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Some days you go into work and it takes all your effort to complete one simple task. Your mind wanders and you realize you now loathe your job. At home, it’s no better.
The slightest fuss from your kids can throw you into a fit of anger or cause you to collapse from exhaustion. Some days it feels like you want to cry but you just can’t.
You may be suffering from burnout.
In a new study of an estimated 2,600 workers in the United States and Canada, more than half of employees reported feeling overworked. About a quarter of us regularly work after the standard workday is done. We’re tired!
But what exactly is burnout, and what causes it?
“Another word for burnout is stress. People are stressed by a wide range of things. That can be as routine as not having a regular sleep wake-cycle to having [changes] in diets, to having a lack of social support to rapidly changing demands at work or at home,” says Robert Bilder, Michael E. Tennenbaum Family Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Amit Sood, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, puts it another way. “Burnout is basically a tired brain. It’s an exhausted brain,” Sood says.
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While it may feel like quitting your job and running away from your relationship, and your family, and whatever else is stressing you out, might be the only solution, is the only solution, there are some simple ways to counter burnout.
The first step is taking care of yourself — both mentally and physically.
“Having purpose and meaning in life” protects people from burnout, says Bilder. But he also adds that getting the proper amount of sleep, eating well, and exercising can help cure burnout.
Sood provides a remedy for burnout that begins with developing emotional resilience and participating in a mind-body task, such as yoga, meditation, or martial arts.
While finding a mind-body practice may be easy, becoming emotionally strong can prove elusive for many. To that end, Sood created a plan that helps people develop emotional resilience by focusing on a daily purpose.
He suggests a weekly regimen that looks something like this.
Monday: Feel gratitude
Feeling grateful helps people refocus on the positive. As an example, Sood mentions the Monday he and his wife took their daughter to a doctor to be treated for an infection. Rather than being stressed or upset, they chose to feel grateful for the antibiotics that cured her.
Tuesday: Be compassionate
Practice compassion toward that annoying coworker, or your bratty teen — or yourself.
Wednesday: Try acceptance
Work with what you face in life and accept what can’t be changed.
Thursday: Focus on higher meaning
Pursue ways of making the world a little happier.
Give a pass to all the people who angered you.
Think about the past week and consider the upcoming one.