Burned out at work?

Posted by Michael Dale Kimmel in Columns 12 Aug 2016

cute asian swimmerI see a lot of clients who have problems with their jobs. They tell me they feel burned out at work. I define this kind of burnout as job-related mental and physical exhaustion that has a negative effect on your personal life.

Here are some signs you may be approaching (or experiencing) burnout:

You’re emotionally, mentally or physically fatigued: you’re too tired to do much at work or after. You spend you a lot of your free time “recovering” from work.

You’re experiencing anhedonia: this is a fancy psychological term for loss of interest in things you normally enjoy. Your friends say you’re no fun anymore and you find yourself turning down invitations to social events.

Your job is boring: you’ve been doing the same thing for too long or you were overqualified from the get-go.

Your boss is a jerk and no matter what you try, you two just don’t get along.

You have a bad attitude: you used to be pretty upbeat, now, it’s just the opposite.

Your performance ratings keep going down: when you hate what you do, you can only fake it for so long.

You can’t stop talking about how much work sucks: it’s taking over your life.

You’re having all kinds of health problems: your body is trying to tell you something!

 

What can you do about this awful stuff?

Create a plan to get out: even if it will take you four years to get a college degree, come up with a way out: you’ll feel so much better knowing your situation is only temporary.

Find some ways to relax: it doesn’t matter what you do: meditate, kick-box, hike, play with your cats (I like this myself)…any way to ditch some of that stress.

Do something outside of work that’s worth your time and energy. Find a Meet-Up group, volunteer at The Center, do something meaningful. Since your job isn’t that interesting, find something that is. You need stimulation!

Sleep about 8 hours a night, and make it good, restful sleep. You may need to cut back the booze, the late night Grindr or Snapchat sessions. Everyone has their own way of getting enough rest, you may need to experiment to find something that works for you.

Get help. Ask for it. You perfectionists will hate this, but,you can’t do it alone. Ask your friends or family for emotional support. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety that won’t go away, get professional help.

 

What if you want/need to stay at the job? Many of us need the money and can’t just quit. Some of us see that things could get better (e.g., your boss-from-hell may be transferred) if only we could hang in there. In that case, consider these ideas:

Try something new: ask for new work or a shift in responsibilities. Try taking on a project that scares you (that’s a good boredom killer!)

Make an effort to connect with your coworkers: don’t make it all about you! Consciously set out to listen to and encourage them (it’s bound to come back to you). If you can’t change your job, change how you relate to the people there.

If you can, have a heart-to-heart with your boss: some bosses are beyond approach, but 95% of them are not. Ask your boss how you can help each other. You may be surprised at what you hear.

Find something good at work and pump it up: no job is totally awful, there are always some good people/activities/challenges. Focus on those. Get involved with projects that encourage you to interact with new people, e.g., in other departments. Focus on what’s good.

If your job pays for you to further your education, take that money and use it to make yourself more marketable.

Clean up your office: is your desk/cubicle a disaster? Decluttering always feels better. It gives you something tangible and physical to focus on. Once, I had a temp job that was so awful that I spent a lot of time cleaning the desk and everything on it. I couldn’t change my awful boss or the boring work, but I could make a nice, clean, tidy workspace for myself. It helped.

 

Job burnout is something you can avoid if you are willing to wake up and make some changes. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you end up telling the boss exactly what you think of her/him (and get fired on the spot). Take action now.