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How to Recharge When Burned Out from Work Stress

How to Recharge When Burned Out from Work Stress

Cell phone battery isn't the only thing that always seems to burn out when you need it most. Check your own energy reserves. Thanks to the economy's fluctuations, burnout keep spreading faster than disgust with Congress. In fact, whether you've lost your job, are scared you might, or are still employed but find yourself doing the work of two, you're more likely to be stressed, depressed and exhausted -- burned-out -- than ever before.

In a disturbing new survey, nearly half of all employers said their workers are emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. Being unemployed may be worse. Typing "job search burnout" into Google nets more than 2.7 million entries.

You can recharge, without selling everything you own on Craigslist and catching a freighter to Tahiti. Give the following personal-battery boosters a go.

  • Reach out. Humans aren't wired to work solo. Isolation subtly boosts stress, and more stress equals more burnout. You're at extra risk if you're a home caregiver, a telecommuter, an office worker stuck in a lonely cube, or a daily job searcher. Balance all that alone time by connecting with like-minded folks. Join a job-search club or caregiver support group. Make time for lunch with office buddies. Network. Volunteer.
  • Visit your happy place daily. Forget waiting until you can swing a massage, much less a weekend in Paris. Hit the pause button every day with a 20-minute relaxation break (we do two 10-minute ones). They'll boost well-being and flood your brain with positive thoughts. Don't just cue up an episode of your favorite sitcom, though laughter is great medicine. Also try guided imagery for an instant mental escape. Stressed nurses and anxious patients at the Cleveland Clinic use it to stay calm. It works!

    Want something more physical? Give yourself a walk for an instant ahhhhh. Walking (or biking, swimming, or rocking a fast, fun exercise video) reduces stress and ups feel-good brain chemicals. It also counteracts anxiety-fueled threats, such as jumps in your blood pressure, blood sugar, and LDL cholesterol.
  • Restore your sleep. Daytime stress can steal hours of deep sleep from you at night. It's a nasty feedback loop, because bad sleep makes tomorrow more stressful. Really use sleep-friendly strategies. After lunch, sip herb tea instead of caffeine. Tonight, relax with a good book and some deep breathing before bed, not a couple of beers and hours of TV or Web surfing. Alcohol and glowy electronic lights disrupt sleep. Try these relaxation techniques.
  • Reconnect with what you love. Too burned-out or busy to follow your bliss? You can't afford not to be. We're not suggesting you quit your job/job hunt and start an alpaca farm in Tibet. But when one part of your life swallows everything else -- time with family, fun with friends, worship, even knitting that scarf – it's a recipe for more burnout. Block out regular time for YOU. Or for you two: Trade back rubs with your partner. You'll get the burnout-melting benefits of touch therapy minus the spa price.
  • Regain control. Not long ago, business experts advised stressed-out employees to talk with their bosses about unrealistic job duties and late nights -- or look for a better job. In a down economy, that may not fly! So find ways to feel in control. It's crucial for beating burnout. Make prioritized to-do lists. Devote lunch hours to whatever makes you feel great, whether it's catching up with your office BFF, crossing off mini-chores, or stretching at your kitchen "desk." It all helps.
  • Give yourself a mental health check. Our proven battery-chargers should refill your energy reserves. If not, talk to your doc. Behind a case of "I've had it up to here" is soul-deep exhaustion and barrage of negative thoughts. Behind that is chronic stress. The combo can easily morph into full-blown depression that needs expert help.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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