Career burnout is in no shortage in America. Catch it early and recover quickly with these tips.
Today’s post is by thoughtLEADERS principal Jon Wortmann.
How tired are you? I ask because even if you practice the best self-care, set boundaries with your time, and manage your exposure to the inevitable conflicts and stress of working with people, you get tired. Performers, leaders, and managers who want to succeed and win will inevitably have tired days. The problem with tired is that it can also go too far. Are you so tired you are burned out?
I have had the privilege of working with diverse school districts and education leaders over the past decade. In preparation for one of my workshops I came across this study. Summary: 93% of the elementary school teachers surveyed were stressed, couldn’t cope, and felt burned out. Only 7% of the cohort had low stress, high abilities to cope, and a low experience of burnout. Is it the same in every industry? At every level of organizations? Do professional athletes and musicians experience the same struggles? It doesn’t have to be.
The first step to recovering faster is recognizing if you are burned out. Burn out is not a medical diagnosis. If you are depressed, you may feel burned out, but something larger is going on. Burn out is not listed in the DSM-V Manual of Mental Disorders. The symptoms of burn out at work, however, are very real. From the academic research that originated the term in the mid-1970s, there are three clear symptoms that all of us who care about our work and pour ourselves into our organizations need to watch out for: chronic mental or emotional fatigue, cynicism, and dissatisfaction.
Let’s do a quick assessment:
Are you consistently exhausted, irritated with the people around you, bothered by issues that used to roll off your back?
Do you find yourself more critical than normal, judging and picking apart people and situations with an edge that isn’t who are or want to be?
Do you find less joy in your work, perhaps even experience it to be meaningless?
These are both assessment questions and definitions of the three symptoms. Here’s the good news. If you answered, “Yes” to any of them, you can do something about it. The signs of burn out are actually the call to a different life of recovery.
The second step to recovering faster is using coping strategies that work for you. Cope can sound like a dirty word. If we have to cope, shouldn’t we be making bigger changes? Maybe. But parents cope with the struggles of raising kids. Athletes cope with the inevitability of overuse injuries. Organizational life is becoming more 24 x 7 like parenting and more of a sport each day as we handle complex problems, travel the globe, and constantly adapt to new environments. Once you notice yourself getting cooked, recovery demands spend time letting your brain, emotional self, and body heal from the significant efforts you make every day.
Which of these strategies do you already employ daily? Exercise, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, counseling, coaching, retreats, intentional breaks, walking meetings, forest bathing, check lists, time blocks, scheduled screen breaks, intentional down time, energy management, sprint planning, and the one that may matter most these days, vacation.
Recovery is not a brain hack. It is a set of patterns you trust to give you the space to consolidate what you learn each day and get strong again. Want to feel better? Add one of the above strategies into your life.
The third and most important step is planning. Endurance athletes know how much distance they plan to do and at what pace months before a race. Adaption happens because of injury and for extra recovery. Directors know what they will shoot each day before they ever pull the lens off a camera. Scientists exquisitely prepare for experiments so they can make sense of the data they collect.
Start recovering faster by planning both the way you work, when you work, and when and how you will get your juice back. If you live by other people’s demands, usually false sense of urgency, and stress reactions, how can you not feel tired, bitter, and a little bit doubtful that your work makes a difference?
Finally, every time you feel burned out, remember the feeling is a valuable thing. It hurts. It can really hurt to get so depleted that we crash. And, your body sends signals so your brain can process them. If we didn’t notice the signs that we have gone too far, we would, in fact, be on the road to a clinical diagnosis. Recovering faster is always possible when we notice the signs that how we are working actually isn’t working.
Today’s post is by Jon Wortmann, thoughtLEADERS instructor and the author of Mastering Communication at Work: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
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