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.
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.