I recently attended a talk by Dr. Mamta Guatam, from PeakMD, who is a psychiatrist specializing in treating health care providers with Burnout. Her talk inspired me to think about work-life balance and how important it is in any profession to be fulfilled, find joy and meaning in our work and also maintain our own happy, joyful life outside of work. Yes, it is possible.

Now more than ever with the availability of so many time-saving technologies, we are all doing 10 times more in our day than people ever did. From the sheer number of emails to the demands on our time, it’s no wonder more and more people are feeling stressed. 

Why this happens

So often, we feel that we must get everything accomplished and as the demands increase, it soon becomes impossible to finish all the work….ever!  Seriously, as soon as you finish everything on your To-Do List, there are 50 more things stacking up.  It’s an overwhelming burden when the demands exceed what you have available. Many times, there’s an element of guilt if we’re not able to finish everything and then shame layered on top of that. 

In some work environments, there is an unspoken expectation that people will work day and night, be available on weekends and holidays and truly never find time to be completely away. This is particularly true in professions where caring of others is involved. 

“Even the healthiest and strongest of us can become unhealthy in an unhealthy environment.”

 Dr. Mamta Gautam

Signs of burnout

• The added stress can create problems in relationships at work and at home

• Physical problems may start, such as headaches

• People tend to withdraw physically. They may sit in their car in the driveway before going into the house, or retreat to the bathroom. Many zone- out in front of the TV or laptop, which separates them from others.

• An increase in using activities that make us feel good, but perhaps in excess. Consider the 2-3 glasses of wine, a little recreational use of drugs, overeating, retail therapy or other of the millions of coping skills.

• An increase in negative thoughts and depression

• Feeling exhausted

What to do

The key is to try to regain the joy in your work is to first make the time to take care of yourself.  It means stopping and pausing to consider the situation honestly. Find someone to talk to about what you’re experiencing or journal. 

Next, do talk to your colleagues. Chances are that everyone is feeling the same way and a real sense of “we’re in this together” can help foster more joy and more teamwork when everyone knows that everyone is in the same boat. 

There is safety in numbers, so if you’re considering trying to change the culture and it’s safe for you to that, then do talk to the people in human resources, your managers or whoever is in a position to tweak the work culture. 

At home

The best way to reduce burnout at work is to make sure you have some other things that bring you joy.  What are your hobbies, your interests and what do you want to do? 

Maybe it’s sleep, or a dance class or learning how to fly a plane, or getting out into your garden. Whatever it is, make time for those other activities, so you can turn off the faucet of unrelenting work demands. 

Be sure you’re eating healthy, nutritious food and getting enough sleep. It’s also important to exercise and get plenty of sex, with or without a partner. I also like Dr. Gautam’s recommendation to indulge yourself. I’m paraphrasing here, but she said, think about what you really want to do and then just do it. That might mean sleep a bit longer or play hooky and see a movie, meet a friend for lunch or take a mental health day. 

No matter what, remember this. No one yet has ever said this on their death bed:

“Gosh, my real regret is that I should have spent more time at the office.”

Just something to think about. 

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