feel_the_burn_inside_1.jpgThe economic downturn has everyone fearing for their jobs and putting in extra hours at work. In these troubled times, job insecurity may also be keeping you from taking a much-needed break, for fear that you’ll be handed the dreaded pink slip after being MIA.

But your go-getting attitude could be your downfall, harming your health, your life outside of work, and even your sanity. In the long run, your fear of joblessness could cause you to suffer from burnout

Burnout syndrome is a set of physical and mental symptoms including exhaustion, fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, non-specific pain (usually nape pain), and digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome,” explains Dr. J.M. Castillo-Carcereny, MD, a consultation-liaison psychiatrist. “Other symptoms can also occur, such as falling hair and acne.”

Consequently, Dr. Carcereny says that one “becomes more cynical, critical, and sarcastic at work; [and] lacks the energy to be productive.” While a vacation may not be a viable option during these troubled times, there are steps you can take to keep burnout at bay.


1. PINPOINT THE CAUSE.

While you may be quick to single out stress as the cause of burnout, Dr. Carcereny says that the two are not necessarily related. “Recent research shows burnout can be caused by four factors: excessive long-term stress, stress followed by rest, long-term illness, and a negative mental attitude.”

While all those hours of working overtime may be a cause, don’t overlook health factors or your attitude towards work. It may be that your burnt-out feeling comes from all your negativity and discontentment.


2. BE GOOD TO YOURSELF.


In his book I Need More Time!, time management specialist Brett Hilder says, “In order to call yourself a good time manager, you have to look after your health. Even if you are not suffering from physical illness, your level of productivity will be compromised if you are not reasonably fit.”

Do what you can to help your mind and your body withstand the wear and tear that comes from the additional demands at work. Dr. Carcereny suggests meditating, exercising, having a proper diet, de-cluttering your home and your office, and engaging in relaxing activities such as getting a massage. She also believes that the simple act of being grateful can do a lot to change your mindset.


3. BE COMFORTABLE WITH “GOOD ENOUGH.”

feel_the_burn_inside_2.jpgBecause of a desire to do everything flawlessly—reports, presentations, even memos—you may be bogging yourself down with more work.

Rebecca Shambaugh, author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, about the career blocks that prevent women from moving up, acknowledges that there are situations that call for perfection, but insists it is crucial to differentiate between situations that call for such attention to detail, and those that merely require “good enough.”

By embracing “good enough,” you free yourself from doing unnecessary tasks, which translates into more time for other more important to-do’s on your list. Shambaugh explains further, “You might feel that letting go of your high standards means slacking off. But it’s not. It’s putting as much energy and attention into work as you ever have, but putting your time to better use.”



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(First published in Marie Claire Philippines, The Guide section as “Feeling the Burn” in April 2009; adapted for use in Female Network. Photos from The Devil Wears Prada courtesy of 20th Century Fox.)

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