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Burnout: Why It Happens to Some, But Not Others


Ever have one of those days when stress seems to be everywhere? From the moment your feet hit the floor after getting out of bed, the universe seems to have it out for you.

It is important to remember one thing on days like that: stress is not the same as burnout. We all have bad days. Burnout occurs when you are exhausted from day after day of pressure, stress, and worry about your personal or professional responsibilities – or both.

To cope with this stress, I’ve been known to have a drink or two. Others might choose to eat comfort foods, find relief through illicit drugs, or even push themselves harder to get stuff done. When I start to feel exhausted from it all and believe burnout is approaching, these are the steps I take to make sure life can continue on as normal.

#1. Make sure you are not your own trigger.

Pressure creates anxiety. Anxiety creates stress. Stress triggers a reaction. If you’re putting pressure on yourself, then you’re creating your own triggers. I’m the type of person who demands personal perfection in everything, so I understand what it’s like to put pressure on oneself. If you can stop doing this, you’ll eliminate a lot of the triggers that can lead you on a path toward burnout.

#2. Embrace your limitations.

You don’t have to do everything on your own. If you’re in a leadership role, then inspire others to be great. Don’t take over their work in addition to your own. And, if the demands placed on you are greater than your ability to accomplish them, admit that right away. Otherwise you’ll always be swimming upstream and be miserable just about every day.

#3. Take a 5-minute meditation break.

This has helped me immensely. When my chest feels tight and my brain wants to shut down because of stress, I disengage. Just 5 minutes of deep breathing, meditation, or the use of a relaxation technique can help to manage acute stress very effectively.

#4. Look at the situation through honest eyes.

Sometimes stress happens because we’re looking at a problem in a completely upside-down way. Ever make a problem more complicated? I’ve been known to do that. So take off the rose-colored glasses that lead to stress and be completely honest with yourself. Look at the big picture instead of the small picture. Or vice-versa. It might not make your stress go away, but good stress won’t lead to burnout one day, while bad stress typically does.

#5. Tap into your empathy.

Ever feel like someone is attacking you? Competing with you? Targeting you?

This is how many stressful incidents occur. I’ve found that by making a conscious effort to step into the shoes of the other person, I can often de-escalate a conflict before it turns into a situation that can lead to burnout. You may not agree with that person, but if you understand their approach, it becomes easier to communicate with that person.

Through the use of our emotional intelligence, we can recognize stress triggers, limit burnout, and keep going. Those who have been able to do this are able to continue pressing forward when others may give up. How do you cope with stress and burnout to keep doing what you do?

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