The other day, The Wall Street Journal published an article by Rachel Feintzeig entitled Feeling Burned Out at Work? Join the Club. The article is about how the burnout problem appears to be worsening which is driving up turnover and health costs for companies. It discusses how companies contribute to burnout creating cultures that include universal factors such as:
- job uncertainty
- an expectation that you always be in work mode thanks to technology or being responsible for people and initiatives happening in other countries – who doesn’t love a conference call at 2:00 AM?
- an ever-present “do more with less” expectation
But have companies single-handedly created these cultures or have workers manifested these factors from their fear-based beliefs born during times of economic uncertainty? In other words, is the workforce truly a victim of economic capitalism at its worst or are we powerful creators who still haven’t learned to wake up to and hold true to who we are, what we have to offer, and what it takes for us to provide our skills and services especially in times of economic uncertainty or in the face of fear-filled leaders who falsely believe the way to endure hard times is to pass a burden of giving more and receiving less onto their most valued commodity – their human resources?
Although there is so much companies can do to address this epidemic, workers simply cannot rest their laurels on their righteousness that companies are just not doing enough to help their employees heal. Workers must rise up to realize that although they are right that companies are wrong to enable these factors for short-term gains, it doesn’t justify throwing in the towel by settling for short-term solutions to address their sense of dwindling energy, power, and emotional (which drives physical) well-being.
If you are feeling burned out, your spirit is broken and only you can actually fix it. Companies know this – they make amends with the only solutions their fears will allow – band-aid solutions such as yoga or meditation at work. I’m not trashing either practice – both are fabulous and if your company offers them – be grateful. However they alone are not the solution that will heal you. You must find and engage in solutions that work for you to be emotionally aware and well.
Popular short-term solutions are often the self-medicating, sex/drugs/rock-n-roll kind. How often are you indulging in booze, prescription or recreational use of drugs to “get through” your anxiety ridden days or sleepless nights? Maybe it’s more subtle for you – maybe it’s just about comfort foods which might include the occasional chocolate chip “kookie” (as in edible drugs) that’s created unwanted weight gain, excessive shopping that’s gotten you into an uncomfortable level of debt, exercising that’s resulted in a personal injury from overdoing it, or _____________ (fill in your vice of choice here) that’s resulted in unwanted __________________ (fill in your damage here).
The point is – what unsustainable solution are you settling for to soothe your job-related stress, that’s also creating another problem in your life or with your health? BTW – “stress” is corporate jargon for “fear”.
Now hear this…..
Feeling Burned Out at Work? You Don’t Have to Join the Club!
People of the workforce….
… become aware of your behaviors, feelings, and thought patterns – especially those related to your job!
The alternative to joining the burnout club is to strengthen your emotional awareness – finding peace and strength with what you believe about yourself, your relationships, and your job situation. Emotional well-being for your work has nothing to do with your job. If this makes you say – “huh?” – no worry, I will write more about this throughout this month – so more to come.
For now, here’s a simple way to start strengthening your emotional wellness.
Developing greater emotional awareness is a process – like anything else. My 3 step process includes:
step 1 - realize what you are thinking and feeling
step 2 - identifying solutions that consider and care for yourself AND others (or maybe it’s better said as for others AND yourself)
step 3- just say
no – YES! Show favor for what you want – not what you don’t want.
To start, I offer you one thing to recognize as an indicator that you might be headed for burnout (or already there and just in denial of it). Did you know that the strongest indicator of burnout is exhaustion? This is closely followed by how cynical we’re being and how powerless we feel to get things done.
In the WSJ article, there is a video where Dr. Alden Cass, author of Bullish Thinking – The Advisors Guide to Surviving and Thriving on Wall St. is interviewed. He talks about how exhaustion can start as subtly as not wanting to get out of bed to go to work. Now we all experience that feeling from time to time but when it happens more often than not – it can be an indicator that you might be on your way to joining the burnout club.
Here’s something to think about related to not wanting to get out of bed to go to work…
How do you feel when you wake up in the morning to go to work?
