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Beating Burnout

July 28, 2017 | John Salustri

Tired? Listless? Heavy workloads got you down? The pressures of your job (we won’t even mention those of life itself) might be putting you on the fast lane to burnout, and in a recent Harvard Business Review article, Monique Valcour provides some tips for fending off this major career roadblock.

She points out first that, while there is no clinical definition of burnout beyond stress-gone-wild, there is documentation showing that, among financial professionals, the rate of burnout can be as high as 85%. “A 2013 ComPsych survey of more than 5,100 North American workers found that 62% felt high levels of stress, loss of control and extreme fatigue,” she writes. “Research has also linked burnout to many negative physical and mental health outcomes, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety, as well as increased alcohol and drug use. Moreover, burnout has been shown to produce feelings of futility and alienation, undermine the quality of relationships and diminish long-term career prospects.” Any of this sound familiar?

Valcour notes that there are three primary symptoms that accompany burnout: Exhaustion, which “undermines people’s ability to work effectively and feel positive about what they’re doing. This can stem from the demands of an always-on, 24/7 organizational culture, intense time pressure or simply having too much to do, especially when you lack control over your work, dislike it or don’t have the necessary skills to accomplish it”; Cynicism, a condition in which, “Instead of feeling invested in your assignments, projects, colleagues, customers and other collaborators, you feel detached, negative, even callous”; and Inefficacy, “feelings of incompetence and a lack of achievement and productivity. People with this symptom of burnout feel their skills slipping and worry that they won’t be able to succeed in certain situations or accomplish certain tasks.”

So, what to do? There are four essential anti-burnout weapons in Valcour’s arsenal, and while some may seem self-evident, they’re challenging to put into practice. First up is making self-care a priority, with an emphasis on all of the things you already know, such as nutrition, exercise and developing better sleep habits.

“If you’re having trouble squeezing such activities into your packed schedule,” she writes, “give yourself a week to assess exactly how you’re spending your time... For each block of time, record what you’re doing, whom you’re with, how you feel... and how valuable the activity is. This will help you find opportunities to limit your exposure to tasks, people and situations that aren’t essential and put you in a negative mood.”

Next up is a mind game of sorts, namely, shifting your perspective. Even in the face of a souped-up self-care campaign, “Back at the office, you may still face the same impossible workload, untenable conflicts or paltry resources,” says Valcour. Identifying what aspects of your job you can change, which are inflexible and changing those you can will help “buffer the negative impact of even the inflexible aspects. If exhaustion is a key problem, ask yourself which tasks—including critical ones—you could delegate to free up meaningful time and energy for other important work.”

In related advice, Valcour urges people to “reduce exposure to job stressors. This involves resetting the expectations of colleagues, clients and even family members for what and how much you’re willing to take on, as well as ground rules for working together. You may get pushback. But doubters must know that you’re making these changes to improve your long-term productivity and protect your health.

But this is not about pushing people away, and the fourth and final step is to connect to people. “The best antidote to burnout, particularly when it’s driven by cynicism and inefficacy, is seeking out rich interpersonal interactions and continual personal and professional development,” Valcour advises. “Find coaches and mentors who can help you identify and activate positive relationships and learning opportunities. Volunteering to advise others is another particularly effective way of breaking out of a negative cycle.”

The message I read into Valcour’s advice is one of awareness. Much like slowly dialing up the room temperature, stress and burnout are situations that you often don’t see coming. They are an insidious disease but not unpreventable. “The sense of being overwhelmed is a signal, not a long-term sentence,” says Valcour. “By understanding the symptoms and causes and implementing these four strategies, you can recover and build a road map for prevention.”

About the Author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM’s website. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of GlobeSt.com, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Comments

30 Jul 2017 | tdrescher@nvenergy.com
/Thank you for sharing your ideas for beating burnout.
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