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Nicole Arzt

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The Best Ways to Avoid Burnout At Work


Burnout: physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

Today, burnout is one of those hot buzzwords floating around every trendy professional sphere. We've all heard about it, we've all talked about it, but most of us still don't really know what to do about it.

Burnout is a serious epidemic, one that continues to plague nearly every industry, from healthcare to retail to entertainment to business. The stakes are high, the pressure is on, and most of us don't really know how to set the appropriate boundaries between work and leisure.

Burnout costs both employees and employers time, money, and extraneous stress. Read on to learn how to reduce your chances of experiencing this exhausting phenomenon and increase your productivity and fulfillment in work.  

Determine the Burnout

According to the Association for Psychological Science, burnout comes in three flavors. 

  • Overload burnout:  overworking, perfectionistic, often taking on excessive projects and working to the point of mental or physical exhaustion
  • Personal development burnout: feeling under-challenged or underutilized; experiencing boredom or unfulfillment in the workplace
  • Worn-out burnout: lack of motivation to complete tasks, overarching experience of "giving up" in the face of stress

If you are concerned that you are on the brink of burnout, determine which of the three categories most resonate with you. This will help you pinpoint the appropriate coping strategies to use for taking the next step. 

Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Stop waiting for motivation, and start planning for preparation. Keeping track of small goals will allow you to realistically measure your progress and determine where you need to continue to grow or change a particular aspect in the workplace.

S.M.A.R.T goals are clear and reachable; they allow you to specify exactly what you want to accomplish, why it's important, and how and when you intend to achieve it. With that said, they need to be relevant and worthwhile to you. 

A good example of a S.M.A.R.T goal in the workplace can be: Within the next two months, I am going to complete my training presentation, which will allow me to start preparing for management and executive roles. Within the next four months, I will have shared the presentation with at least three audiences.

The most important part of any goal-setting? Practice kindness and acceptance with yourself. You don't need to do anything perfectly, but tracking your progress and modifying as needed will keep you on the right track.

Make a Pleasing Workspace

We are a sum of our surroundings, and a messy, chaotic, or even dirty workplace makes it hard to feel motivated or creative. 

Take a mental and physical inventory of your physical workplace. Do you have a bunch of useless, unmarked papers lying around? A dead plant? Bunch of pens that no longer work? Commit to overhauling your space and investing in some pleasing items instead.

It may feel like an insignificant touch, but research shows that the aesthetics in our workplace can influence our overall job satisfaction and mental health. Here is your permission to spring for that new bookshelf, orchid plant, or the scented candle. Here's to boosted productivity!

Get A Hobby

If your schedule looks like work, sleep, repeat, we have a huge problem. Either you're going to completely immerse yourself in work (red flag) or completely start resenting your life (huge red flag) or both. It's really only a matter of time.

Hobbies are important for mental and physical health. And, no, it doesn't have to be something you participate in every single day. With that said, you should have something to look forward to on a consistent basis that has nothing to do with work.

Whether it's a new exercise class, learning a language, or picking up an old instrument, hobbies make life worthwhile. They recharge your emotional batteries and also make you more interesting as a person (which inadvertently makes you a better employee as well).

Seek Professional Help

If you feel like your burnout is past the point of personal intervention, it may be time to seek the assistance of a licensed therapist or psychologist. These professionals are trained in understanding stress and providing you with appropriate coping skills to manage it. They may also be able to determine if underlying issues, like depression or anxiety, are contributing to workplace burnout.

Remember, there is no shame in asking for help. Nobody deserves to suffer in their professional lives!

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