Has stress pushed you into the danger zone?

“Burn out is an equal-opportunity condition” say many experts in different fields. And, that holds true whether you work in an office or at home. Burn out is a due to poor time and stress management. It can be caused due to lack of information and ignorance. It affects people in different ways like less job satisfaction, underperformance, poor management of one´s chores at work and at home and loss of growth opportunities etc.

Burn out may be of two types, namely temporary burn out and long-lasting burn out. Temporary burn outs may have short-lived effects whereas long-lasting burn outs may cause everlasting or indelible effects.

Millions of people are unknowingly getting affected by this risk. In a survey by Career Build.com, more than half of the workers said that they were under a great deal of stress. Around 77% reported feeling burned out at some point of time. No one is immune to burnout regardless of age, gender or nature of the job. Everyone including mothers, homemakers, managers, fire fighters, flight attendants, teachers and telephone service reps feel the effects of too much stress and low satisfaction. More the stress more are the chances of a burnout. Hence, Taxicab drivers, law enforcement personnel, air traffic controllers, musicians, teachers, lawyers, emergency service workers and high technology professionals seem more prone to burnout than others.

Burn out is also affecting many people especially those caring for others. People in the service industry are in a constant conflict between their own feelings and their confrontation with difficult, distressful issues in their interaction with others. Things go haywire both at home and at work if one does not recognize the symptoms of a burnout in time and fails to make the necessary changes in one´s lifestyle.

What´s sparking the problem?

Too much work? Too little control? No recognition or rewards? Co-workers are difficult to deal with? Unfair treatment? A clash of values? After decades of research by some psychologists, it was found that any of these factors could sabotage your job satisfaction. You might be able to handle the work load but the constant conflict with your colleagues or your boss may be causing a lot of unwanted stress. The issue may be a disconnect between one´s expectations from the job and the reality.

Employees may experience burn outs in case of increased work load, reduced compensation or inability to recognize employee values like in the case of Bob Phibbs, who was managing a chain of 55 Western-wear cloth outlets in California. After 14 years, when he questioned his manager as to what was the main asset of the company, he was shocked to get the response that it was customers, while he was expecting the manager to say employees. This discrepancy between his perception of his importance to the organization and the company´s actual view led to a burnout.

Smoldering Stress:

Stress can take a serious toll even with work you love and care passionately about. Take the case of Leslie Godwin, a marriage and family counselor in Los Angeles. She could not set boundaries and was always worried about the drug addicts she was treating. After years of witnessing non-stop stress, her husband casually commented that, she hated her job. Godwin tried to protest, but she burst into tears. “My body betrayed me. I couldn´t stop crying. I was completely burned out, and I was the last one to know”, she says. As Godwin learnt, burn out can smolder for years before finally erupting into blaze. Often, the first sign is physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. A few psychologists say that it is draining to deal with people and problems under incredible time pressures. The hallmark of burn out is a shift to the negative. People begin to detach and dislike their job. Some people may become cynical, hostile and blame others. Instead of giving their best quality work, they will stick to minimum load. Ultimately, the one-two punch of exhaustion and cynicism culminates in inefficacy, a sense of inadequacy that saps a person´s strength and spirit.

Research in the new field of Social Neuroscience is providing fresh insight into this process. Daniel Goleman, a Psychologist and author of Social Intelligence says, “Our brains are designed to reflect and catch the state of the person we´re with, which works to our advantage in most situations by helping us understand each other better.” However constant interaction with people, who are anxious, angry, stressed or traumatized, floods the brain with negative emotions and activates your stress centers.”

He also added that, “If you add a toxic boss on top of Job stress, you´re creating a perfect storm for burnout because there´s no one to go to for emotional support”. “You´re like an empty well. You don´t have anything left to give”. As a protective mechanism, you shut down and end up pushing away the very person you´re trying to help. However, simply acknowledging burnout can mark a turning point. Insight changes everything. Once, you can see what´s happening, you can´t continue to approach your work in the same way, with in a few months your epiphany will switch into another position. If you realize you need to, make a change, you find a way to do it. The realization is much harder than the concrete steps you have to take afterwards.”

Recognizing a STRESSOR

It is important to recognize whether you are under stress or out of it. Many times, even if we are under the influence of a stressful condition and our body reacts to it internally as well as externally, we fail to realize that we are reacting under stress. This also happens when the causes of stress are there long enough for us to get habituated to them. The body constantly tries to tell us through symptoms such as rapid palpitation, dizzy spells, tight muscles or various body aches that something is wrong. It is important to remain attentive to such symptoms and to learn to cope with the situations.

Some Burnout Symptoms:

Work leaves you physically and emotionally drained.

You feel like you are accomplishing less and doing more.

You put your work first but no one appreciates your efforts.

You´ve lost your sense of humor and playfulness.

You find yourself short-tempered and angry.

You go on vacation but the feeling of overwhelm comes back immediately upon return.

Beating Burnout

So, how do you move away from burnout and move towards a feeling of enthusiasm again? Here are some recommended steps.

Make time for yourself by helping out people above everything else. So you will gain self-satisfaction and make it as a habit.

Develop a method to calm your self by choosing prayer, medication or breathe deeply. Practice the above mentioned work everyday, outside the work situation, ideally in the morning and then draw on it during pauses throughout your work day.

Simply taking short breaks to close your eyes and clear your mind can re-energize your brain during a frenetic day.

Analyze what you love and hate about your work. What has changed – the amount of work, the deadlines, the boss, the pay, the company´s mission? Once you´ve identified problem areas, think of specific strategies to resolve, solve them. For instance, you might build an alliance with colleagues and work together to address shared concerns.

Settle for less than perfect. Work at 90 % rather than 110% of maximum.

Rather than check e-mails and voice messages around the clock, respond at preset times, and know when to turn off the devices and focus on the other aspects of your life.

Take good care of your self. Eat healthy food and get enough sleep. Exercise everyday. If you think your are too busy, plan for 5 mins walk a day. Once you see the benefits, you will want to do more of the things that are really the key to keeping you from getting burned out.

Cultivate a support network. Find a friend at work with whom you can share your matters freely.

If you´re caring for a family member at home, tap relative and friends. Please note that Human nature is not designed for isolation. We all need to re-create the support of the extended family through friendships.

Set limits. Take some time before accepting a new demand. Talk to your friend or spouse about that. If you really want to do it go ahead or else don´t do it.

Learn to say “no” by creating realistic boundaries. Speak up when you are overwhelmed. Remember, no one but YOU know what you really do in the course of a day. Establish limits that honor the needs of the people around you while preserving the integrity of what you can honestly do.

Remember: you are the captain of your ship. Pay attention to the wind and waves.

If you need to leave a toxic work place but can not quite yet, spend 15 minutes daily exploring options. It is better to consult the management and tell them your problem before leaving thus ensuring that a new employee will not have to go through the same things. By telling the problems they will come to know about those problems, so that new employees will not suffer.

Last but not least you have to feel that a job, like a relationship, is worth doing.

So my dear friends follow some of these steps or all the steps to beat the burnout. Taking these small steps will help you feel more in control and set the stage for a fresh start.

References:-

1) Readers Digest April 2007.

2) Anxious 9 to 5 by Larina Kase.

3) Social Intelligence by Danial Goelman.

4) Your Own Worst Enemy by Kenneth w. Christian.

5) Banishing Burnout by Christina Maslach.

By Hariprasad .P

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