Nearly everyone has days at work when they feel so physically fatigued that their minds aren’t fully engaged. It’s called job fatigue and thankfully it’s usually temporary. But when it becomes persistent, job fatigue leads to burnout. Think of job fatigue as the “check engine” light and burnout as when there’s smoke under the hood.
The World Health Organization describes burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.” It is characterized by emotional detachment, helplessness, hopelessness, loss of motivation and joy with a noticeable loss of work quality and efficiency.
How to avoid going from job fatigue to burnout
Be consistent with the basics. Great athletes are great because they never get tired of working on the basics. I call them masters of the mundane! Applied to burnout – be consistent in practicing these three habits:
- Do something every day that engages your creative side. It can be something as simple as taking a different route to work or trying a different coffee shop.
- Vent. Get your frustrations out. Find an outlet that works for you and do it every day. One caveat, if you’re venting to a person, limit it to 10 minutes.
- If you feel safe, go for a walk outside at night for 10 to 15 minutes, even if it’s cold. It will calm you down and the darkness will help you sleep better.
Be consistent with these. Every day. No days off. Just like brushing your teeth!
Reversing burnout with EMS
If you’ve reached the burnout stage, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. All is not lost. According to a Gallup survey, burnout affects up to 49% of the workforce. You don’t necessarily have to abandon your career and start over with something new. Often, getting your health back on track will stop burnout from turning everything you’ve worked for into ashes.
The first step is to acknowledge what’s happening. Speak with your physician or occupational health specialist. When you are experiencing burnout, the body is at full capacity and hanging on for dear life. It’s time to apply the brakes and take your foot off the accelerator. It’s time for EMS: Eating (nutrition), Movement and Sleep.
As you work this EMS program, avoid extremes. No fasting or overeating. Avoid excess heat or cold. Avoid exercising intensely or doing nothing at all. Moderation will help you heal. Here’s how to get started with your burnout recovery.
- Eating: Most burnout patients experience intense sugar and carb cravings, have food addiction and, as a result, are likely to be overweight. To address this, most will seek out the latest fad. You are better off eating regular small meals instead of fasting. Currently, that is intermittent fasting. That’s not going to work for you. It’s too harsh.
Instead, gently feed your body frequently with non-sugary, non-processed organic food. Also, now is a good time to load up on vegetables. Juicing or green vegetable powders are great options. Two groups of supplements I’d highly recommend during your recovery are omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) for its anti-inflammatory effects and adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that help you adapt to stress. Every major culture has their cherished version. You may have heard of some of these: ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha. Many companies do organic adaptogenic blends that help your adrenal glands regulate stress. And if you must drink alcohol, limit it to one very slow drink a day.
- Movement: Make this a high priority but avoid high intensity (an intensity where you feel out of breath). It’s too harsh. Walk, run or bike slowly. Work on slow deep breathing through your nose. Stick to 30 minutes max.
- Sleep: This is a huge priority. Sleep is free medicine. Sleep nourishes the brain, reduces aches, increases energy and boosts immunity. Three mandates to get you going: no electronic screens 90 minutes before bedtime, make your room completely dark (think hibernating bear), and leave all electronic devices outside the bedroom. No exceptions. Make YOU a priority. The calls and emails that put you in this state can wait. Additionally, consider supplementing with Magnesium citrate and Valerian root tea before bed, and I highly recommend you learn box breathing to help you switch off faster. I’ve written more about fixing your sleep deprivation in this blog.
Finally, whether you’re experiencing job fatigue or teetering on burnout, always be kind to yourself. Accept that you are human. You are going to fall off track repeatedly. I’m blessed to work with great athletes. You would be shocked if you saw how much great athletes, the iconic superstars, fall off track and struggle to get back up. No one is immune to it. We all get off track. It’s the beautiful human condition.
So, start small, keep going and find someone to champion you. That’s the key. Great athletes are made great by their support systems. Find people who will help you keep on track and get you back on it when you invariably fall off. Remember, if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go with someone.