Most clients I see these days are feeling the impact of the stress-producing American workplace.
You know, the 50-70 hour work weeks, the 24/7 on-times, the “I don’t dare take a vacation” mentality. Europeans think we are crazy. We ARE crazy. But when it’s all around you, it’s very hard to buck.
Are you stressed, stressed out or burned out? Psychologists tell us that sometimes stress is good. CEOs often relish it. So I like to find out — and you can ask yourself — is stress giving you positive adrenaline rushes as you meet deadlines and expectations under pressure? Or are you…
- Feeling upset, maybe sick to your stomach, on Sunday nights?
- Snapping at coworkers or loved ones?
- Getting to work late?
- Feeling fatigue that even 10 hours of sleep can’t relieve?
- Depressed about your job?
This is not a scientific quiz, but some “yes” answers suggest you may be stressed out or burned out. Definitions vary, but I see job burnout as an extreme form of negative job stress. University of California psychologist Dr. Christina Maslach says that true burn out involves emotional and physical exhaustion, coupled with self-doubt and cynicism about the job.
Burnout can have a different dimension too: for example, it may involve being tired of doing familiar tasks every week, and yearning for change.
No one-size-fits-all who are stressed out or burned out, but here are a few tips:
- Let your loved ones are close friends know how you’re feeling. Get their views. Sometimes they may actually have useful suggestions, and at the least talking it over can help some.
- If you suspect or they say they’re “tired of hearing about it all the time”, you probably need to take some action.
- Think about a job or career change. But think carefully.
Many people, especially those who stress is complicated by a bad boss, have the impulse to quit immediately and “go someplace else”. Hold on a minute, though…
You remember, don’t you, that you’ll be more attractive to other employers if you’re currently working, so try to hang on a while, maybe cutting back your overtime so you make time to search. (I recognize that cutting back will probably be stressful, but you do need time to network and look for another job.)
If you are burned out by too much sameness, changing jobs can make a big difference. Think through how much change you really want — lots of new responsibilities and challenges? Or maybe just new colleagues and a better boss?
If your burnout is caused by you’re own perfectionism — “I have to work 60 hours to be sure I get it all done with no mistakes” — your perfectionism is likely to follow you to your new job. If so, you may benefit from some therapy or career counseling.
But what if you are burned out or stressed out by 24/7 on-times, 50+ hours at the office, plus kids to care for, shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc?
If so, you have lots of company. 24% of adults reported extreme stress in their lives in 2015, according to the American Institute of Stress. Some employers are trying to reduce stress and improve employee engagement. But — don’t hold your breath waiting for your workplace to change. You yourself can:
- Talk to your boss about turning off your devices between, say, 8 PM and 8 AM and one weekend day.
- Team up with colleagues at your level and decide to take as much vacation as you’re offered.
- Consider spending discretionary money on services like cleaning or delivered meals rather than more new clothes or a new car.
- Exercise, even if it’s just choosing the stairs every time. You could also try short meditations. Some experts have found that just 4 minutes twice a day can help a lot.
There are always risks in carving out time to reduce stress and burnout. Remember, though, the risk you are taking by NOT doing anything about them.