Job Burnout: Tips for Treating It

This column concludes a three-part series on dealing with job burnout. In the first post, ”Dealing with Job Burnout,” we provided resources for you to determine if you are experiencing job burnout. Part two covered the causes of burnout, and part three offers some solutions for job burnout.

 The stories in last column, “Causes of Job Burnout” may have scared you a bit. Heart attacks and suicidal tendencies should not be part of your career. And the statistic that job burnout is associated with a 79 percent increased risk of heart disease is a sobering one. The reality is that job burnout can be extremely dangerous. So what can you do about it?

To address many of the causes of burnout, you just need to get rid of stress, right? Not exactly. In addition to being a completely unrealistic goal, a certain amount of stress is a good thing. It can spur you on to greater achievement; it can be a powerful force to drive you to accomplish great things.

The best way to deal with job burnout is to recognize when it’s approaching and take time for a break. Head it off at the pass. If you began to feel some of the symptoms I mentioned in part one of this series, such as trouble sleeping, feeling disillusioned, increased irritability, take action to give yourself a break. If taking a few vacation days is not possible, at least take off an afternoon and engage in an activity that relaxes you.

I deal with a stress every day with my clients and their complicated stressful issues. However, I get up each morning with a smile and anxious to go to work. I cycle 50 or so miles and workout in a gym for several hours a week to break the stress cycle. We each need to find what works. Yoga, hiking or long beach walks might work for you.

You can also explore new ways of clearing your mind. News broadcaster Dan Harris was filling in on “Good Morning America” when he suffered a major panic attack on air. As he says of the most embarrassing day of his life, “I freaked out in front of five million people.”

Initially a total skeptic, he tried meditation. He had such success with it, he wrote a book about it, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story.”

Here are two other tips from Harvard Business Review from the article “Three Ways to Beat Burnout.”

  • Manage Your Work. Some things to try include delegating, prioritizing better and getting more resources to handle your job. Maybe you say yes too often, and need to let others handle some of your responsibilities.
  • Do the “Right Work.” Burnout is sometimes not about how much work you have, but the type of work you are doing. If your work is just not fulfilling for you, tips for managing your time or reducing stress aren’t going to work.

Sometimes the only answer for job burnout is to switch jobs. Or careers. If you are suffering from job burnout because you are unfulfilled, bored, under-challenged or in a job that just isn’t a good fit for you and you are unable to change the situation at your current company, it’s time to start looking.

Just remember to take the lessons you learned from the causes of your job burnout and make sure the situation at your new company will be different. For example, if you suffered from job burnout because there was limited upward mobility or your values weren’t in line with those of your company, gather as much information as possible on the new employer in those areas.

The main thing to remember about job burnout is that it can be a serious condition. So don’t ignore it — deal with it.

The Relationship Between Your Debt and Your Happiness (P.S. It’s Obvious)

In my last post about happiness, I wrote about 4 ways you can be happier and less stressed in order to run your business more effectively:

1. Do Good Deeds

2. Get Exercise

3. Get Hugged

4. Get a Pet

I want to keep on with this idea of happiness and focus even more closely on the things you can do to increase your happiness as it relates to money and finances, both personally and for your business.

It may come as no secret to you that debt makes people unhappy, but you’d be surprised at how little debt it takes to sour relationships, create tension and stress and ruin a business. Therefore, whenever possible, make sure that you and your company are carrying as little debt as possible.

To tell you to spend money paying down debt that your business doesn’t have might seem foolish, but what’s foolish is spending money that your business doesn’t have in the first place!

TIme and again I am brought in to resolve the problems of businesses with inordinate debt and money owed to a wide variety of lenders and creditors. As I look back to see what debt is really in front of us, who’s owed what and at what interest rate, when loans are coming due, etc., I often uncover a similar pattern.

Those who are in debt need not be in debt – or at least not the kind of debt they’re in.

They are in debt because they didn’t take the opportunity to pay down some of their initial debt when they had the chance. Instead, they sought to use their capital for further investment (or unsavory things), thereby driving themselves further and further into debt when paying that debt off in the beginning would have done wonders for the future of their business. That is to say, they would have been able to keep their businesses.

It is true that sometimes the answer to a cash flow problem is a loan, but I have been in numerous situations where any loan would have been throwing more money at a sinking ship.

That is why it’s important not to take loans to supplement loans. This may seem like obvious advice, but you’d be amazed at how often these are the problems I’m dealing with. When given the opportunity to pay the principal down on a loan or to pay off a credit card you’ve been using to finance your business, do it. Don’t think that buying a new piece of fancy equipment for your factory is the perfect way to grow your business faster or that hiring a new employee will solve all of your problems. Pay your debt down and continue to own your business. It will keep you focused by ultimately keeping you less stressed and helping you avoid crises and debt in the future.

Want to be happy at your job? Then keep your business debt free.

Is your business buried under debt or has it been? What did you do about it?

4 Ways to Be Happier – A Scientific Approach

I talk a lot about ways to keep your business from experiencing crises, how to manage your business during a crisis, and stories of those who went through crises and how we got them out the other side. But today I want to touch briefly on a topic that I’ll revisit from time to time because it’s very important as well: happiness.

Running a company or being a manager or whatever leadership capacity you inhabit that makes you read this blog (and I say thanks to all you readers and those who have subscribed recently) can be stressful. And a central topic of this blog is crisis, which is also particularly stressful for most people – that’s why I wrote my list of 5 Foolish Faux Pas of CEOs in Crisis (that result mostly due to stress they don’t know how to manage).

