Want to Do?

Bored woman at desk - joshua-rawson-harris-444993-unsplash

Have you ever asked a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up?  Usually they have a long, extensive list of all the professional possibilities just waiting for them when they grow up.

But ask an adult what he or she really wants to do professionally?  Well, that’s usually a completely different situation.

Have We Settled for “Boring” in Our Jobs? 

In the 25+ years that I’ve worked with clients to help them direct their careers, one of the most challenging issues has been getting them to tell me what they really want to do:

  • Some tell me what they’re currently doing – but don’t say it with any type of emotional connection or enthusiasm for the work.
  • Some tell me about the desired outcomes of doing “something else” – but never talk about what they’re willing to give in return for those outcomes.
  • And some look at me blankly, but honestly say that they just don’t know.

It seems like we’ve forgotten how to dream about a desirable future because of our self-limiting beliefs on what is “possible.”

Yes, I said SELF-LIMITING beliefs.  We confuse what is “possible” (which is anything) with what is “probable” (which restricts imagination based on what we believe).

While it is true that our dreams of being a musical prodigy or sports superstar may be improbable, our underlying  passion for music or sports remains very real – but often hidden by layers of “real-life” pragmatism.

But being “pragmatic” is often an excuse for denying our dreams.  For denying our passions.  For denying our potential.  And even denying our personal blend of knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents that makes us unique.

Instead of basking in our uniqueness at work, we instead wallow in jobs that neither inspire us nor appeal to our higher level passion and goals.  In other words, we settle for jobs that are boring.

And we spend too much time at work to be bored!

Assuming that we average around 40 hours per week in paid employment and have 2 weeks of unpaid vacation time per year, we’ve committed ourselves to working 2,000 hours per year.  Let’s also assume that we ideally sleep 8 hours per night; this means that we are awake 5,840 hours each year.

These basic calculations lead to the following conclusions:

On average, we will spend @35% of our waking hours at work —  over a 40-year career, that’s 80,000 hours spent on work that doesn’t excite us! 

These are conservative calculations.  In reality, many of us spend many more hours working at our jobs.  This doesn’t include overtime (paid or unpaid, of exempt salaried under FLSA).  Nor does it include all those paid vacations that we “never got around to taking.”  Nor does it consider that many Baby Boomers’ careers are longer than 40 years (because they want to or need to).

Do you really want to spend this much of your live…being BORED?!

The Dangers of Boredom at Work

Boredom occurs when an activity feels unsatisfying or when some mandatory task does not ignite your interest.  It’s not necessarily the result of a bored mindset.  Even highly energized workers can become bored when they are not given opportunities to focus that energy on something that is meaningful to them.

Some recent research suggests that boredom can lead to physical ailments:

  • Weight gain (eating because we’re bored – and generally food that is not necessarily healthy for us)
  • Poor emotional health and depression
  • Persistent back pain or a higher level of pain in general (in other words, unhappy emotions increase feelings of physical pain)

Other research has found that a lack of neurological excitement coupled with a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction is the basis for feelings of boredom.  In other words, we are uninspired and dissatisfied with our work.

Boredom makes us feel “stuck” – we’re weary and restless with no direction.  It also prevents us from engaging in our innate curiosity by placing boundaries on what we believe is possible.  It tells us that “nothing will change…so why bother trying something new?”

Boredom makes us believe that “success” is impossible.

By affecting the individual worker,
boredom can also jeopardize the company’s very survival! 

Moving Out of a Boring Job

It is not helpful to believe that every task in a job should be full of excitement.  A certain level of mundane tasks can be found in any job.  But we don’t have to let the tedium take over our work experience.

If your job has become boring and tedious, you have arrived at an important crossroad:  are you going to accept that you have no choice to change a job that is boring OR do are you going to muster the courage to take action toward finding something new, different, and better aligned with your life goals?

My hope is that you take the time to assess your career to date in order to determine if it’s time to make changes in your life.

The first step to moving out of a boring job is to identify what you want.  Don’t limit yourself to probabilities at this stage!  Instead think back to what gives you enjoyment.  Identify those activities in which you are so thoroughly engaged that “time seems to fly by.”

Once you’ve identified these activities, it’s time to search for common themes.  Even though you might enjoy what initially seem to be very diverse activities, there is always some underlying action or outcome.  By identifying this thread, you have the foundation for creating a career that contains this important element.

For example, I was originally a conservatory voice major.  This required me to be comfortable on a stage, able to communicate and engage the audience, and be prepared to do what was necessary in order to be ready to do perform my best onstage – regardless of the amount of time involved.  I also liked the creativity blended with a thorough understanding of different musical genres.  While much of the background work was autonomous, there was also camaraderie with other musicians as we prepared for a performance.

But above all, I wanted to make people feel something as a result of my performance.

While I no longer have ambitions of being a professional singer, I still have a deep desire to make my clients, students, and keynote attendees feel something by being challenged with new ideas that can improve their lives.

While the “stage” of my career is quite different, the elements that gave me joy as a singer are still present in my role as a leading advocate for the eradication of workplace burnout.

What’s your “common thread” in what gives YOU joy?

To thank you for reading my blog and to help you on your journey to finding a satisfying career that you love, please check out my newly updated eCourse, A User’s Guide to Managing Your Career:  You’ll learn how to identify what you really want in and expect from your career, plus develop 3 levels of goals to propel you toward a career that you will love.  (NOTE:  Although this is an intensive 7 module course, it is available on-demand so that you can work on it at your own pace – plus you have LIFETIME access!)

