Recent research has shown that many tech jobs—such as working in corporate IT departments—can create exhaustion, and lead in turn to depersonalization and diminishing achievement: the three central components of job burnout.
If you think you might be at risk of burnout, it’s best to take action before you lose your job or the daily grind starts affecting your health.
“Burnout is less a sign of failure and more a sign that you gave yourself away,” noted Mark Gorkin, a licensed clinical social worker and stress resilience expert. “Healing starts with knowing your limits and not limiting your ‘nos.’”
While burnout is serious, and a full recovery often requires professional help, here are some practical and realistic steps that you can take right away.
Develop an Exercise Routine
Physical activity has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and help prevent the development of mental health problems. Just exercising for 20 to 30 minutes a day can extend your endurance and give you a sense of control and accomplishment.
If you feel guilty for taking an exercise break during work time, remember that there’s safety in numbers: form a walking group at the office and take a brisk walk during your allotted lunch hour. Pushing the boundaries by taking measured-yet-purposeful steps to improve your working conditions can help preserve your energy and focus.
Take on a Side Project or a Different Role
While most people think that job burnout results from working too hard, that’s not always the case, advised Dr. Michael Leiter, a professor in the School of Psychology at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia and an expert in employee burnout.
“It usually results from overdoing one dimension of yourself,” Leiter explained. In other words, you may be a candidate for burnout if your job is repetitive, limited in scope or emotionally unfulfilling.
Transferring to a different project or role that gives you more latitude to make decisions (or requires a broader range of skills) can recharge your batteries without letting your technical knowledge grow stale.
Many companies have recognized the benefits of diverse assignments, and now allow employees to pursue side projects or hobbies. Once you’ve begun the healing process, consider moving to a more healthy and balanced work environment.
Find a Stress Buddy
A stress buddy is a trusted colleague or friend who will let you blow off steam in private when you feel frustrated or overwrought. He or she may notice perfectionistic tendencies and offer helpful advice without judging you. The relationships are usually reciprocal, and helping someone think differently about a stressful situation may benefit you, as well.
N&N is Just as Important as R&R
Tech pros often get burnt out because they refuse to set boundaries or let go of certain aspects of the job. Gorkin maintains that saying “no” to a task or negotiating more reasonable workloads and expectations is just as important as time off when it comes to maintaining a healthy emotional state; Leiter agrees.
Interspersing short periods of less challenging work throughout the day can help build endurance in workers who perform repetitive tasks that require high levels of concentration and attention to detail, Leiter added: “Marathon runners don’t sprint the entire way… high intensity intermittent exercise helps runners run faster, stronger and longer without getting tired.”
Soothe Your Soul
There’s scientific proof that laughter combats depression, increases resilience and reduces the stress response. If your funny bone has atrophied, reading a humorous book or watching some classic comedy films may help revive your spirit. Journaling is another effective technique for reducing stress.
If your self-help attempts fail, seek confidential counseling through your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or health insurance plan. In extreme cases, it’s very difficult to overcome burnout on your own.