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BURNOUT: Know the Signs and What You Can Do
Submitted by the USPS Employee Assistance Program
Burnout is a real concern for working individuals. It impacts our physical and mental health. Feeling overwhelmed and overworked can result in high levels of stress. And high levels of stress for prolonged periods can result in physical and mental exhaustion, which causes burnout.
Burnout can negatively impact your work performance, keep you from enjoying time with your family and inhibit your ability to relax outside of work and can cause health concerns, such as depression and high blood pressure. Burnout also can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is important to pay attention to the signs of burnout and know what to do.
Following are signs you might be headed toward burnout:
The first step is recognizing burnout and acknowledging you are experiencing it. Next, it is time to evaluate the possible causes. Burnout could be due to unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, an inability to find your right work/life balance or feeling you have no control in your job, such as in your schedule or workload. Identifying the source is important to finding a solution to help improve your overall well-being.
If you are spending more and more time at work, perhaps you have taken on too many commitments or responsibilities. It is easy to become bitter toward your work environment if you say “yes” to every extra assignment that comes your way. Some people find it difficult to say “no” because they fear appearing incompetent or unprofessional.
It is important to have healthy boundaries inside and outside of work when it comes to committing to tasks. Say “no” in a professional manner by emphasizing you would be glad to help, but, right now, you don’t believe your schedule would allow you to complete the request in a timely manner. Overcommitting can result in a poor work/life balance. If work takes up so much of your time that you don’t have the energy to enjoy time with family and friends, you already may be experiencing burnout.
The key to overcoming burnout lies in you. You can do this by prioritizing your work, delegating tasks to others, having a conversation with someone you trust about your workload and productivity and, most importantly, leaving work at work.
Once you have left work for the day, find a little time to relax before you get home. For some, the drive home and listening to upbeat music is enough to help focus and disconnect from the office. Others may need to stop at the park and take a brief walk or stop at the gym and get in a workout before going home for the day.
When we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, we need to have compassion for ourselves and include some extra self-care into our daily routine. If we allow ourselves to reach the point of burnout, we might start feeling like a failure or questioning our purpose in life. You might feel powerless to achieve your goals.
Extend yourself the same support and love you would to a friend who is struggling with the same issue. Ensure you are taking care of yourself by:
Mindfulness techniques are used to help us stay fully present and in the moment. It is a way to be aware of where we are and what we are doing as opposed to being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. If you find your attention slipping away to future tasks or thinking about past problems, meditation might be helpful in reigning those thoughts in and bringing you back to the here and now.
Meditation is one technique you can use to bring some peace and calm into the middle of your hectic day. Even a short, 10-to-15-minute meditation is enough to regroup and can lead to an increase in productivi-ty and a decrease in stress.
There are many free, guided meditations available on YouTube. It may sound strange or exotic at first, but don’t be shy, give it a try! As you listen to the presenter and follow their instruction, notice the areas in your body that feel tense or tight. You might be surprised at just how calm and collected you feel after a short meditation session.
A short, 10-to-15-minute meditation can be easily included in your workday. Put it on your calendar and make a commitment to include it in your daily routine. Take notice of your body during the day. If your shoulders and neck are feeling tight, it might be a good time to take that meditation break. Meditation also is great to include in your nighttime routine to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
Burnout often leads to negative thinking, which, in turn, leaves us feeling unhappy and can lead to depression. When everything appears to be going wrong or feels out of control, it can be difficult to develop the habit of positive thinking. With some practice, though, it can be done.
You might find it helpful to start each day being thankful for what is going well in your life. Nothing is all bad all the time, but our thoughts sometimes may have us believing otherwise.
What are you grateful for? Your spouse, significant other, family, being employed, having a comfortable home, having transportation? Start small and take a moment to count your blessings. If you can focus on what is going well, it makes what is going wrong a little less impactful in the overall scheme of things.
Being resilient and overcoming challenges start with identifying the problem and looking for solutions. We all know burnout is a real issue in the workplace. By acknowledging you are experiencing burnout and looking for solutions, you are fostering resilience when faced with the next challenge.
Your USPS Employee Assistance Program is here to help! If you find yourself struggling with burnout, feeling overwhelmed by your daily tasks or would like some support in implementing mindfulness techniques and self-care, give us a call at 800-327-4968 (800-EAP-4YOU); TTY: 877-492-7341. Or visit EAP4YOU.com for more information.
Your EAP consultant or clinician can provide individual coaching and group training to help you and your team become more productive, efficient and manage burnout.