SPECIAL GIFT:  If you use discount code ANW2W10P, you can save 10% off this course.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

A Fresh Start After a Perceived “Failure”

Failure is staying down - Mary Pickford

Let’s face it:  we’ve all failed — and often quite spectacularly.

How we define “failure” is closely related to our unmet expectations:  when our projected outcomes do not align with our current reality…when we judge and compare ourselves to others…when our negative self-talk plays in a demoralizing perpetual loop.

We all fall down — but we don’t have to STAY down!  Let’s take this moment to refuse to dwell on our perceived “failures.”

Instead, let’s consciously focus on the lessons learned so that we can move out of negativity..and into positivity, passion, meaning, and joy.

The BAD news:  Focusing on failure makes us dangerously susceptible to burnout.
The GOOD news:  We have the undeniable power to make every moment in every day a brand new start!  All we need to do is CHOOSE to start fresh.

In 2019, let’s remember to consciously breathe with gratitude for the good in our lives — and with each breath, commit to rewriting our future by changing the paradigms that shape our lives.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Why Burnout Is NOT Inevitable

Burnout Bundle - Logo

Burnout has become rampant in the modern workplace. As the demands on our time, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities increase, this creates a stressor-rich environment that can contribute to burnout.

Even though our professional and personal lives have become increasingly hectic, time-consuming, and stressful, we DON’T have to become victims of this stress by succumbing to burnout.

IMPORTANT: Burning out does NOT mean that you have a maladaptive response to stress! In fact, I’ve found that it is the combination of three factors that create a fertile environment for the onset of burnout. This Burnout Triumvirate is comprised of personality traits, the organizational work environment, and physical symptoms.

Personality Traits. No two people are identical in their response to an external stressor. Therefore, understanding what causes YOU to experience negative stress is the first step in avoiding potential burnout-producing situations.

  • Are you a perfectionist with high standards that exceed what is necessary to get the job done?
  • Are you a people-pleaser who can’t seem to say “no” to the demands and requests of others?

Organizational Environment. Just as no two people are the same, no two work environments will create the same set of stressors that can lead to burnout.

  • How is your relationship with your immediate supervisor or boss? Is it autocratic, laissez-faire, or collegial?
  • What are the unspoken requirements for success in your workplace? Are long hours demanded? Is it necessary to curry political favors in order to get ahead?

Physical Symptoms. Finally, prolonged experiences of negative stress are manifested in a wide variety of physical malaise — both chronic and acute — that contribute to and maintain burnout.

  • Do you have a cold that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Gastrointestinal problems? A general feeling of being unwell?
  • Are you having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep — either failing to fall asleep or continuously waking up during the night?

By understanding your unique burnout triggers, you can not only overcome a current burnout but also take proactive steps to avoid burning out in the future.

Because my mission is to eradicate workplace burnout, I’ve expanded upon my research-based findings in an on-demand eCourse to help stressed out workers achieve greater productivity, work-life balance, and job satisfaction through recognizing, overcoming, and avoiding burnout.  P.S.: You can save $15 by using the coupon code BURNOUT15.

How to Avoid Burnout

Denial is one of the most difficult challenges associated with burnout. This is why it is so important to identify the types of situations or relationships that tend to be most stressful to you AND become crystal clear as to the personality traits that make you more susceptible to burnout.

While it’s always best to prevent burnout from occurring, you also need to have a clear action plan that will enable you to identify your personal warning signs that “routine” stress is moving toward burnout. In addition to sleep problems, you might notice that it is taking you longer to complete projects or that you’ve become cranky with your coworkers and family. You might even notice that you’ve lost your sense of humor!

It’s also important to bring subconscious self-talk to the forefront. In other words, what are you saying to yourself that can increase the likelihood of burnout AND keep you burned out? (HINT: One of the most common self-talk loops that sustains burnout focuses on the belief that “It should have been different.”)

It’s always best to take remedial action before you are in a full-blown burnout — but watch out for burnout’s false cures! These are the tactics used to assuage your stress (such as alcohol consumption or even spending more time at work), but that ultimately end up increasing your stress levels.

When you are on the road to burnout recovery, there is still one additional but powerful obstacle that can undermine your progress: residual burnout. Similar to a boomerang effect, residual burnout can be triggered by any situation that is reminiscent of what contributed to your burnout. While you might not succumb to a full-blown burnout, residual burnout can increase the levels of frustration, anger, and apathy that precipitate burnout.

The good news is that there ARE proven techniques to help you decrease stress and overcome burnout! These include common techniques (such as exercise, therapy, and a support network) to some not-so-common strategies that include embracing the changes that precipitated burnout and shifting your attention (and energy!) to something more positive.

I hope that this article provided you with some ideas to overcome burnout. I’d love to have you join us in my companion eCourse — How to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout.

This 10-lesson eCourse dives into the personality traits, organizational environment, and physical problems that contribute to and maintain burnout. It is mobile-friendly and includes videos, articles, audiopodcasts, workbooks, quick quizzes, and a private community discussion forum to help you manage stress and avoid burnout. Don’t forget to use the special code BURNOUT15 to save $15 when you register!

eCourse registration is on a rolling basis, so you can begin the training whenever it best fits with your calendar. To learn more, please click here or go to https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/28192/about.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.