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|Submitted by Daboo on Mon, 05/07/2012 - 21:00|
Imagine the coolest car you have ever seen doing an absolutely awesome burnout in an empty parking lot. This is not just any burnout, this one is spectacular. Imagine the sound of the tires squealing, the smoke billowing out from where the tire meets the pavement. Then... POW! [Hand Clap]. The pressure and stress cause the tires to explode.
What I’m here to talk about tonight is burnout: What is burnout? The effects, some common causes, and some steps that can be taken to prevent or reduce the effects.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is the effect of Chronic Stress; so first, let’s first answer, what is Chronic Stress?
Stress is the method of reacting to a difficult or dangerous situation. It is the “Fight of Flight” response to a perceived threat. Chronic Stress is caused by stressors that are unmanaged or poorly managed. Burnout is the point where this impacts your daily routine.
Some of the effects of chronic stress or burnout may be as mild as chronic headaches or a lowered immune system. More serious health problems may show themselves over time. Some of these conditions are:
- Depression [Look Depressed] - I’ve experienced this firsthand in the context of a highly stressful work environment. In my case, I felt out of control and helpless. No matter how many hours per week I worked or how hard I worked, the customer simply was not happy. This was not something that I or anyone could change; this was just how that particular customer operated. During that time, I didn’t really care what happened, I was in autonomous mode, just working and going home wash, rinse and repeat. [wash, rinse and repeat body language].
- Obsessive-Compulsive [Pick up iPad and look obsessed] – This is another firsthand experience of mine. I’m normally already obsessive when it comes to my projects. For really exciting and fun projects, I’ve been known to forget to eat all day in order to get it done. When in burnout mode, it’s easy to become overly obsessed with something that one does have control over just so they feel that they are in control of something in their life.
- Anxiety Disorder [Look Anxious] – This, in my opinion is the worst physical symptom. This includes, but is not limited to shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. These symptoms don’t always hit during the stressful part of the day, but sometimes wait until it’s time to relax and unwind. It’s quite scary, very real and feels like what i imagine a heart attack would feel like.
- The list of effects goes on…
Anybody who says “It’s Just Stress” has apparently never experienced it at this level before.
Stress is a part of our everyday lives. Most of the time it’s fairly small and manageable, in check, it’s typically nothing to worry about unless there are more significant stressors or everyday stressors linger unchecked for an extended period of time.
Common Causes of Burnout
- Hostile Work environment
- Unhappy Marriage
- Over extending or exerting yourself.
Ways to prevent or reduce the effects of burnout
- Caffeine Reduction - If you are a coffee, tea or soda drinker, one common way to reduce stress is to reduce your caffeine intake. This was difficult for me, as I love coffee. The good news is that they have come a long way with decaf. A good decaf freshly ground right before brewing is almost as good as the real deal. Drinking caffeinated beverages past 2 pm, could make if more difficult to get a good night’s sleep, as it can have an effect on the body up to 8 hours after being consumed.
- Exercise – This too was a difficult one for me. Sitting at my desk all day, possibly not even leaving my desk for lunch. Going from 0 to exercise was a challenging task. Taking a 15 minute walk during the day is a good way to clear your mind and unwind for a short while. You can cover a mile in this amount of time so it’s good for your body too. If you get bored with walking, you can bump it up to running. If you are already burned out and decide to try running, you may find that it’s not as easy as you thought it would be. Running while under stress may be difficult to breath and you may actually feel more stressed because you are so focused on the need to relax that it has the opposite effect. I had an interesting conversation with my trainer about this last weekend, where she made that very point. It makes a lot of sense and I wish I had known about it when I first started running. If you need a good trainer, get with me after our meeting.
- If you can take control of the situation and turn it around or if there is an end in sight, working through the burnout may be an option. It’s always a good idea to have a good friend to soundboard off of. They may be able to provide insights and feedback that the one dealing with the stressor cannot see. Another good way to work through it is to create a pros and cons or an options list. If it’s your job that is burning you out, the pros and cons may be fairly straight forward. Stay or move on. Start creating the list and keep it nearby so that you can add to it for a day or two if you need to. If there is no clear way to get control or get through it, it may be time to move on.
- Moving on - Sometimes moving on can be quite difficult. You may have a lot of time and energy tied up in your burnout situation. Moving on may feel more like quitting. If you have stuck with it for a while and made no headway, there is no shame in moving on, especially if it is affecting your health and well-being. Again, now is a good time to have a close friend. Someone that can support you and help you get through this difficult time. Someone to help keep you motivated, especially since moving on from a known situation to the unknown can be quite stressful in itself.
- There are too many options, but a few more include: Hobbies, Counseling, getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Though a car burnout can be totally cool. Human burnout is really not so cool.
I urge everyone here with stress in their lives to keep themselves in check and confide in your friends or family in times of difficulty. The easiest way to prevent burnout is to address it early on before it becomes a problem. If it’s already a problem, it’s never too late to turn things around for the better. Taking action can be difficult, but not taking action can be detrimental.
Speech given on 5/7/12 at Bluegrass Toastmasters club meeting.