Professional burnout is a usual and customary response in any profession where a person has the opportunity to give too much of their personal self at the job. It is characterized as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It begins to reduce your productivity leaving you feeling cynical and resentful until eventually, if not reversed, it will make you feel like you have nothing more to give.
The good news is climbing out of burnout is achievable once you put three steps into action:
Every so often - let’s say once a week - ask yourself this simple question: “How am I doing? Am I feeling happy, angry, sad, frustrated, stressed, and/or overwhelmed? Am I having fun at my job in and in my life? Am I still enjoying the people who really matter to me?” It is important on a regular basis to identify what is going on inside of you so that you know what needs attention.
Once you figure out that something is amiss and that something in your life feels off, admit it to someone verbally. Don’t make it a random facebook post or tweet about the jackholes on the street who are dumber than a box of rocks, or that your kids are spoiled and ungrateful; this will only give fuel of your burnout. It also does not have to be a long, touchy feely “Lifetime Network moment” but more just a simple conversation where you tell someone who is close to you that “My mood & attitudes are not the same as they used to be and I think I’m burned out.” That simple admission can have a big impact because it begins the emotional release of what is being pent up inside which is imperative to healing.
The last step, which is often the most difficult, is to take the insight you have gained and to translate it into specific behaviors that will elevate your mood and attitudes. And the action plan needs to be very personal to you. It consists of choices that create happiness in your life in the long term. Choices that Mike & I are intentional about when one of us is burned out are:
- Having time scheduled on the calendar with friends who are fun and positive.
- Always having a vacation scheduled where we leave the cities we work in so we can get a mental break.
- Learning something new because it stimulates the brain and enhances the mood.
- Volunteering in something that does not use one of our job skills.
- Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, eating right, massages, regular doctor visits & regular sleep patterns.
- And following a core belief we live by of Work hard….Play harder! Having time scheduled to have fun is key for us.
- Feeding our spiritual self.
- Taking time to be alone to think and reflect.
- Consider changing the routine of what you do at work. Mike does this by periodically creating new goals and developing new skills, even if it all falls under his role as a patrol officer.
Burnout is going to happen. The challenge is whether you overcome it, or let yourself be overcome by it. The choice really is yours. So get up!