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Hello Idaho: Recognizing and reversing job burnout

Taking technology breaks, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and setting boundaries can help when your work feels overwhelming or frustrating.

BOISE, Idaho — A lot of people have challenging jobs, but there’s a big difference between having a healthy challenge and a miserable work life.

Optum Idaho Deputy Director Casey Moyer says recognizing when you are getting burned out with work is a critical first step. There is a difference between burnout and having a few bad days, he said. 

"Burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, but the symptoms we commonly attribute to this state are real and can impact your physical and mental health. Some questions to ask yourself: Have you become more cynical about work?" he said. "Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive? Have your sleeping patterns changed? Have I become irritable and impatient with colleagues? Do I find it hard to get started to work most days? If you’re answering yes to several of these, and it’s been that way for some time, you may be experiencing job burnout.”

Stress - whether from a job, or problems in your personal life - releases hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. Constant exposure to stress and stress hormones can wreak damage to a person's physical and mental health, Moyer said.

"It can even lead to chronic health problems like heart disease, depression, and anxiety, so definitely something you want to address quickly,” he said.

The root of burnout can be different for different people, but often involves a poor work-life balance, a dysfunctional workplace, lack of control over your schedule, assignments, or workload, or having unclear expectations that leave an employee unsure how to succeed in their position.

Moyer had a number of tips for people working to combat burnout, including taking technology breaks and making time for a relaxing ritual like journaling or getting outside.

"Talk to your boss. They may be able to work with you to determine if there are some adjustments that can be made to increase your satisfaction with your job," he advised. "Seek help. You can reach out to family and friends, also many companies have many Employee Assistance Programs, often called EAP. They can link you to resources such as a counselor that may be able to assist."

Getting plenty of sleep, exercise and healthy food can also help, as can setting appropriate boundaries at work to avoid taking on too much and becoming overwhelmed.

Although it should not be the first resort for someone frustrated with their job, quitting or switching jobs can also be the right answer, Moyer said.

"It might not be the right job, the right company, or the right feel for you, and it’s OK to acknowledge that and make that change," he said.

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