After the alarm goes off, what is the first though that goes through your mind? Is it things like …
- “Oy, I shouldn’t have had that much beer/wine before bed last night.”
- “What day is it? Oh crap – it’s Mon/Tues/Wed – or even Thurs – just 5 more minutes!”
- “Is it 5AM already? But I’m so damn tired!”
- “Only x number more days until retirement!”
- “I wonder what the cafeteria will have for lunch today.”
- “At least this job isn’t as bad as my last job.”
- “Thank God I have a job… but why do I stay when I’m not happy there?”
- After constantly waking up and looking at the clock you think “Oh yay! x more hours before I have to get up!”
Maybe you’re not in touch with what you think or feel – could it be that you are avoiding connecting with your thoughts and feelings about work?
Let’s apply my 3 step process to this situation…
Step 1 – Get in touch with your initial thoughts or feelings. No need to journal or write anything down – just notice it.
Louise Hay said, “The words we speak are indicative of our thought patterns”. So if you wake up every morning and your first thought (which is most likely an incredibly authentic thought since we don’t have our wits about us 100% when we first wake up), holds no love for your job – YET – all you say (or whine about), is that you want a job you can love – you’re self-sabotaging your ability to experience a job you love. When the words you speak don’t match the beliefs you hold, you are either lying about what you truly want or you’re unaware of what you’re creating in your life.
I believe you – I truly believe you want a job you love – so get aware about what you are doing, feeling and creating that’s keeping you stuck exactly where you don’t want to be.
Step 2 – identifying solutions
Here’s a simple exercise to start strengthening your muscle for conscious living (and eventually – conscious working). This is a simple way to in align with positive, energy-giving experiences instead of existing in an unconscious state of purposelessness that settles for too much booze, a countdown to the weekend or retirement, lunch, or a postponement of waking up (pun intended), etc. as comfort from the wounds inflicted by the job you feel powerless to change.
First, ask yourself which of these things do you most enjoy experiencing (pick as many as you like, or make up your own thing – but focus on 1 to start)….
Whether you sit on the edge of your bed feeling around for your fuzzy slippers, or lie there taking a moment to wipe the sleep from your eyes – this is probably the same moment you allow that non- thought or negative thought to cross your mind. When you wake up, and as you put on your slippers, yawn, stretch, scratch, or wipe sleep from your eyes, ALSO decide what you want to experience that day. Say this to yourself…
“I’m so grateful for all the ________________ (fill in your blank with the thing you decided to focus on experiencing: ) things I get to be, do, and experience today.”
Don’t forget to also pat yourself on the back for engaging in meditation – it only takes 1-5 minutes to do this – solid focus on what you want to create is a form of meditation. So bonus hooray for you!!
Step 3- Say YES! to what you want – not what you don’t want.
Even if no specific ideas enter your head about how you will experience that thing, your heart will live your day on the lookout for things that will allow you to experience what you WANT to experience. In each question, offer, request, or opportunity that comes your way that day, ask yourself: “Will it enable me to experience adventure/abundance/learning/family/fun/helping others/beauty/etc. – whatever you chose?” If you can see the connection – say yes! Who cares if it’s a request to do something that’s not in your job description – just say yes!
If each morning presents a negative initial thought/feeling about your job that’s ok – don’t judge yourself – but don’t settle for it either. Don’t settle for negative or unclear thoughts to be in your head when you take your first standing action of the day – even if that action is just heading for the bathroom. Flush the negativity or fuzzy thoughts along with the rest of your waste down the toilet! You don’t deserve a day that doesn’t excite you or that drains you – so stop doing this to yourself. Allowing unclear or negative thoughts about your day to perpetuate is only aligning yourself with situations that will reinforce that you deserve more unexciting or negative experiences.
So acknowledge your negative thoughts, but then train yourself to let it guide you to an opposite thought about what you would want to experience.
How differently could you feel about your work and your life if you started giving yourself what you needed to feel recharged, confident, and at peace?
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