How can we prevent burnout and be happier at work?

A man exhausted at workSick of work? Worn out? Feel trapped? You might have burnout. What causes it? The main cause is long-term stress.

Burnout spoils jobs, relationships, health, happiness and more. Here are some tips to prevent burnout and to boost happiness at work.

What is burnout?
What are some ways to help prevent burnout?
Learn how to deal appropriately with stress
Think positive
Imagine how we would like our workplace to be
Learn how to deal with difficult people
Find something enjoyable in whatever work we do
Do easy tasks in between hard tasks
Create a pleasant and inviting workspace
Aim for more balance in our work, social and home life
Look for the little things throughout the day that make us happy
Make time to appreciate nature
Practice time management
Prioritize tasks
Don’t be a perfectionist
Learn how to politely, but assertively, say no
Don’t be a martyr
Set goals
Reward ourselves often
Do relaxation techniques regularly
Make time to enjoy ourselves
Laugh often
Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and avoid excess alcohol and other drugs
Don’t burn the candle at both ends
Get help when we need it

What is burnout?

Helpguide.org says burnout is emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by too much stress.

Symptoms of burnout include:

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling unable to meet demands
  • feeling as if you can’t give any more
  • feeling helpless, hopeless, cynical, trapped, defeated, detached and resentful
  • reduced productivity
  • low energy
  • lack of motivation
  • disliking work you used to enjoy

What are some ways to help prevent burnout?

Learn how to deal appropriately with stress

Too much stress can lead to burnout. We all have stress, it’s how we deal with it that matters.

Think positive

Positive thinking is a recurring theme throughout my blog posts. Why? Thoughts are creative. Change our thoughts, change our life. More positive thoughts means a more positive life.

Here are some positive thoughts and affirmations to help us be calmer and prevent burnout.

  • I am pacing my work better.
  • I am standing up to people at work who are over demanding and unreasonable.
  • Things always work out for the best for me.
  • I treat people with respect and courtesy and they treat me with respect and courtesy.
  • I am getting more organized.
  • I am getting calmer.
  • Work is getting better.
  • I’m getting along better with my colleagues.

Imagine how we would like our workplace to be

Our imagination is a tool to create our future. What we imagine can happen.

Use your imagination wisely to help create the type of workplace you want to prevent burnout and feel happier.

Here are some ideas for what to imagine.

  • Being in a happy, productive workplace.
  • Feeling calm, peaceful and productive at work.
  • Achieving work goals on time.
  • Your work friends, colleagues and boss congratulating you on a job well done.

Add emotions, sounds and smells to visualizations.

Remember to visualize every end result you want, and always make it positive and realistic.

Visualization is recommended by many experts, as seen in the popular book and DVD The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne.

Learn how to deal with difficult people

If someone is behaving badly at work, perhaps it’s a lesson to learn how to stand-up to them, learn coping strategies and learn better communication skills. The Universe is always pushing us to grow and learn.

When we learn how to deal appropriately with difficult people they will either stay out of our way, treat us better or disappear out of our lives.

I like the book Dealing With Difficult People, by Roy Lilley. The book explains common types of difficult people, and ways to deal with them.

Find something enjoyable in whatever work we do

Find your work boring? Listen to music while you work. Try to perfect a skill that you can use later, like improving your hand-eye coordination, instead of doing something the same way all the time.

Feeling stressed doing hard work? Find something challenging in it, like a game. Say “no” to more jobs if you are overwhelmed. Do things regularly that are enjoyable. Have enough breaks to increase productivity and feel happier.

Do easy tasks in between hard tasks

Mixing heavy, demanding jobs with easier tasks can increase productivity and happiness at work.

Create a pleasant and inviting workspace

Personalize and beautify your workspace to make it more inviting. You want to feel happy and comfortable there, so stick positive affirmations and quotes on your walls, and surround yourself with your favorite plants, photos and posters – even funny cartoons and pictures. Many people recommend following the principles of Feng Shui.

Keep your workspace clean and clutter free. You’ll feel more organised, in control and happier to be at work.

