Tips for Battling Burnout at Work: Advice from Mental Health Professionals

Balancing work, family, community involvement and social obligations can sometimes make you feel like there’s no time left for you.

Addressing this feeling of burnout was the topic of a recent lunch and learn put on by PR Connect, an advisory board to the Pine Rest Foundation. Pine Rest is the largest behavioral health care system in West Michigan and PR Connect is a newly formed group of young professionals working to change the perception of mental health in the community.

Pine Rest counselors Casilda Maxwell, M.A. and Beatriz Medina, M.A., facilitated the session. Maxwell explained that signs of burnout could include physical and emotional exhaustion, chronic fatigue, increased illness, loss of appetite, anxiety, anger, depression or insomnia. Feelings of detachment, pessimism or a loss of enjoyment are also signs that you might be taking on too much.

Medina said an important first step in battling burnout is to set realistic boundaries. Identifying your stress triggers can help you decide which boundaries you might need to set, but these are some recommended starting points:

  • Don’t answer your phone after a certain time at night.
  • Leave work on time.
  • Ignore emails on the weekends.
  • Limit the time you spend with certain people.
  • Schedule time for yourself throughout your work day.
  • Communicate your boundaries to others.
  • Set boundaries at home.

Medina said once you’ve set your personal boundaries, you have to be willing to stand up for them in order to make them stick. You should be ready for people to try to violate them.

“You’re going to have to prepare and be ready for that,” Medina said.

With new boundaries protecting your time, Casilda said it’s important to replenish yourself with self-care that works for you. She offered these suggestions:

  • Practice mindfulness, relaxation or meditation.
  • Work out.
  • Eat right.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Try journaling.
  • Have fun.
  • Read non-required books.

You can also get involved with a sports group, church or religious group or community activity to feel more connected. Scheduling a date night with a significant other, friend or yourself and making the time for it is important.

“Treat leisure appointments with the same urgency as business appointments,” Medina said.

When life changes such as death, divorce, moving, job loss, or kids add to your stress level, Medina said it’s important to not let yourself get stuck. She advised moving forward the best you can and if necessary, seek professional help.

Maxwell explained that people have many preconceived notions about therapy, but that it’s really just a structured, non-judgmental environment where you can talk. She also said therapy can equip you with techniques and skills to move forward in your present situation and future hardships.

What do you do to battle burnout in your life? Share your advice with us in the comments below.

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Photo credit: Keirsten Marie

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