Occupational Burnout: When Work Becomes Overwhelming
How to Avoid Emotional Burnout at Work
Some careers are physically taxing and others that take more of an emotional toll on you. Given the effects emotional stress can take on your mind and body, emotional burnout at work can be concerning. There are ways that you can protect your emotional and mental health and avoid emotional burnout at work. You can be proactive by managing your work-related feelings and recognizing the signs of burnout. You can also practice stress reduction strategies and take efforts to balance your work and life.
Managing Work-Related Emotions
Pay attention to your mood.Keeping track of your mood from day to day can help you to identify if there is a problem. Try keeping a log of your mood to identify changes. You might notices changes in your mood that are dramatic or subtle. For example, you might notice you are feeling unmotivated one day, or that you feel hopeless. Watch for these types of mood shifts and talk with someone you trust about them.
- If your mood shifts begin to interfere with your ability to do your job, or if you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, then see a therapist for help as soon as possible.
Remain objective about work.You might find yourself becoming emotionally involved in situations at work, even if you don’t mean to. You may have a job that requires you to get closely involved in the lives of others. Or, you may work in an emotionally charged environment with volatile co-workers. You can avoid emotional burnout if you take a step back and stay objective rather than allowing your emotions to takeover.
- Remind yourself that you have to maintain some emotional and mental space between your professional and personal life. For instance, if you work in social services, you may need to tell yourself, “By doing my job, I’m doing something to help this person. But I can’t take this home with me.”
- Try to avoid getting caught up and emotionally involved in workplace drama. For example, if the office ‘hot couple’ just broke up, steer clear of getting worked up as if your own relationship just ended.
Talk to someone you trust.Releasing your emotions by confiding in someone close to you can do a great deal to help you manage feelings that arise because of work. Just having someone listen while you talk through your feelings can help you avoid emotional burnout at work.They can also offer a fresh perspective on frustrating situations and strategies for handling work-related stress.
- You might tell your brother, for instance, “Work has been really crazy lately! Can I talk to you about it?”
- If you have a career or professional mentor, it would be perfectly appropriate for you to talk to them about your work-related emotions, as well as strategies for avoiding emotional burnout.
- Or, for example, if you have a good relationship with your supervisor, you might ask them, “Could we talk about some ways to manage emotions and avoid burnout in this line of work?”
Set realistic boundaries to maintain your work-life balance.It is important to maintain healthy boundaries to keep your work life and personal life separate. Try setting some boundaries that are based on what you value and want to preserve in your life. To do this, you will need to examine your values and determine what is most important to you. Then, you will need to make these limits clear to your coworkers and boss.
- For example, if you value spending your weekends with your friends and/or family, then you might make a rule that you will not work weekends, and let your boss and coworkers know that you are not available on the weekend.
Consider professional support.Sometimes, either because of the nature of your job or because of circumstances, situations come up at work that can be emotionally taxing. For example, you may be an ER nurse who sees serious trauma on a regular basis or you may work at an organization that’s undergoing major restructuring. In these, and cases a counselor, therapist, or similar professional may be able to help you cope and avoid emotional burnout.
- Contact your human resources department for information about receiving support and services through your employer. Some professions have dedicated hotlines and other resources set up to help employees.
- You can also talk to your regular healthcare provider about receiving professional support. You might say, “I’d like to talk with someone about some of my feelings about my job. Is there anyone you recommend?”
- Make sure that you report any inappropriate behavior towards you or other people in your workplace. Being sexually harassed, bullied, cyber-bullied, or pressured by your colleagues can contribute to workplace stress and burnout. Talk to someone about the issue right away.
Practicing Stress Reduction Techniques
Take a break.Sometimes the best way to manage stress is to take some time away from what’s stressing you. Taking a time-out gives you the chance to calm yourself, build up your energy, and approach your work with a renewed perspective.
- This may mean taking a five-minute walk during the day to clear your mind and boost your mood.
- It may mean taking advantage of your vacation days or taking a mental health day.
Meditate on a regular basis.When you have an emotionally stressful job, this is one way that you can avoid emotional burnout. It’s a great way to clear your mind, release tension, and reduce stress.It’s also something you can do for a few minutes on your break at work or for a longer time at home.
