6 Tips to Help You Avoid Burning Out at Work

Many claim that we are busier than ever before. While this is arguable, some of us undoubtedly suffer from a case of "hurry sickness," the harried sensation that permeates all aspects of our lives and usually leads to burnout. It’s like a merry-go-round that just won’t stop, a car that stalls on the side of the road, a candle that has reached its wick and flickers to its death. Whichever metaphor we choose, burnout at work occurs when we feel exhausted, stressed, bored, overloaded, and unappreciated. Here are six ways to combat it before it spills over into your home or social life.

  1. Flip the switch. The separation between our personal lives and our professional lives is dwindling. Now, we’re sending emails in our sleep and power-napping during lunch. Studies show that our high-speed gadgets – cellphones, TVs, and laptops – wire our brains with a need for speed. But burnout is a sign to slow down, so set aside time every day when you completely unplug because one of the strongest predictors of burnout is "work-home interference," which occurs when we let the line between the two blur.
  2. Live up the leisure time. The mantra "work hard, play hard," is a good one, but one that we shouldn’t take too literally. Our obsession to be efficient at work has seeped into our attitudes towards leisure, where we often continue to multitask. We flip through a magazine while we browse the Internet and catch up with a friend on the phone. Use this time to slow down; the restorative time you take after-hours will help prevent burnout during work hours.
  3. Change up the menu. If you usually eat lunch alone, venture beyond the cubicle. Ask a co-worker to join you, or plan a lunch date with a friend or spouse. If you typically grab lunch at a nearby restaurant or café, brown bag it and venture outdoors. Pack foods that are low on the glycemic index, because these will provide a steadier source of energy. Whatever you do, try not to spend the time discussing work or office politics. Use the hour as a mid-day recharge rather than a vent session so that when you return to the office, you are more alert and energetic.
  4. Down a dose of creativity. Trying something new can combat the burnout, whether it’s discovering a new hobby or starting a fun project. Or consider the things that you used to enjoy, but have stopped doing since. Visit or phone a friend that you haven’t contacted in a while, go for a walk, or ride your bike. What you choose to do can be as complicated as renovating a room or as simple as playing a new board game.
  5. Set boundaries. While we may not want to believe that we are dispensable, the fact of the matter is that we are. Don’t be tempted to do it all alone and don’t overextend yourself. While saying "no" to every task your boss assigns is never okay, it is okay to say something when you simply have too much on your plate. If you feel overcommitted, share this with him or her in a tactful manner. Avoid bringing work home.
  6. Exercise. Regular exercise can help you cope with burnout and stress. Schedule workouts into your routine at least three times a week. Start running, swimming, biking, or taking yoga classes. Whatever you do will help cut back on the number of sick days you take.

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