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Burnout: Spot it–then overcome it

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BurnoutJob stress can affect your health, relationships and career, and when it becomes so extreme that it pushes you to the edge, it’s known as burnout. Burnout has been associated with debilitating physical and mental health conditions, such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, feelings of alienation, depression, anxiety, and an increase in alcohol and drug use. Three symptoms of burnout are:

1. Exhaustion. This is extreme emotional and physical fatigue that prevents you from working effectively or feeling positive about your work. You become unable to concentrate and tasks you used to enjoy seem unbearable.

2. Cynicism. This can lead to feeling detached and negative about projects, co-workers and customers. Cynicism can be caused by conflict, work overload, unfairness or a feeling of powerlessness.

3. Inefficacy. This can make you feel like you have not achieved anything,  and lead you to question your competence. Because you’re approaching burnout, you’re not able to perform at your best and you begin to feel like you can’t succeed at certain tasks.

Here are some steps to fight burnout:

Focus on your own well-being by exercising, eating right, sleeping well and maintaining good social connections. This will help you replenish your energy and curb the negative effects of burnout.

Identify the root causes. Look for aspects of your work life that you can change — for example, what can you delegate? What can free you up to work on more enjoyable tasks? What negative aspects of the organization can you stay away from?

Make it clear to co-workers and family members what you’re willing to do and what you’re not. Set up ground rules with the necessary people, and if there’s pushback, make sure people understand why you must do this.

Find a mentor or coach who can help you get your career back on track. Find others who have had similar issues with whom you can share and seek advice.

— Adapted from “Beating Burnout,” Monique Valcour, Harvard Business Review.

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