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Preventing Job Burnout
by Lorna Riley

Could this be you? Do you have a decrease in energy, sleep difficulties, chronic fatigue, nagging colds, tense muscles, increased cynicism, decrease in work satisfaction, frequent headaches, nausea, back pain, dizziness, frequent depression? Are you more accident prone, easily irritated, tearful, more negative, pessimistic, or indecisive? Do you feel emotionally drained, incompetent, or helpless?

If you've been experiencing even just a few of these symptoms, you may be showing early signs of job burnout.

Job burnout is a term used to describe a decline in one's emotional, mental, and physical well-being as a result of long-term stress without sufficient compensation. Stress alone is not the culprit. In fact, stress allows people a sense of exhilaration when it is used constructively and helps people to function at their best. When stress continues for months or years without adequate rewards and support systems however, we easily become candidates for the more serious effects of stress called job burnout.

The term "burnout" was first coined in the 1970's when describing the damaged vein of a heroin user. It is now used to describe the best and the brightest of people who experience a gradual erosion of their capabilities and spirit.

Who gets it? Your susceptibility largely depends on who you are, where you work, and what you do.

Who are you? It is often people who love their work who become burnout victims. Perfectionists and "A" type personalities with high expectations are high on the list too.

Where do you work? People who have heavy contact with the public--teachers, sales professionals, flight attendants, restaurateurs, human resource personnel etc. are more susceptible. Those with deadline work (newspaper/ magazine journalists, advertising executives, designers etc.) or with high responsibility for others (lawyers, doctors, caretakers). Repetitive tasks on the job also contribute as well (assembly workers, file clerks, data entry etc.)

What do you do? Stressful working conditions on the job contribute as well--constant change, inadequate feedback, little or no compensation, constant rejection, extreme competitiveness, or unchallenging work all add to the mix.

When these conditions merge, it is time to reexamine work priorities, balancing efforts, and coping strategies. Here are a few just a few tips for getting out of the embers.
  1. Eat a high energy diet--fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and megavitamins. Cut out foods with refined sugar, white flour, high fat, sodas, caffeine, chocolate, dairy products, red meat, and alcohol. These foods are harder to digest, deplete your energy, and lower your immune system. If you have chronic fatigue, see your doctor. There are several excellent books out there with very specific diet requirements for its cure.
  2. Exercise every day. I know it's hard, but get up 30 minutes early every day to do something--stretching, brisk walking, toning. Stressed, tense muscles need stretching. An excellent video serious by "The Firm" specializes in aerobic weight training. You'll get heart and muscle work done all at once, saving time and helping you to feel great. When you feel stronger physically, your mood and overall state of well-being improves. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, and this is a habit that could save your life.
  3. Pretend that you've retired and that you just work for fun.
  4. Breathe deeply, especially when you're under the gun.
  5. Force yourself to relax or rest periodically during the day. Even five minutes can make a difference. I have a friend who didn't--lived on donuts, coffee, fast food, fast talk, and fast times. Now he wears an insulin pump.
  6. Simplify your life. Get rid of excess baggage-stuff in closets, junk in your wallet or purse, the cluttered garage--even a bad relationship.
  7. Handle paper only once. Make a decision to toss it, refer it, act on it immediately, or file it. Reducing cluttered papers reduces stress.
  8. Finally, if you really want to reduce your stress, reduce your expectations. Don't be so hard or yourself. Save some goals for tomorrow. They'll still be there when you wake up.
Life is a series of moments. Enjoy each one of them!

Copyright © 2002 by Lorna Riley. All rights reserved.

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