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Taming burnout at work

Burnout is different from typical work stress, involving physical and emotional exhaustion, consistent negativity, apathy, or cynicism about work, and difficulty getting started and completing work tasks. Perhaps you notice that you are irritable with your co-workers, and find yourself turning to food or alcohol to cope with your feelings. You may even experience physical symptoms including insomnia, headaches, and stomach problems.

Certain work conditions can make you more susceptible to burn-out, such as unclear expectations, lack of influence over assignments or your schedule, poor dynamics with co-workers, excessive or shifting hours, and a chaotic work pace. This type of chronic workplace stress can damage not only your job performance, but your mental and physical health!

How can you take action to tame burnout?

Take a break. If you have vacation time or PTO - take it! Yes, you'll still be retuning to the same work environment eventually, but taking some time away gives you some breathing room, time to rest and recuperate, and consider your next steps.

Change it up. Try a change of scenery, such as working from a coffee shop, park, library, or even just a different desk. Take a short walk during your lunch hour. Small changes can be refreshing and break up a monotonous or tedious work day.

Confide in those you trust. Many find it difficult to discuss burnout with a supervisor. Seek support in colleagues and friends you trust to discuss your stress levels, workload, and interpersonal challenges. Make yourself heard!

Examine your attitude. Certain characteristics may make you more prone to burnout, including being a perfectionist, being a "yes" person, and over-achieving. By understanding the difference between pressure that your job puts on you, and pressure that you put on yourself, you'll be able to address negative thought patterns. For example, thinking "There was an error on the brief I prepared - I'm a terrible writer" can be reframed as "I made one mistake but the rest of my document was strong." Addressing negative thought patterns takes time, patience, and practice. Professional counselors can also assist you in this process.

Identify your options. You may be able to work together with your supervisor to find solutions to your burnout, such as adjusting your hours, changing your responsibilities, or completing training. Alternativelty, burnout may be a sign that you need to seek a new position. Review your thoughts with friends and family, and check in with a career counselor if you need help identifying your next step.

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