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7 Ways to Avoid Burnout

You’re going about your business, involved in the same-old, same-old—wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed, repeat. Then one day, BAM! You do a little self-examination and realize that, for weeks (maybe months?), you’ve been feeling exhausted, you haven’t been very motivated, you’ve been irritable with and withdrawn from coworkers as well as family and friends. You realize that some health issues have crept up. You find that you’re preoccupied with work, even when you’re not at work; yet you see that your job performance has slipped and that, in fact, you’re no longer actually satisfied with your job.

You’re not alone in those symptoms. They are signs that you could be suffering from burnout, which affects numerous Americans. Burnout, according to David Ballard, Psy.D. at the American Psychological Association, “has to do with experiencing chronic stress…and the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”

There are many reasons for feeling the undue stress, including unclear job expectations, which can feel like shifting sands. It could be that you work with a lot of dysfunction—your coworker might be a bully or your boss could be domineering. You don’t have the right work-life balance. Your values might not actually match the company’s values, or your job itself is a poor fit for you. No matter the reason, take heart: there are some solutions.

Get sleep. Your body needs to recharge, and one of the best ways to do that is through sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and grabbing only four hours of Zs for a while, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Try to up the number of hours you saw those logs.

Exercise. Pick your poison. Studies have shown that exercise helps build the immune system (so you can fend off those office bugs) and helps the body deal with stress. Walking, jogging, playing racquetball, swimming, doing CrossFit, doing Pilates, taking up yoga. All are great ways to give your body the movement it needs.

Take breaks. This is more than just stopping a task to check your phone or surf the web. This is getting up and walking around or doing some stretches. It’s literally stepping away from the work to give your brain and body a brief respite. Do it frequently—even every 20 or 30 minutes—you’ll see that it actually gives you the boost you need to keep at those daily tasks.

Use your vacation time. You’ve got it. Use it.  Time away from the office, doing something fun, relaxing, new, exciting, invigorating, or simply different will help break up the monotony of the day-to-day grind and recharge you to keep going.

Unplug. The advent of technology might allow you to be “always on,” but it’s also inviting more stress by keeping you tied to the job. As much as possible, turn off your phone. Step away from your computer. On your out-of-the-office hours, avoid checking work email. Give yourself a break. Go ahead. It’s OK.

Get a hobby. Yep. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something you enjoy and will engage in regularly. Everyone needs interests outside of work. It helps shape you and gives you something else to focus on.

Consider re-evaluating your career path. It might be time for something new. If you’ve been working yourself to the bone and don’t see that promotion in sight or if you’re feeling like your job no longer excites you, either the company or the career itself might be wrong. Take some time to examine what’s important to you and where you want to see yourself in the next few years. Then make the changes you need to make to get there. It might be just the ticket to kicking that burnout right out the door.