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5 Ways to Prevent Burnout (Even When You’re Really Busy at Work)

Topics: Career Advice
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Twenty-three percent of full-time employees surveyed in a recent Gallup study reported feeling burned out at work “very often or always.” An additional 44 percent said that they felt burned out sometimes.

The main causes of burnout, according to Gallup, included unfair treatment at work, high workloads, lack of support from management and unreasonable deadlines.

Burnout comes with a cost.

“The meltdown accounts for an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review,” wrote Sheryl Kraft at CNBC. “A 2017 study in the journal PLoS One cited major health risks related to job burnout, like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol and even death for those under the age of 45.”

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The trouble, of course, is that few workers can mitigate these risk factors all on their own. For example, you can’t make your managers treat you more fairly or offer you better support if they’re not inclined to do so.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage.

1. Look for Support in Other Places

Ideally, your manager and your team would be supportive. But if you can’t get support from your immediate coworkers, make it a priority to find it somewhere else.

“The more I burned out, the more I just wanted to hole up in my office and avoid people, and that was exactly the opposite of what I should have been doing,” wrote Paula Davis-Laack J.D., M.A.P.P. at Psychology Today. “I didn’t want to let people know how awful I was really feeling because I thought it meant I was weak. It takes time and effort to maintain social connections, but supportive people are the best inoculation against burnout.”

2. Avoid Venting at Work

Some of your social connections may well be at the office. And while having work friends can make your job a lot more pleasant, it’s also risky. Why? Because it’s tempting to vent to your office BFF, especially when you’re in a high-pressure situation. And that’s not necessarily constructive, either for you or for them.

For one thing, there’s no guarantee that your coworker will be discrete about your complaints. Accidentally confide in the office gossip, and you could have bigger problems than your original situation. Even if your work friend is totally trustworthy, dwelling on the negative could drag you both down.

3. Focus on Resilience, Not Perfection

No one likes to make mistakes … but everyone makes them anyway. Focus too much on perfection, and you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, build resiliency. Look at setbacks as an opportunity to learn. Not only will it make you better able to deal with tricky situations at work, it may even help you cope with stress better in general.

4. Schedule Personal Time

Having trouble finding time for yourself? You might need to put it in your calendar, just as you would any other important commitment.

“Schedule free time on your calendar, just like you would schedule a meeting, and stick to it,” advised Evrim Oralkan at The Muse. “It’s crucial to take the time you need for yourself, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day. You’ll get back to work feeling recharged and inspired, and chances are, you’ll accomplish a lot more than you would if you worked straight through the day.”

5. Make a Plan to Move Beyond Burnout

Hopefully, your burnout-inducing work situation is temporary. But if it isn’t, you need to find a way to cope.

If you’re in a high-pressure career, that might mean learning how to manage stress better (e.g. mediating, finding time to exercise, etc.). If you’re not an air traffic controller or a heart surgeon, it might mean finding another job at a company with more reasonable deadlines and/or more support.

Regardless of your situation, you need to make a plan. It’s possible to thrive in a stressful environment … provided that you get what you need from the work and your team. But if you find yourself courting burnout, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to change and when.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have tips to add to this list? We want to hear from you. Share your advice in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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