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How do you battle work stress and burnout?

Posted on Aug 9, 2017

How do you battle work stress and burnout?

If you are George Costanza [for those of you old enough to remember Seinfeld] — you might have the time to slip under your desk for a nap in your customized sleep space. However, if you work in an office environment, it’s safe to say that an afternoon nap will not become part of your workday protocol.

Rest, of course, is not being debated. Every expert agrees that sleep is necessary for our brains and bodies to excel. Arianna Huffington boldly started a new movement — Thrive — because of her struggle with sleeplessness. I think that message was long overdue.

The issue concerning sleep is — well we don’t seem to get enough of it. When we do sleep, it is not the quality it needs to be. So here’s what happens. It contributes to burnout. If we don’t identify the sources of burnout, we are in deep trouble. We’ll find it nearly impossible to sleep, wind down or simply relax.

Burnout is the antithesis of engagement. It is the enemy. It can sap contributors and organizations alike. We need to pay close attention to the issues our people are dealing with and for how long.

The antecedents of burnout are varied and workload is just one of them. Pioneering work completed by Social Psychologist Dr. Christina Maslach, revealed that burnout can be influenced by a number of key workplace elements (she discusses six), including insufficient rewards or acknowledgement, a lack of control over one’s work, fairness, or a role that doesn’t align with who we are.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory, measures the elements that can contribute to the exhaustion, cynicism and a lack of perceived efficacy found with burnout. Originally observed among those in the human services sector, burnout can occur in all types of workplaces.

But, just as we must explore what drains us in the workplace, we must also explore what helps each of us recharge. Then make the commitment to do so.

Here are 5 strategies that I use to help through a tough week. These steps may seem small, but together they could comprise needed counter-balance:

Watch comedy. Getting the current issue off your mind and breaking the cycle of tension is key. Personally, a great situational comedy or stand-up routine works quite well. We’ve all heard of the benefits of a good laugh in regard to stress and overall mood. Laughing can certainly offer a boost to your work life as well. (See a few hilarious workplace commercials here.)

Listen to music, a great podcast or Ted Talk. I find listening to great conversation inspirational. Somehow when the ideas start to flow, my brain wants to follow suit. Music-wise the possibilities are also wide open. Find a few great podcasts here. You can also start with the best of TED here.

Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness tells us to stop the internal chatter, slow down and breathe. (Its benefits include lowered stress and cortisol levels). The practice focuses on  a non-judgemental approach to experiences, which can help us become less reactive.

Talk. Discuss the problem with someone you do not work with. In many cases, those not in the midst of our worries can draw parallels to issues that they have already solved in the past — and you are the lucky beneficiary.

Walk. I vowed to walk every day. Even a brief stroll around the block, can clear your head and help you change gears. Get out there.

We can blame technology, our bosses, our clients. But only you — can discover your recharging blueprint.

This is an extract from Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World Paperback (November 2012) by Mark Williams (Author), Danny Penman (Author), and Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D.