In today’s society, people are often encouraged to work hard, push themselves, and aim to be as successful as possible. Though hard work can and does pay off, working too much without a break can have lasting adverse effects. Symptoms of burnout include feelings of disinterest or depression, exhaustion regardless of how much you sleep, emotional detachment, and an inability to find enjoyment in tasks. Overwork has the potential to lead to these symptoms, and it’s important to recognize when you’re reaching your limit before you actually get there.
If you begin to feel overworked, stop. Take a minute to examine what you’re doing and how you’re managing it. How important is what you’re working on? Do you have multiple projects going at once? What other things are making demands on your time besides what’s in front of you at the moment?
Asking yourself these questions can help you to prioritize your work, chores, and other activities. By removing yourself from the situation long enough to take an objective look at why you’re feeling stressed, you can begin to organize your time and projects in a way that is easier to deal with.
There are times when you may find that you are indeed doing too much at once. Many people react to this by throwing themselves into their work and setting unrealistic goals in the name of getting everything done. This approach is counterproductive and will more often than not lead to stress, feeling rushed, and emotional and physical exhaustion.
Instead of jumping headfirst into more work than you can handle, consider taking time to relax. Give yourself a break for as much time as you can spare, be it fifteen minutes or a whole day. Take a walk or a long bath, watch a favorite movie, or re-read a comforting book. Do something to detach yourself from the feeling that you have to get everything done right now. The work isn’t going anywhere, and you will be much better equipped to deal with it if you give your overtaxed mind and body a rest first.
Don’t Neglect Hobbies
It can be helpful to have something to do that isn’t related to work or chores. Regardless of the type of activity, hobbies have a way of being calming. They take the mind away from the concerns of everyday life and allow you to focus on something you truly enjoy. Whether you like to work with your hands, experiment with technology, play around with words, or make music, taking the time to pursue your hobbies is an essential part of avoiding burnout.
Never tell yourself that you “don’t have time” to do something that you enjoy. Excluding fun activities for the sake of getting things done in what you imagine is a timely fashion creates both physical and emotional strain. Give yourself time to enjoy your hobbies without feeling guilty about what else you should be doing. This will help recharge your batteries, so to speak, so that you can return to your work with a fresh outlook.
Prayer, attending church services, or even just spending time with others who are of a like mind spiritually are all very healing activities. If you are spiritually inclined, the last thing you should be doing is putting your spiritual health aside in favor of work. Taking time to read the Bible, attend church or Bible study, and engage in other spiritual or religious activities is very important to personal health.
If you find that your workload is preventing you from being active in your faith, take the time to rework your priorities. Did you used to attend church every Sunday, or read a given amount of scripture every morning? Is there a local religious group that you miss spending time with? Promise yourself that you’ll return to these activities, then make good on that promise. Managing spiritual health has a way of helping to ease other difficulties in life, thereby making your daily workload easier to deal with.
Sleeping in the middle of the day isn’t just for kids. In fact, even a short nap can make you feel refreshed and energized. The next time you feel overworked, stressed out, or just plain tired, take time to nap. Fifteen or twenty minutes may be all you need. If you’re concerned about sleeping too long, set a gentle alarm to rouse you. You may be surprised at how much better you feel when you wake up.
No matter what kind of work is demanding your attention, it’s essential that you take time to step back, relax, and treat yourself to a little “me time.” Without adequate breaks, both your personal and work life can suffer. The next time you begin to feel like you’re taking too much on, remove yourself from the situation long enough to see to your own needs and recharge before you reach your limits.
Smith, Melinda, and Jaffe-Gill, Ellen. “Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Coping Strategies.” Helpguide.org. Dec 2008. 18 Oct. 2010 http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm>.