In this ever-changing society, individuals are experiencing more pressures and stressors.
As the stress builds up over time, these individuals eventually suffer from burnout -- feeling as if there is no time for their lives. Burnout is a term that has made the rounds in business and general literature over the last decade and a half. It's actually a unique type of stress that involves:
* diminished personal accomplishment,
* emotional exhaustion, and
Who is most susceptible to burnout? Those in helping professions, or in positions that have significant amounts of interpersonal contact. This includes people in customer service departments, municipal services, and health care. Although researchers are still exploring the nature of burnout, for now, it is widely regarded as a distinct type of stress related to demands on the job.
While burnout is costly to organizations, unfortunately, those organizations in which employees feel the effects of burnout, often do little to be of service. How do you know if you're heading for burnout, or are already there?
Have you been evaluating yourself negatively lately? Does it seem to you as if you're not making any progress or have even lost ground? If you feel as if you are not as competent and successful doing your job as you have been in the past, you're experiencing the sensation of diminished personal accomplishment.
Another clue to burnout is depersonalization. This occurs when you methodically do what you're supposed to, but withdraw emotionally from what you're doing. In the healthcare industry, this could be characterized by a nurse who follows correct medical procedures, and is cordial with patients, but no longer cares about them on a personal basis. In business, depersonalization can be seen as detachment, a blase attitude towards peers, clients or customers, and perhaps one's organization in general. If you begin to see others as objects rather than human beings, beware, you might be on the burnout path.
The third component of burnout is emotional exhaustion. Here, it feels as if you don't have the capacity to respond emotionally to others. Your energy level is low. You are irritated or tense. You know that you can't give of yourself like you have in the past. Following a long weekend, or time away from work, you still loathe the thought of going back to work.
Emotional exhaustion often is the first of the three characteristics to appear when you're in danger of experiencing burnout. Long hours and heavy demands can drain your emotional resources. People who may have been optimistic about what they could achieve on the job, and had high expectations for themselves, are particularly susceptible to burnout as they begin to experience set-backs and frustrations in terms of what they're asked to do, want to accomplish, and are actually accomplishing.
Among the antidotes that are emerging are 1) the ability to know, observe, and be involved in the outcome of your efforts, and 2) the opportunity to engage in a self-evaluation.
The first remedy allows you to maintain a mental link between what you do and what results occur. Said another way, it's highly stressful to work at a job all day long, perhaps interacting with many, many people, and not know if what you've done has been of value, or been appreciated.
The second remedy, self-evaluation, involves looking at what you do with some measure of objectivity, perhaps using a chart, checklist, or scale developed during less trying times, that includes most of the key components of your job description and responsibilities.
One of the best safeguards for not falling prey to burnout is to accept the input and advice from others. Your spouse, co-workers, and friends often are able to notice changes in your behavior that may be detrimental to your well-being, long before you are aware of them. Please, listen up when somebody says "take it easy."
Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com