NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Managing Your Stress: What to Do If You Are Experiencing Workplace Burnout?

In my two prior articles,  Managing Your Stress: The Consequences of Workplace Burnout and What Are the Telltale Signs of Workplace Burnout?, I began addressing workplace burnout in terms of the consequences to both employees and employers as well as some telltale signs to watch out for to recognize burnout in yourself.  In this article, I'll begin to address what you can do if you're experiencing workplace burnout.

Managing Your Stress:  What to Do If You Are Experiencing Workplace Burnout

Of course, everyone and every situation is different, so no list of suggestions will work for everyone.

Generally, in my opinion, as a psychotherapist who has worked with many clients who have experienced burnout, the following suggestions are usually helpful (in no particular order):

  • Develop an Increased Awareness About Yourself:  The ancient Greek aphorism, "Know thyself" is an important concept when it comes to avoiding burnout as well as in other aspects of life.   Many people develop full-fledged burnout because they have little to no awareness of themselves on a physical and emotional level, so burnout, which takes a while to develop, can seem to sneak up on them.   So, it's important to recognize the signs of workplace burnout in yourself.  Also, even for many people, who actually do recognize the signs of burnout, they're so accustomed to plowing ahead that they override their own good judgment about when to stop working and take a break.
  • Take Breaks at Work:  For many people, it might seem counter-intuitive, but the old saying "less is more" is fitting when it comes to workplace burnout.  Rather than pushing yourself to work through lunch and forgo taking breaks during the day, you can actually be more productive as well as avoid burnout if you take breaks during the day at work.  Taking a much-needed break during the day, going for a walk at lunch or even taking a few minutes to stretch and breathe can help you to relax and regroup.
Avoiding Workplace Burnout:  Take Breaks at Work

  • Take Time Off From Work to Go on Vacation:  Many people choose to give up vacation days to remain at work.  As a nation, Americans actually give up millions of vacation days a year, which is a big mistake, especially if you're hoping to avoid burnout.  If you treat yourself like you're a machine, you're going to break down.  And even machines break down without proper care.  Not only will going on vacation help you to relax and regroup, it often gives you an new perspective about work and life in general, which can make you more creative and productive.
Avoiding Workplace Burnout: Take Vacations

  • Develop Stress Management Strategies:  Whether you choose to go to the gym, yoga class, meditation class or whatever activities you enjoy, it's important to develop effective stress management strategies, especially if you have a stressful job and you hope to avoid burnout.  When clients come to see me in my psychotherapy private practice in NYC, I often work with them to help them develop healthy coping and stress management strategies, including learning to meditate and engage in stress-reducing breathing techniques.
  • Cultivate and Maintain Close Personal Relationships:  As human beings, we are born to bond and attach with significant others.  Initially, we bond with our primary caregivers, which in most cases is our mother, and later on, we learn to develop significant friendships and relationships outside the family.  When people spend too much time on work-related activities, one of the first things to go is the time they spend with significant others, including spouses, children and friends.  Aside from the enjoyable aspects of close relationships, we need the love and support from those relationships and they need us, so it's important to develop and maintain these relationships in order to maintain a sense of well-being.
  • Develop and Engage in Self Care Strategies  Self care is made up of many different aspects, including:  getting enough rest, eating properly, getting exercise, and other things that are particularly meaningful and nurturing for you (see my article:  Self Care: Feeling Entitled to Take Care of Yourself).
  • Develop Realistic Expectations of What You Can and Can't Accomplish at Work:  Having unrealistic expectations about what you can and can't accomplish at work is a sure sign that you might be heading for workplace burnout if you're not already there.  This is a particular problem for ambitious high achievers experienced in the workplace as well as college graduates who are beginning their first job.  College grads, who were accustomed to being in an intellectually and emotionally stimulating environment in college, are often surprised to discover that even the most interesting job can have certain required mind-numbing aspects to it.  This often leads to disappointment and, at times, to burnout.
Avoiding Workplace Burnout: Be Realistic About What You Can and Cannot Do

  • Be Assertive:  Depending upon your work environment, you might need to learn to tactfully say "no" every so often when you know that accepting an assignment or participating in an extra project will lead to burnout.  Of course, this assumes that you have enough of an awareness of yourself and you place a high level of importance on self care.  If it's not possible to say "no" because doing so would lead to losing your job, then you might want to consider the next category below, re-evaluating your career.
  • Re-Evaluate Your Career:  Before you begin a particular career, you might assume that you know what's involved, but it's usually only when you might start to realize that what you expected and what it turned out to be are two very different things.  I had a friend who became a nurse years ago because she wanted to "help people."  She had a wonderful experience in nursing school.  But when she became a hospital nurse, she discovered that what she wanted and what it turned out to be were completely different.  After trying different work environments, she realized that it wasn't any particular environment--the problem was that nursing, while being a wonderful profession, just wasn't for her.  So, she left nursing and became a licensed massage therapist, and she discovered that she loved it and she was better suited for this profession.  So many people think that they have to stick it out in a profession where they've unhappy.  They feel ashamed, as if it's their fault.  But life is short and if you have the option of doing what you would like, it's better to re-evaluate your career and take steps to do what makes you happy.
Avoiding Workplace Burnout: Re-Evaluate Your Career

  • Recognize Your Profession Might Have Changed and It's Not What You Want Anymore:  Another reason why people often re-evaluate their careers is that their field might have changed over time.  Many medical doctors, under the strain of significant changes in the health care field, have re-evaluated their career choices and choose a different career or, depending upon their particular situation, have opted to retire.

Future Articles Related to Workplace Burnout
Workplace burnout is a huge topic and a significant problem for many employees.  Since many of the issues I've raised in this article are broad, I'll be addressing some of them in future articles.

Getting Help in Therapy
We all need help sometimes when going it alone is too difficult.

Getting Help in Therapy

If you're concerned that you might be burning out at work or you've already developed full-fledged burnout, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional who has experience in helping clients to overcome this problem.

Working with a licensed therapist with expertise in this area, you can learn to take care of yourself and lead a happier life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients in my psychotherapy practice to avoid or overcome both personal and professional burnout.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.