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Preventing and Healing Burn-out

All Personal Growth Articles

by Julie Bonn Heath
copyright 1999

Ever feel like work, home or family life is really getting to you? We all do. It's important in your self-care that you recognize the signs of burnout before they occur. Waiting until it is too late is often the recipe for incredible stress levels, fatigue, insomnia, depression, extreme decision-making that you could be sorry for later and even repercussions from your work or home environment.

Recently, my friend Jane (name changed) was called into her boss's office to talk about a conflict and her boss mentioned that he never saw her smile. This was a new boss and when Jane thought about it, she realized that she had not been smiling very much since management had changed hands and there had been many company changes.

She'd been down about a lot of what was happening; for four weeks she had been waiting to hear what her new role would be and was unsure that the company was even going to keep her position.

She, of course, was a bit panicked after working so hard for the company for so long and truly thinking that it was finally the place for her. She realized that she had been tired and a little unmotivated recently because of the changes, which was not a good impression for the new boss. She told him that she had been somewhat panicked about the situation and that was why she hadn't acted very happy. She agreed to improve.

Two weeks later, Jane was let go. One of the reasons mentioned was that she didn't seem happy anymore. She realized then that she had been burned-out with the extreme changes in the company and the incredible stress she had been under. It was too late to do anything about it then; she was now being given an unwelcome vacation.

But she had to wonder...if she had realized that she was burned out when her boss first mentioned her not smiling, could she have made enough changes in the two weeks to make a difference? She suspects so, and is still paying for not recognizing it early enough.

Burn-Out Triggers

Do you realize your trigger points? By trigger points, I mean circumstances that you know you may react to in a manner that might cause extreme stress and begin a burnout process. George Haity, from New York, knows that he has a potential to burnout if he doesn't divide up his vacation time and take at least a five-day break from work every six months. Lina Jallwoky from Oregon knows that when she has to work two week-ends in a row that she needs the third one off. Ronnie Mimble from Washington realizes when she hasn't seen any of the movies that are nominated for an Academy Award that she isn't taking enough "fun time" for herself. Some people realize that when they are extra irritable or tired, that it is time to do something.

What are your triggers? Conflict with a co-worker? Conflict with your family? A family vacation? Visitors? A dead-line that is stressing you out? Not enough time away from the kids? Not enough time with your significant other? Sit down and write what your triggers are. It could be as simple as, "an argument with my dad". Put a lot of thought into it and post your list where you can see it frequently. You will know to start taking precautions when something on that list occurs.

But It's Already Started...
What are your signs that burn-out has already begun? Below are some common signs that many people experience:

Burn-Out with Work:

  • Excessive Fatigue or not sleeping well

  • Loss of your typical energy and motivation

  • Boredom with work duties

  • Headaches, body-aches, stomach-aches, etc.

  • Wanting consistently to be somewhere other than work

  • Having projects or work duties suffer.

Burn-Out with Family, Relationships, Kids and Others:

  • Giving a lot and not receiving much in return

  • Little desire to spend time with the people involved

  • More anger and irritability than usual on your part

  • More fighting than usual

  • Negative attitude

  • Irritability with issues you know are really small ones

  • Being convinced that others are always trying to manipulate you

  • Disinterest in the other's lives or projects

  • Resentment

  • Lack of usual interaction

  • Physical symptoms listed above.

Make another list of your signs that burnout has begun. And now, we'll work on healing burnout to prevent possible disaster in your life.

Healing For Those Already Burned

You cannot care for others unless you are also caring for yourself. And healing for burnout works much the same way. Relaxation. Body/Mind/Soul/Spirit retreats. Doing some things for you and only you. Completing projects YOU want to do. Chasing dreams that you have always wanted to accomplish.

Involving yourself with friends, support groups or church groups. Reading a book from start to finish in one weekend. Cooking those chocolate chip cookies you've been craving for a week. Sometimes it means taking physical leave of the area and going on a vacation, camping or spending a few nights with a friend. If you can't afford it, think of it this way: YOU CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO. Find a way to make it work, even if it means calling on a long-lost friend or putting the trip on your credit card. 

Now, make your list of things you like to do that will help to heal your burnout and keep it in an accessible place. You'll need it to refer to when you are so burned out that you can't think straight.


How can we prevent burnout? Once we've gotten ourselves straightened out and on the road to healing, everyone who's been there will tell you that they never want to experience it again. So, you schedule your healing. "Wait", you say.  "Schedule my healing before I even have a problem"? Absolutely. It is the best way to prevent it from occurring again.

Whether it's the mini-retreats, a trip to see the movies or time with your significant other, ensure that you schedule it on a regular basis and treat it with the same priority as any other meeting you've scheduled. Ensure that others close to you understand that it is "your time" and learn to respect that. Then, enjoy yourself, feel more rested and see what a difference it makes.

After all, you're worth it!

by Julie Bonn Heath 
copyright 1999 has products that can help you or someone you know to relax.




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