Preventing Burnout by Rachel Kunz, Enrollment Manger

Bad days; we all have them. Your boss gets upset with you for no reason, your kids won’t get dressed to go to school, your spouse forgets to load the dishwasher like you asked—the list is endless. Stress is a normal part of everyday life. No matter who you are, you experience it. As an adult student, you are no stranger to stress. You have to juggle work, school, family and friends in this program. But prolonged and excessive stress can lead to a potentially dangerous physical and psychological state: burnout.
Burnout is defined as fatigue, frustration or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity. It is different than stress and has a unique set of symptoms that can seriously affect your health.
Here are the differences:
Stress vs. Burnout
Stress
Burnout
Characterized by over-engagement
Characterized by disengagement
Emotions are over-reactive
Emotions are blunted
Produces urgency and hyperactivity
Produces helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of energy
Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope
Leads to anxiety disorders
Leads to detachment and depression
Primary damage is physical
Primary damage is emotional
May kill you prematurely
May make life seem not worth living
Source: Stress and Burnout in Ministry
The process occurs gradually over a period of time. Recognizing the warning signs can help you take preventative measures before it hits you. The warning signs can be physical, emotional, behavioral, or a combination of all three.
Physical signs and symptoms of burnout
  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity, feeling sick a lot
  • Frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustrations on others
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
Source: HelpGuide.org
Preventing burnout is your best defense against it. If you see yourself exhibiting any of these warning signs, take action. Some things you can do to help prevent burnout are:
  • Start your day in a relaxing way: Spend a few minutes reading, meditating, praying, or writing in a journal. By doing so, you can ease into your day.
  • Take care of yourself: Regular exercise and eating well gives you more energy to combat the stress of daily life. Getting plenty of rest can also ease your symptoms.
  • Say no: When you set boundaries for your time, you don’t overextend yourself. Remember to be tactful when doing so.
  • Be creative: Try a new hobby or project that doesn’t relate to work. Creativity can curb stress.
  • Unplug: Schedule time each day to get away from your desk and computer. Don’t check email or your phone. Take a walk or get a cup of coffee. Disconnect from technology and reconnect with the world around you.
Managing stress daily can also help prevent burnout. Using the prevention techniques listed here is a start. Developing a routine with healthy daily habits can make a huge difference. Seeking out someone to speak with can help if you are still experiencing symptoms. Support is available all around you, if you just ask for it. Look to your family and friends as well as your peers in class. Chances are, they have experienced the same struggles and can possibly help you. Sometimes just having someone to listen to you is helpful to get you back on track. If family and friends are not able to help, seeking a professional can. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that offer confidential help in a variety of areas.
Coping with stress can help you avoid the long-term effects of burnout. Identifying and addressing the symptoms is the first step in tackling the problem before it starts. Take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep, and unplugging each day. If you are still struggling, ask for help.
Have a great spring, ADP students!
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