Recovering From Burnout? Be Patient!

If you have recently recognized that you are (unfortunately!) burned out AND you have begun to take proactive steps to recover (fortunately!), I have some advice:

Be patient!  

You didn’t burn out overnight — it’s usually at least 6 months to 2 years prior to a full-blown burnout — so your recovery needs to be taken in incremental small steps in order to FULLY recover from burnout.

In this 3-minute video, I’ll share the 3 “baby steps” to take along your recovery.  You CAN overcome burnout and move forward toward a happier, less stressful life — but it’s important to begin those baby steps now!

© 2019 G. A. Puleo

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

Yep, Chronic Workplace Stress Leads to Burnout…

The World Health Organization has finally recognized burnout as a workplace phenomenon arising from…you guessed it…chronic job stress.  This is something that we’ve all been painfully aware of, but W.H.O.’s inclusion of burnout in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as a workplace phenomenon is a game changer.  

As I mentioned in my TEDx Talk, burnout is very similar to PTSD — which is a de facto disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S.  So I speculated that if burnout could be similarly categorized, employers would be required to provide reasonable accommodations to burned out workers.

Employers must start doing something to mitigate the high degree of stress in their workplaces in order to prevent employee burnout.  

In this short video, I’ll share a few of the organizational factors that my research has shown can lead to burnout.

Copyright 2019 G. A. Puleo

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

The Truth About Workplace Burnout

PODCAST - Better Achiever Image

I’m so pleased to share my recent interview on Carol Miltersteiner’s Dutch podcast, The Better Achiever!

In this 56-minute interview, I shared my own experience with burnout and how it has shaped my research and practice – plus I provided some insights into workplace stressors that lead to burnout.

You can also listen to this podcast on Spotify  or SoundCloud.

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.

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.