10 Strategies to Fight Job Burnout
New research identifies ways to prevent and overcome job burnout.
Posted May 25, 2016
Over half of doctors surveyed in 2014 suffered from at least one symptom of burnout, with the highest rates among mid-career physicians. Surveys report that 73 percent of school teachers experience extreme levels of stress and almost half leave in the first five years of teaching.
Here are 10 strategies to fight job burnout.
1. The first step is to figure out if you are experiencing job burnout.
Awareness that you are experiencing job burnout is an essential first step.
- Do you experience severe stress, fatigue, problems sleeping due to work.
- Are you dreading going into work every day?
- Do you worry about work even when you’re at home in your free time?
- Have you become cynical or distant with coworkers?
- Do you feel ineffective, like you aren’t able to accomplish tasks that used to be easy for you?
- Do you experience more physical problems, like more headaches?
Once you are able to recognize symptoms of job burnout, then you can consider how to take action.
2. Try to get more sleep.
Getting too little sleep is a major factor in predicting burnout and a likely contributor to job burnout. Sleeping better is also an important sign that you’re recovering from burnout and ready to go back to work.
3. Do cardiovascular exercise regularly.
Cardiovascular exercise has been shown in studies to significantly reduce burnout symptoms in as little as four weeks.
4. Practice yoga.
Yoga programs are helping school teachers, nurses, medical students, and first responders prevent and fight burnout. Studies show that it can significantly reduce emotional exhaustion.
5. Try mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a technique that allows you to just be exactly where you are and observe without judgment. You can do mindfulness meditation through free audio guided meditations online or apps like Headspace. I've reviewed mindfulness apps here. Practice for as little as 10 minutes a day. Observe your thoughts without judgment, and let them come and go like passing waves in the ocean or clouds in the sky.
6. Practice mindful breathing.
Meditation can sometimes sound intimidating or challenging. Many people imagine meditation is sitting in a dark room in a contorted, uncomfortable position trying to make your mind go empty. But meditation does not have to be physically uncomfortable or even seated. And you don’t need to force your mind to go blank.
Try a simple mindful breathing exercise, which is a form of meditation. Inhale for four counts of breath, and exhale for four counts. Say to yourself with each breath, “Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.”
7. Try mindful walking.
If sitting is uncomfortable, try mindful walking. Pair your steps with your breath. Inhale for four steps, exhale for four steps. Adjust the number of steps based on your pace of walking to create an even, calming breath pattern.
8. Make time for other activities focused on self-care and self-compassion.
Self-care and self-compassion is different for everyone and what you feels right can change day to day. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A silent walk in nature or playing music can be restorative. Experiment to find what nourishes you.
The key is doing the activity from a place of self-compassion. It sounds really simple, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to give ourselves “permission” to treat ourselves well.
9. Talk about your situation with people that you trust.
Talking with a trusted supervisor or mentor to explore options on how to modify work demands or achieve better work-life balance can be helpful. Many companies also have an employee assistance program that may offer confidential counseling. If things are not improving, you can treat burnout symptoms with the help of a mental health professional.
10. Don’t let the feeling of not having enough time stop you.
The most common reason I hear when I discuss the importance of yoga, meditation, mindful breathing, exercise, or getting additional sleep is that people already feel like they don’t have enough time. The paradox is that making time for yoga, meditation, additional sleep, or exercise will actually give you more time.
How is this possible? Yoga, meditation, exercise, and sleep improve focus, concentration, and energy, so you will be able to complete tasks more effectively and efficiently. Also, our experience of time is influenced by our nervous system. The sense of urgency and the frustration of feeling rushed is heightened when you have an overactive sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) nervous system.
Yoga and mindfulness activities help us learn how to slow down and become fully aware of each moment, so your sense of time will actually expand. Doing restorative activities regularly puts the brake on your fight-or-flight response, so you will feel less rushed and stressed even when faced with the same to-do list.
Copyright © 2016 Marlynn Wei, M.D., PLLC