- Make yourself as comfortable as possible. If you can, lie or sit somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed or interrupted.
- Take a few deep breaths and try to clear your mind. Focus on your breathing and relaxing your body.
- Pay attention to emotions that you’re feeling. For example, you might think to yourself, “I feel anxious right now and my body is tense.”
- If you start thinking about work, gently turn your mind back to your breathing, body, and emotions.
Use deep breathing.This is one stress-reduction technique that you can use in the moment and as a long-term stress-management strategy. It’s an effective way to avoid emotional burnout because it can lower your heart rate, release tension in your body, and help you think more clearly.
- Inhale through your nose slowly and deeply. Hold the breath in your stomach for a few moments and then let it out slowly through your mouth.
- Try different types of deep-breathing techniques. For example, you may want to visualize calming colors or a peaceful scene while you’re breathing.
Keep a journal.If you don’t already journal or don’t include work-related issues when you do, you may want to consider doing so. Journaling is a good way to manage your stress and your emotions related to your job. It gives you a safe space to release and explore your feelings. It’s also a good way to document any situations at work that are causing you concern.
- Write about the things that happen at work, how they affect you, and how you feel about it.
- Make a list of strategies that have been useful in helping you manage your work-related stress. Add to it and refer to it often.
Do something active.Physical activity can help you avoid emotional burnout for a number of reasons. It supports your immune system and overall physical health which will make it easier for you cope with work-related stress. It’s also a good way to release excess energy and tension.You don’t have to try to fit a two-hour workout in every day, but it may benefit you to be active for at least a few minutes each day.
- You can try activities like yoga, tai chi, swimming, or hiking if you’d like some time to think through your emotions.
- Activities like team sports, martial arts, or weight-lifting are a great way to release tension and energize yourself.
- Even standing beside your desk and doing a few stretches can help you manage stress.
Recognizing the Signs of Burnout
Practice mindfulness.This is the practice of being fully present in each moment and being aware of your senses, thoughts, and feelings. When you’re mindful, it will be easier for you to recognize the signs of emotional burnout early and take steps to avoid it.
- Be fully present by only doing one thing at a time. Avoid multitasking. For example, don’t work while you’re having your lunch. Focus on eating.
- Check in with yourself throughout the day to evaluate how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. You might ask yourself, “How do I feel about this situation? What do I think about it?”
Look out for anger and irritability.There are signs that your body may give you that let you know you may be experiencing a lot of stress and may be on the verge of burning out.One of these signs is an increase in irritability. If you notice that you’re getting frustrated or angry easier or more often than normal, you should recognize that it might be emotional burnout.
- For example, pay attention to whether you’re snapping at co-workers, family, or friends for no reason.
- Or, for instance, notice if you’re cranky during the week, but more relaxed on your off days.
Be aware of feeling fatigued.It’s normal to feel a bit tired after a productive work day. But, one sign of emotional burnout and high stress is feeling extra tired, or tired when you know you’ve had enough rest.Be aware of your energy level and take note if it seems to be dipping for no reason.
- For instance, do you feel drowsy in the middle of the day even though you got eight hours of sleep the night before?
- Or, for example, do you find yourself feeling like you just don’t have the energy to go to work or completely drained at the end of the day?
Watch out for feeling detached and isolated.Although some people simply aren’t as social as others, one indicator of emotional burnout is feeling unconnected to the people around you.Pay attention to signs that you’re withdrawing from normal activities or that you’re feeling detached from people you’re usually close to.
- For example, take note of thoughts like, “No one understands what it’s like” or “I’m all alone in this.”
- Or, for instance, if you feel like you can’t connect with any of your co-workers so you avoid company get-togethers it may be a sign of feeling isolated.
Pay attention to decreased productivity.You have probably experienced a time or two when you aren’t getting as much done as you would like to. Maybe you have other responsibilities or special circumstances that are interrupting your workflow. But, if you notice that you aren’t getting as much done as you used to or need to, it may be a sign that you’re approaching an emotional burnout.
- For example, if you generally turn in your weekly reports on time, but now find that no matter how long you spend on them, you can’t get them in on time, you may be burning out.
Video: Burnout - Causes, symptoms and treatment
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