Editor's Choice : Recognizing and Combating Worker Burnout

I’m sure I am like most people when they first graduate from undergrad and get their first REAL job. We all have the same mentality starting off; work as hard as we can, to make the best impression possible so that either we can work up the ladder or get some amazing references sometime down the line. On that journey to the top, we sometimes don’t take the time out we need to take care of ourselves the way we are supposed to. We sometimes forget that we are the most important person in our world.

I ended up getting completely burnt out within my first 4 months without even realizing it. I would come home from work exhausted from dealing with kids, eat dinner, crash and get up and repeat this cycle. My body eventually gave out on me and so did my immune system. But more importantly, my mind was the most tired. Mental exhaustion is one of the worst things I’ve experienced. Instead of me taking a day off to relax and visit a museum or two, I was forced to take 2 days. I was so mentally and physically exhausted that I did nothing but sleep. I never bothered to slow down enough to check in with myself to make sure that I was taking care of me.

Here are some tips that I now use to avoid burnout:

#1 Weekly Check-ins

I typically use every Wednesday to assess where I am during the week. I write down all of the work I’ve done and everything I need to accomplish for the rest of the week. But more importantly, I write down all of the things that may cause me stress coming up; from getting prepared for my major program every other Tuesday to simply calling Papa John’s to place a complicated ass order and praying they don’t mess it up. Everything gets written down. This has personally helped me because now that it’s on paper and not solely in my head, I’ve acknowledged that the stress exists and now I can work through the stress instead of subconsciously holding onto it.

#2 I Am The Priority

When it comes to choosing between myself or this job, I will ALWAYS choose me. There have been many times that I have been dog sick and forced myself to go to work and felt like death all day long just to prove that I can handle the work. The reality is that there are going to be some days that you just can’t do work and that’s okay.Why force yourself to work today when you’re going to only to do half the work, when you could take the day off and do double the work tomorrow well-rested? We sometimes get so caught up in a job that we forget that we are always the priority. It is natural to feel guilty about taking that time off for yourself. We have been conditioned by our society to put ourselves on the back burner at the expense of our jobs/commitments. You have to learn to be unapologetic when thinking of yourself and your well-being.

#3 Self-Care

Self-care is a term that many people throw around without much explanation. This term simply means to do whatever it is that you need to do for you to get through or be successful in your life. The reality is that self-care can be both productive and destructive depending on what you need. For example, If going to the gym everyday is a way that you take care of yourself, then nothing should get in the way of that and that includes work. By all means get the things you need to get done at work completed, but even if you go to the gym for 20-30 minutes instead of the hour + you are usually there, that still makes a huge difference. If you need to go out and drink multiple Henny and Cokes in order for you to feel better and de-stress, than that is exactly what you should do. You may not necessarily be doing anything super productive by drinking, but it’s what you want to do in the moment to feel better about whatever situation you’re in.

(Now I’m not encouraging drinking as a way to deal with your problems, but I am saying that you need to make decisions that will make you the happiest and not worry so much of the judgement from others.)

The important thing to remember from this post is to always, and I mean ALWAYS, put yourself first. Without you being physically and mentally healthy, your productivity will decrease and you become less of an asset to your company. I’ve learned the hard way that taking care of myself is more important than paying a bill. I have one life to live and I’d rather do right by me, than any job.