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Job burnout: Symptoms and remedies

By Kate Lorenz Editor

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Today's work culture of heavy workloads, longer days at the office, less time spent at home and fewer vacation days taken is causing rampant job burnout. In fact, 68 percent of workers report feeling burned out at the office, according to a recent survey.

So what are some symptoms you're suffering from job burnout? Mary Rose Remington, author of "Career Quest, a Practical and Spiritual Guide To Finding Your Life's Passion" (Heartwood Publishing), says there are 10 signs that it's close to quitting time -- concrete indicators that you are "crispy."

1. Sunday evenings depress you.

2. The quality of your work has suffered, but you don't care.

3. You arrive consistently late to work.

4. You call in sick when healthy.

5. You've become emotionally distant from your coworkers.

6. Your job has taken a toll on your mental and/or physical health to the point where friends and family have expressed concern.

7. Upon hearing rumors of layoffs, you pray, "Please, God, take me!"

8. You don't have enough work to keep busy, but lack motivation to seek new assignments.

9. Time drags and you constantly watch the clock.

10. The lights around your desk or workspace burn out frequently.

Career and life-transition coach Leslie Godwin says that those who suffer from burnout fall into three categories. She identifies them in her book "From Burned Out to Fired Up: A Womanıs Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life" (HCI Books).

You're a passionate workaholic: You are so driven that you burn out even though you're doing something you feel is meaningful.

"As a passionate workaholic, I felt driven to be externally successful so I could feel like I was a worthwhile person inside," Godwin admits.

Following your natural "flow" is the antidote to being driven and a passionate workaholic. Burnout can be a gift if you use it as a wake-up call to change your life.

You're climbing someone else's ladder: If you don't redefine success based on what you want out of life, you'll point yourself toward someone else's goals.

There are several reasons we find ourselves on the wrong path: We may have chosen our path at a young age when our values and priorities are not fully conscious and consistent; we were influenced by our familyıs needs for us to fulfill their dreams and expectations; we were rebelling against our familyıs needs for us to fulfill their dreams and expectations; fear, insecurity, and/or anxiety have influenced our choice of goals and paths; we aren't listening to our calling.

Your spark is being extinguished by a toxic workplace: If you believe that your job is burning you out, first check yourself to see what you're bringing to the situation. Then see what changes you can make in your work relationships and/or job description. Finally, leave if you need to.

If you need to leave, make a short-term plan and a long-term plan. Break down your long-term plan so you can work on it day-to-day. Don't keep your dreams safe by keeping them in the future. Do something to make them real in the present.

"I think the most important thing about burnout is to recognize it's a cry for help from your poor, exhausted body and untapped spirit," says Remington. "They say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. If you are burned out and continue working in the same job at the same pace for the same long hours, you will only get an increased feeling of burnout. It's time to try something -- anything -- different."

There are at least 50 ways to fight burnout, adds Remington. They include:

  • It's summer, so take a vacation. Ideally two weeks, but one will help. Sometimes distancing yourself from your job will help you discern what you can do differently when you return. When you do start back, try and identify specifically what is causing you the most stress: Impossible deadlines? Difficult clients? Constant interruptions? The drudgery of the work?
  • Then schedule a heart-to-heart with your manager and present a couple of solutions to try. This can be delegating more work to others, a reduced work week, work from home one day a week, or different assignments.
  • If there is not much support or change on the horizon, start your soul-searching process. Write down what you like about your job (if anything) and what you dislike. Consider the help of an employment counselor who can help you update your resume and job hunting skills, focus and get more of what you love in your next position.
  • Crunch your personal budget numbers and see how long you could float.
  • If you are an educator, you might be eligible for a sabbatical. Even the corporate sector will sometimes allow employees to take extended leaves.
  • Always take a lunch break, even if it's just a 20 minute walk around the parking lot.
  • Focus on things you can control, such as getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising and connecting with friends in your support network.
  • Mary Rose Remington, B.A., M.S.Ed., is author of "Career Quest, a Practical and Spiritual Guide To Finding Your Life's Passion."

    Leslie Godwin, MFCC is a career and life-transition coach, writer and speaker. She is the author of "From Burned Out to Fired Up: A Womanıs Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life" (HCI Books).

    © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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