Noticing the Signs of Exhaustion

A burnout is no badge of honor. It's more like a death sentence.

Photo: iStock

We live in a society where we work to eat or work to live. Often times, many of us overwork ourselves. We spend most of our days working without properly resting or taking time for ourselves. Before we know it, we are burnt out.

It’s no surprise to hear about doctors or lawyers experiencing burnout, but now it’s becoming common in all fields. Working in public relations, especially on the agency side can mean 10-12 hour days trying to meet all of your clients’ needs. It usually occurs when you’ve been assigned too many accounts, all with demanding day-to-day needs. On top of that, if you’re like any good PR practitioner, you overextend making yourself available 24/7. Outside of the time spent in the office, you answer emails on the way to work, after work, during dinner and even on weekends.

Last year, I began to have heart palpitations and sometimes vomited daily when headed to work or just arriving to work. I wasn’t sure the reason, but I began to overlook it because they would stop and I would go on to feel fine. 

It wasn’t until I told my therapist about these issues and he suggested I spend a few moments away from my desk every few hours and take a minute to breathe every hour. This actually sounded like a novel and easy idea especially with my Apple iWatch which had a breathing alarm. I started taking several deep breaths once every hour. Spending time away from my desk was not easy. I noticed the breathing was somewhat helping, but the reality is I was working too much.

Finally, I decided to set boundaries for myself. I would not read or respond to emails in the mornings before work and I would not spend my dinners doing work. Unless of course, they were urgent. It was difficult to maintain especially when people are accustomed to having unfettered access to you.

I think managers should work to address employee burnout by encouraging them to take time off. Time off is accrued for a reason and it should be used. Employees shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for taking a day off every so often nor should they be rewarded for working long days and weekends. I’ve learned that the most productive people are well-rested & happy people. People who take time off to enjoy their lives and families, but also work hard during the hours they are at work.

The next time you began to feel exhausted and you cannot shake the feeling, step back and reevaluate time spent working vs time spent living. If you can’t remember the last time you’ve lived, you might be burnt out.

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