Americans are not good at a taking a breather. Our culture encourages us to work hard because we believe hard work is directly correlated with success. The more work you do, the more successful you will be. While dedication and commitment are important qualities in any employee, pushing ourselves too hard for too long can backfire. It can cause burnout.
Tired workers are not productive workers. Overworked employees are not as sharp, tend to be less committed, and are often not satisfied with their work environment. Being constantly overextended can lead to a burnout: “the mental and physical collapse due to overwork or stress.” (Dictionary.com)
Most people experience times at work where there is increased expectation due to a looming deadline or increase of activity, but there are ways to protect yourself from suffering complete exhaustion. Burnout can cause severe physical, emotional and mental health issues, so it’s best to have some tools at the ready to prevent when things get stressful.
Maintain perspective. When we are under acute stress, it can feel like the situation is all consuming and if not dealt with correctly, catastrophe is on the horizon. It’s important for us to right-size the issue. Using statements like, “this situation is temporary,” “I can only do my best, and that’s good enough,” or “this situation does not define me or my career,” can be helpful ways to gain accurate perspective the stressor. Correcting your thoughts in this way is called engaging in “reality-based” thinking. Reasoning will help us feel more prepared to tackle the problem because it no longer feels like a big scary monster.
Maintain hobbies. It can be easy to stay at work when we have no reason to leave. Having activities that you enjoy outside of work creates a boundary between your professional and personal life. When work takes up all of the time in your life, it’s harder to separate yourself from stressful situations, mistakes, or criticisms. Doing something that you enjoy will increase your mood on days when stress is running high and also helps to reset your brain.
Get sleep. When your to-do list seems unmanageable, it may feel like staying up later and checking off more items is the right thing to do. While there are times that we have to burn the candle at both ends to meet a deadline, consistently sacrificing sleep will hurt productively. When we are tired, we are slower and more prone to mistakes. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night will increase focus and productivity. Instead of wasting time doing inefficient work while you’re tired, get your rest and get more done the next day.
Use your vacation days. Breaks are necessary. Taking time to unplug, disconnect, and spend some time resting is key to avoiding burnout. Vacation time allows us to reconnect with loved ones, spend some time focusing on ourselves and getting much-needed rest. Taking a break allows us to have ample time to put all aspects of our life and breathe. Taking vacation has been found to increase productivity, as it prevents burnout and improves satisfaction.
Being productive in your job is essential, but you are most able to tackle challenges when you are rested and happy. Preventing burnout will help you be more successful in your career. Give yourself a break!