The late-great US basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life.” Too many of us are being burnt out by our jobs. Companies seem to want more and more from their employees. Those European companies, which let their staff work six-hour shifts and take regular holidays, are on to something. Every study shows their employees are more productive. Compare that to a country like the US, where employees work longer hours and have shorter holidays. A new study found that 40% of working Canadians and Americans felt burnt out.
Signs you are burning out
What are the signs of burn out? According to the US site entrepreneur, the first tell-tale sign of burn out is that your health is suffering. You always feel tired. You have no enthusiasm. You are eating junk food, because you are too tired to cook, and putting on weight. Or you are losing weight because you can’t be bothered to feed yourself. If you get a cold it lingers for weeks.
Another sign of burn-out is daydreaming. You might be totally inundated with work, but concentrating is difficult. Sometimes you find yourself just staring at the computer screen in a trance. You have no idea where your time goes, and you don’t feel like you are accomplishing much.
An obvious giveaway of exhaustion is anger. You are cross with everyone before you feel imposed on. You want to reduce your workload, but find colleagues or your boss take advantage of you. Your hostility is building. You often snap at people. You long for time with friends and family, but instead you live your life at work. In fact it now seems that work is your life. You have stopped doing the things you love. You rarely get to the movies, or out for dinner or away for the weekend. Instead you are always working.
Make some changes
If you are a wage-slave and feeling totally and utterly burtn-out, you have no alternative but to examine your life and make some changes. I recently came across an article on people who had left the corporate world behind to work for smaller companies or even start their own enterprise. No one regretted the decision and all had more time for themselves.
One former communications officer had gone from a high-flying corporate job to working from home and he loved it. He earnt less but had more time with his children. Another woman left a job in Silicon Valley to manage a not-for-profit organisation. She had been fed up with the regulations and politics of a large company, now she loves motivating and encouraging her small team. People from large companies who move to small business notice the ease of decision making. They no longer have to work through a tedious process of approvals and write long reports outlining the case for or against a strategic move.
Turn your passion into income
If you can’t find an easier job, you know that I am again going to advocate turning your passion into a profit. Start your own business! You might say that is crazy. If you are over-worked, why take on more work and start-up your own company? Well, there are many reasons. You will feel empowered. If you work for a company that pressures you too much, you probably feel powerless, but by starting up your own enterprise you will feel that you have regained control over your life.
Break your work down
If you need to stick to your job for a while longer, I have a few tips to help with the burnout. Firstly, break your work down into small achievable chunks. If have a pile of work, you are going to feel exhausted but it you can break it down into small goals you will feel that it is more do-able. Write down every success in a diary. That will help lift your spirits.
Take regular breaks
Make sure you take regular breaks from work. Go for a walk, head to the gym, stroll around the shops, just get out of your workplace. A short break will recharge you and boost your productivity.
Have a social life
Keep up your life outside work. Go to parties and barbeques, see a concert, or a band at the pub. Arrange to have coffee with a good friend. Again, switching off from work will make you more productive in the long run. When you are out doing something for yourself, do not take your mobile phone with you. Do not read your work emails! If you do, you are building up stress and not letting yourself recharge. Also your marriage and friendships will suffer if you are always plugged into work.
Look after your health
Finally make a conscious decision to look after your health. Get plenty of sleep and stay well hydrated. Dehydration can make people feel tired. Limit yourself to one coffee a day; ideally drink it two hours after you wake up. If you drink multiple cups of coffee in your day, you will be riding a cycle of stimulation and crashes. Do not live on junk food and sugar. Fast foods and sugars give you a short-term surge of energy, but they are very bad for your health and weight. Instead you need slow-releasing energy foods like salmon, avocado, nuts, bananas and kale. A protein-rich breakfast, for example eggs, is still the best way to start your day.
Spend time in nature
Spend some time everyday around trees and grass. Studies show that being near greenery increases oxygenation in the brain. Try to get to a lunch time dance or aerobics class. Exercising to happy music triggers a rush of dopamine to the brain. Also exercising at lunchtime, means you have more energy for the afternoon.
Have a laugh
Aim to have a laugh during your work day as this helps dissolve stress chemicals in the brain. Researchers at Hiroshima University recently found that showing people videos and images of cute animals increased their productivity. So go ahead, watch the new kitty and puppy videos on YouTube.
I know that some jobs are a grind, and zap you of energy, but take positive steps to keep your stress in check otherwise you might be headed for a break-down. I realise that too often managers within large organisations lack basic common sense and their staff suffer as a result. That reminds me of a joke I heard recently.
A developer, a team lead and a manager were walking to lunch when they spot an old brass lamp in the gutter. They pick it up and rub it and a genie comes out in a puff of smoke. The genie says, “I will give you each one wish.” “Me first! Me first!” says the developer. “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Poof! She's gone. “Me next! Me next!” says the team leader. “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.” Poof! He's gone. “OK, you're next,” says the genie to the manager and the manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”