With all this potential stress, it’s important that you are happy. Sure, you can’t walk around with a smile on your face all day long, but you can be a happy – or happier – person and business leader. If you’re not, you should rethink your day job.

What I want to share with you was inspired by a quick blurb in a magazine I was recently reading. It’s 4 ways that studies and research show are scientifically proven to boost your happiness. Without further ado, here they are:

1. Do Good Deeds. We’ve talked about this a lot before – how you can use your time and work and energy to help others. If you want a refresher, check out my 7-Part Series, Giving Back During Tough Economic Times. Helping others, as long as it doesn’t become a repetitive activity, makes us feel happier.

2. Get Exercise. It’s been repeatedly shown that exercise doesn’t have to be intense or sustained to be effective. Just 30 minutes of walking a day is literally the single best thing you can do for your health. No joke! How can you do that in the office? Take your meetings while walking around the office or outside the office for some fresh air or vitamin D. You can also do your phone calls this way. Trust me, a little walk always clears the head, releases endorphins (if you get your heart rate up) and makes you happier.

3. Get Hugged. I don’t mean to be encouraging inappropriate office conduct, but people who get hugs are happier. We need basic human contact. Make sure you’re hugging your spouse or parents or whomever can provide you with this bit of happiness.

4. Get a Pet. This one isn’t for me, because I have allergies, but I love stopping by my kids’ place and seeing their pets. Pets are proven to lower stress and make us feel better.

All four of these ideas are great ways to increase your happiness and destress as you run a business – especially a business in crisis. Make sure that you’re doing the things that let you care for yourself and be happy. That happiness and self care will go a long way in its positive effects on your business and corporate culture.

If you haven’t subscribed yet to my blog, please note that it’s free to do so, and updates of my latest posts will come right to your inbox. Just subscribe by entering your email in the box at the top of the right hand column.

As usual, I welcome comments and questions below! I’d love to know which of the methods above helps you increase your happiness.

Giving Back During Tough Economic Times, Part 7

This final way to give back during tough economic times is the most personal.

Business can be stressful. Life can be stressful. The holidays – especially if you’re in retail – certainly bring this to the fore.

Do your part to reduce the world’s daily stresses – and your own – by spending more quality time with friends and family. Part of destressing during the holidays may be setting boundaries and seeing less of your family or only as much as you can reasonably handle, but if you have grandkids or your wife needs to get away for a weekend, or whatever the case, set up time to see people and be social.

You may say either, “I’m not stressed so why make this special effort,” or “I really can’t handle more family right now,” but that’s what makes this a “giving back” activity.

You have no idea how this tough economic environment is treating others. They could be stressed about finances, business, life and everything else. Your friends and family could need nothing more than to sit down for a drink, a fun dinner or a relaxing movie night. You can facilitate that by including friends and family in “for no reason” activities and really listening to them and what’s going on in their lives.

Life is too short to stress too much about jobs and family relationships, and tough economic times only tax these relationships more. If your family has hit rough spots, whether interpersonally or financially, you need to move forward after these speed bumps of life.

I promise that you’ll be a better person for this shared time, and the positive effects will be reflected in everything else you do – not to mention the effects your time and kindness will have on other people.

This concludes my Giving Back During Tough Economic Times 7-Part Series. I hope you enjoyed it and that you got some valuable ideas for how you can give back, both now and when times aren’t so tough. Even when things are looking up for you, your family or the US economy, there are always people in need everywhere. Just think creatively about what you can do to help them.

Are there ways that you give back that you’d like to share with us so that we can get good ideas? Please share anything I haven’t mentioned so far below or feel free to comment on anything I did mention.

Honor the Month of April: Become Financially Aware & Reduce Stress

Last month was National Fraud Awareness month. This month is important, too. First, it’s Financial Literacy Month, and second – and I think quite complimentary – it’s Stress Awareness Month.

On top of both of these issues, April 18th is also Tax Day (yes, it’s usually April 15, but due to a Washington DC holiday, we can all enjoy an extra weekend to squirm over our taxes).

As you think about becoming aware of and learning to reduce your stress this month, I want you to also think about the role that finances have in your life – and your stress level.

Most people stress about their finances, and much of that stress, I believe, comes from a lack of awareness about their financial situation and where it’s going.

In business, if you don’t know where you are at every moment financially, you can’t move forward successfully in the long-term.

I think this also holds true in one’s personal affairs, and I have no doubt that with financial knowledge comes a reduction in stress – or, if finances are bad, at least the ability to predict and therefore manage that stress with greater ease.

In honor of both of these months – and taxes coming due – I encourage all of my readers and clients to do a few things this month, both in their businesses and their personal lives.

1. Make a budget or do some financial planning.

This need not be professional consulting with a financial manager (though that’s always nice). Just get a better understanding about how much you’re spending and on what you’re spending it. You never know which areas of your spending could easily be trimmed. Though you may not “need” the extra money you free up, it certainly could be nice to put it towards that vacation you were looking to take, right?

If you don’t know how to make a budget or you need some financial tips, consider financial magazines like Money (by CNN) or Kiplingers. If you are savvy with your financial management and awareness, make sure you’re passing these values along to your children (and/or employees) effectively. If you’re a business owner, consider offering a financial management and planning seminar for your employees.

2. Do something to de-stress yourself.

If you’ve already done your taxes, great, and even if you haven’t, reward yourself with something de-stressing afterwards like a massage, weekend trip or a day off. Becoming aware of our stress is the first step to reducing it, and with reduced stress comes a greater quality of life. Better financial knowledge and management almost always reduce stress.

What will you do to raise financial awareness in your life this month? What will you do to de-stress?