That depends what you mean by “100% capacity.” If you mean 100% productive, 100% of the time, it’s unachievable as a benchmark. We all need rest and recovery time, or burnout will result sooner or later.Perhaps a better benchmark is “optimal output/performance” with ‘optimal’ being a personal and relative measure. We are all different, and different tasks will tax our will power, cognitive capacity, emotions and talents in different ways. A good internal calibration marker of what is optimal is your energy level. You know when you are lacking energy or full of it: you don’t need someone to tell you. Job burnout is a special type of stress though — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work. If you think you might be experiencing job burnout, ask yourself:
● Have you become cynical or critical at work?
● Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
● Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
● Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
● Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
● Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
● Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
● Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
● Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical ails?
You’re more likely to experience job burnout if yes is the answer to any of these questions. The latest study shows that 53% of physicians report at least one symptom of burnout. That means almost 47% are not experiencing burnout symptoms. What is the difference between the two groups? Resilience is the greatest difference.
When a person is resilient they do not experience the same level of stress as another person who is not as resilient experiences in the same situation. While resilience is comprised of 1) optimism, 2) healthy self-esteem, and 3) an internal locus of control, burnout is a war to be won on two fronts:
1. Building personal resilience and stress management coping skills,
2. Making the work environment less stressful.
Top tips to build personal resilience:
● Pay attention to your nutrition: you are a machine, a biological MACHINE. Those over about 35 give or take need to watch blood sugar spikes caused by carbohydrate binges, as our bodies become less tolerant with age. You know when your energy dips in the afternoons and evenings, or is very up and down, that you have this problem. Cut the carbs down. Eat less processed rubbish (white flour, white pasta, white bread, ready meals, etc) – ideally cook your own food so you know what’s in it. Your brain will thank you.
● Exercise every day: it’s a palliative form of stress relief, and boosts your mood as well as brain function. Palliative coping strategies basically reduce stress by distracting you from the stressor. Physically getting there really is the hard part. Let’s talk palliative coping by using a bit of an exaggerated analogy. Imagine that this is in your driveway:
Every morning you back over it, then you stop and change all four of your tires and continue on your way. At the end of the day you drive over it and put your car back in the garage. The next morning you drive over it again, stop and change all four of your tires. . .
Exercise is like changing the tires. It relieves the stress but it doesn’t fix the problem. You’re going to have a flat tire again tomorrow. Exercise can delay the onset of burnout, but as a preventative measure it does not have staying power. Regular exercise is a habit-formation (or breaking) challenge that is easy to crack with discipline if you just do it. After a few times, the habit starts to form and it gets easier.
Do what you love: we all have energy for the things we like doing. Research shows that people fall into one of three broad categories that describe the source of their natural “drive:” affiliation, power/influence, and achievement. Most people have a dominant one, maybe a secondary one too. Just think about which activities drain or energize you. The more your job calls on your “drives” the better: you are not draining your energy as much. The trap is that many people have jobs that tax them in ways that drain their energy… that’s when people are in the ‘wrong job’ if they are seeking balance and fulfilment.
Employees don’t have a lot of control over environment, they truly can feel powerless. Their power is in building resilience. Building resilience will help them feel more empowered to help them help themselves. The magnitude of difference can occur in the minds of a resilient vs not-resilient person. Resilience matters.
If you can’t control the environment, focus on controlling what you can—your level of resilience and your stress management skills. Seek support and collaboration to help cope with job stress and feelings of burnout. If you have access to an employee wellness or assistance program, take advantage of the available services. If you’re interested in learning more about exercise, stress resiliency coaching, wellness workshops, or employee wellness programs please contact Progressive Health Center at 303-788-9399.
1. Sood, Amit MD (2013) The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. Rochester, MN: First Da Capo Press.
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