Aim for more balance in our work, social and home life

With so many of us having busy lifestyles, balancing work, social and home life can be difficult. For more peace of mind and less stress, limit commitments that sacrifice a happy personal life.

Look for the little things throughout the day that make us happy

Studies have found that noticing the little things throughout the day that make us happy adds joy to our lives. Make an effort to appreciate those happy moments that might otherwise pass us by if we aren’t on the lookout. It might be a hug with our pet, praise from our boss, or a smile from a child.

Make time to appreciate nature

Many of us spend a lot of time indoors. We can raise our spirits by spending time with nature. Eat lunch under a tree in a park instead of at the desk. Go for a walk in a beautiful area in your lunch break. Admire a flower or animal. There is beauty all around us if we just observe. If we can’t be in the real thing, we can look at photos of nature in books, beautiful images on Google, watch a documentary on TV…

Practice time management

Learning how to do more in less time is an art. It’s about getting into “the zone” when we work – a special mind-set where we’re productive, focused and feeling good about what we are doing. It’s about dealing appropriately with distractions, disappointments and interruptions, and organising our tasks well.

Prioritize tasks

It’s easy to get snowed under, overwhelmed and stressed-out if we don’t prioritize tasks well. We can end-up spending too much time on irrelevant things and not enough time on what is important and worthwhile. Prioritize tasks to reduce stress.

Don’t be a perfectionist

We can aim to be the best, but errors and mistakes are part of life, so don’t beat ourselves up and stress out too much when we make them.

Learn how to politely, but assertively, say no

People can give us any number of jobs, it doesn’t mean we have to say yes to all of them. Learning how to say no when we need to is vital to stop taking on more than we can handle, so get stressed out and overwhelmed.

I learnt a saying years ago from a friend. She used to use it when her boss hassled her about whether she’d started and completed jobs. She’d say, “It’s on my list.”

Don’t be a martyr

We can work on a job without having to suffer for our cause. If you don’t like the job you’re in – and you believe in your heart that you can’t make it bearable – find another job that makes you feel alive.

Set goals

Set goals and let nothing stop you from completing them. Goals can be small and large, short-term and long-term, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, five yearly…

Striving towards goals that are well beyond our reach can cause stress. Yes, aim high if you want to, but don’t make goals so unrealistic that it causes stress, strain and exhaustion. Be realistic.

Reward ourselves often

Reward yourself after you achieve a goal, finish some work, receive some praise and so on. It doesn’t have to be a big reward – it could be something as simple as a cup of your favorite coffee or watching a movie.

Do relaxation techniques regularly

We all need to make time to relax throughout the day. No one can work without relaxation breaks. Tai chi, yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, deep breathing… – whatever relaxation techniques you choose, do them every day to chill out, de-stress and recharge.

Make time to enjoy ourselves

All work and no play makes Jill a stressed-out burnt-out girl.

Laugh often

Laughter has heaps of benefits; to name just two, laughter reduces stress hormones, like adrenaline, and releases chemicals, called endorphins, that make us happy. Do things throughout the day that make you laugh. Read funny jokes, share a joke with a friend, watch something funny on YouTube…

Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and avoid excess alcohol and other drugs

We can’t expect to work at our peak if we don’t cover the basics of looking after ourselves. Excess alcohol, not enough sleep or exercise, or lots of junk food can cause a foggy mind that can’t cope, concentrate or think clearly.

Exercise, healthy eating, sleeping enough, and limiting drug use are as vital for our mental health as water, sunlight and healthy soil are vital for plants.

Don’t burn the candle at both ends

We can usually handle some over indulgence, but overdo it and our quality of life, health, happiness and work performance suffer.

Get help when we need it

Need more people to do the work? Tell someone. Feel like we’re being treated unfairly? Speak up. Tried to solve the problem by ourselves and feel any more is overdoing it? Ask someone, Google it, get the instruction manual…

Admitting we need help doesn’t mean we’re weak or stupid. We are humans not islands. We are supposed to work together with colleagues, family and friends, and ask for help when we need it.

written by Nyomi Graef

References:
Smith, M et al., 2010, Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Coping Strategies, Helpguide.org,
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm

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