Avoiding Burnout at Work

By Julie Stephenson, Patient Experience Manager at Southwest Health.

In 2017 USA Today reported 78% of Americans were struggling with living paycheck to paycheck and it was affecting their health. Today, workers remain stressed out and on the verge of burnout, and it’s affecting not only their productivity but their job satisfaction as well. Though it’s been forty-one years since Johnny Paycheck crooned his country-western resignation with “Take this Job and Shove It,” employees still romanticize about walking away from work and never coming back.

Charlie DeWitt, VP for Business Development at Kronos, believes employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions. Survey results from Kronos and Future Workplace report that “Not only can employee burnout sap productivity and fuel absenteeism, but, as the survey shows, it will undermine engagement and cause an organization’s top performers to leave the business altogether.”  Respondents reported, unfair compensation (41 percent), unreasonable workload (32 percent), and too much overtime or after-hours work (32 percent) as top three contributors to burnout.  Burnout is known as the physical or emotional exhaustion that results from prolonged stress or frustration.

Healthcare organizations are in the very eye of this storm as they scramble for limited resources to bring innovative initiatives and practices to their communities. This puts our dedicated and compassionate healthcare workers at serious risk. Although many organizations have started to take steps to manage burnout, there are far fewer efforts to proactively avoid the issue. Here are four practices to develop that will help to fight burnout before burnout is fighting you:

  1. Question Your Thinking – Unchecked stories are a big part of our stress. “My boss doesn’t value my work anymore” and “They’re going to replace me” are a couple of common examples. Most of the time we stress more from the stories we are making up than from what’s real. Question your thinking to determine if some of your frustration or fear stems from believing something that is untrue. One way to put this into practice is to make generous assumptions when you don’t have all the facts. For example, did your co-worker rush past and not say hi because he’s mad at you or trying to sabotage your career? Probably not. Instead give the benefit of the doubt by assuming his actions are a result of his hectic schedule or a personal or family issue that has him distracted.
  2. Build Skills – Building your skillset allows you to move through your work and life easier. Whether you’re learning technical skills (such as Excel or how to build a website) or softer skills (such as listening techniques or communication) – a focus on continuous improvement allows you to make progress over time. Constantly develop your skills, and your work can’t help but improve in very rewarding ways. YouTube, podcasts, library books and magazine articles are simple & inexpensive places to start learning.
  3. Reboot – Find your reset button. Rather than give in to exhaustion by going from work to the car to the couch, find an activity that reenergizes you. Actively look for opportunities to get into a reenergizing “zone” daily. Your reenergizing zone might look like gardening, mowing or pulling weeds, reading an article or book, meditation or prayer, strolling outside or fishing, exercise or writing. Avoid burnout by finding what fills you up, and be sure to keep your engines running on full tank.
  4. Connect – Face to face social interaction with someone who cares about you is an effective way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Simply being with another person can cause the release of stress busting hormones, so you will feel better even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself. Be mindful to fill your tribe with people who are helping you work on the first three practices rather than letting you spin in negative thought patterns.

Avoiding burnout requires discipline with these practices. Of course, you will have occasional setbacks and extra tough weeks. Remember, the most important tool for getting through those setbacks is to BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Our work lives are challenging, and our days are busy, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. Beating yourself up only adds to the struggle. Accept that things will get off course from time to time, yet stay focused on being your best. And keep applying what you’ve learned to get back on track as quickly as possible.

Southwest Health has services that may kick start your work to avoid employee burnout. Check out these resources:


Listen Money Matters – The Truth behind the 10,000 Hour Rule




The Happiness Advantage

Whether you want to find out how to change unhealthy thoughts and behaviors or you want to gain confidence using new life skills, the professionals at Southwest Behavioral Services (SBS) can help too. Our experts at SBS understand that every person is unique, and everyone’s needs are different. They’re here to help people overcome life’s challenges. That’s what SBS outpatient services are all about: helping people get care that improves their lives while they are living their lives.

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