Loving your job and working hard is great, but if your workload starts to overwhelm you – or you drive yourself too hard in search of success – you might be heading for burnout. Here’s how to find a healthy balance.

Charging full steam ahead into work at the start of a new year is admirable and typical of high achievers, but if you’re not careful you could find yourself overextended and on the road to burnout – a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Burnout is brought on by extreme stress and can lead to feelings of inadequacy, cynicism, detachment and sometimes depression.

Burnout happens slowly, so you might not realise that you’re in its grip until you’re on the verge of collapse. Warning signs include chronic fatigue, lack of focus, physical symptoms like chest pain, heart palpitations, stomach pain and headaches. Other signs are a weakened immune system, loss of appetite, anxiety and irritability that might turn into angry outbursts at home or in the workplace. You might find that you no longer take pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, or you could develop a pessimistic attitude and detach emotionally and physically from your job. This could mean frequent ‘sick’ days, or regularly coming in late. Eventually, lack of productivity and poor performance become apparent, and feelings of indifference, hopelessness and increased irritability creep in. Madineyah Isaacs, a South African life coach based in New York City, has experienced burnout herself and has treated clients for it. She explains that due to the similarity of symptoms, burnout can be misdiagnosed as depression and vice versa, so seeking the right guidance is important in order to get diagnosed and treated effectively. ‘Many people don’t know that it’s a real condition,’ says Isaacs, ‘and they beat themselves up for not being able to “snap out of it” or “fix themselves”. It is reversible once identified, and I often find my clients live a more enriching life once they become aware of the stressors that caused it.’ Here’s her advice for those in danger of burnout:

Create a system for handling work coming in and out, then set a specific time during the day to tackle it. Make time on Monday mornings to organise the rest of your week using tools like calendars and diaries. Clarify your tasks and sort them in order of importance. At the end of the day, go through your diary to assess what’s been done and what can be pushed to the next day. That way, you end the day knowing how the next day will look. Friday afternoons can be set aside for catching up with admin and organising files. 

You may think it is unrelated, but taking care of yourself is a strategy for a successful life. Sleep enough, eat wholesome meals and drink a lot of water. Regular exercise reduces stress, creates a sense of wellbeing and leads to increased energy and productivity. Finish work at a reasonable time so you can enjoy personal and social time at your leisure.

Speak to your boss and clarify exactly what is expected of you at work. If your workload is excessive and leading to burnout, find out which tasks can be delegated to someone else, or whether dead-lines can be adjusted to be more manageable. Use to-do lists and time management techniques to create a further sense of control.

The way you think also contributes to stress, so take the time to identify your stressors and work on avoiding them (for example, if a noisy work environment bothers you, consider wearing earplugs). During your lunch or tea break, practice deep breathing or meditation to help you balance out feelings 
of stress, or do something that brings you joy, such as listening to music. 

If the best part of your job is the pay cheque, it might be time to reassess your career. Examine your passions and find a career that aligns with your values and life purpose, so that you wake up excited to do work that adds value and rich meaning to your life.

Jet club members have free access to jet club’s helplines. For advice on managing stress call personal health advisor

SA & Namibia
0800 0045 45

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WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on December 21, 2018 Rating: 5
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