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A Shoutout to Burnouts

If there’s one thing we never imagined you’d become, it’s a burnout.

People become burnouts because they never stop working. Who knew you could also become a burnout because you never start working? Yet, it must be true. According to a Raquel Baldelomar article in forbes.com, the signs of a burnout include “being very cynical at work, irritable with coworkers and clients, unmotivated to go to work and hesitant to start working once you arrive.”

Friend, if someone is going to write a biography of your working career, I think they just got the first chapter.

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And it’s not just you! According to a Gallop survey, according to Baldelomar, “adults in the U.S. reported working an average of 47 hours per week and four in 10 employees claimed to work at least 50 hours per week.”

Hey, if you can become a cynical, irritable, unmotivated burnout after only working three hours a week — and that’s on a busy week — burnout must be sweeping the country.

Which is not good. Burnout can lead to “insomnia, depression, substance abuse, heart disease and stroke, among other health issues.” Why, that’s almost as bad as the potentially fatal case of Gamer’s Thumb you experienced after playing Mortal Kombat X for two weeks straight when your boss went on vacation.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reverse the effects of burnout and achieve what Raquel Baldelomar calls a “better work-life balance.” Of course, Baldelomar’s beat is “executive health.” I’d feel better about her recommendations if she covered the health concerns of the beaten-down, cringing, hopeless minions, but we’ll take what we can get.

“Establish a healthy routine” is tip No. 1. In order to accomplish this, you need to master the skill of “habit stacking.”

The idea here is to “stack” up a bunch of life-affirming habits instead of robotically going through your usual morning ritual of “taking a shower, drinking coffee, opening the blinds, reading the news, etc.” I like this routine, but I would suggest adding “getting dressed” between taking the shower and opening the blinds.”

Baldelomar proposes stackable healthy habits activities that include setting daily priorities, writing in a journal, meditating or going for a walk. I don’t see this happening, but you could formalize the habits you already have. For example, how many mornings have you left for work realizing you really didn’t spend enough time complaining about your miserable life, or blaming others for your wretched work situation?

The solution? Stack your habitual morning emotional routine so you never miss any steps, including shock and denial, anger and bargaining — “I went to work yesterday, certainly, I don’t have to go today,” — complaining, grouching, blaming, and finally, acceptance — “I’ll go into work, but I won’t actually do any work. That’ll teach them.”

“Take a vacation” is tip No. 2, and while some respond, “take a vacation from what? Your entire life is a vacation,” I think a formal vacation is a good idea. Various studies show that roughly 41 percent of all American workers don’t use all their time off. And lest you feel that on the pittance you are paid, you cannot afford a vacation, Baldelomar writes that “not every vacation has to be expensive or exotic.”

Still, she also suggests that you may want to plan a “once-in-lifetime vacation, such as a trip to Paris, Disney World, Hawaii or the Grand Canyon.” Rather than get stuck somewhere like Paris, or choose a vacation destination where you may actually be forced to get off your duff, like Hawaii or the Grand Canyon, I recommend you go for Disney World. It won’t take more than a day or two waiting in line for stupid rides, shelling out for over-priced food, being surrounded by over-stimulated children, burned out on sugar, while you pretend to be happy-happy-happy, before you’ll be more than ready to go back to work.

The third and final step is “replenish your mind and body.”

No, this does not mean binge-watching “Cheaters.” The concept here is “maintaining a healthy diet throughout the day or while traveling for business.”

Since no manager in his or her right mind would let you travel anywhere you can’t be closely monitored, make sure you have a balanced, healthy diet at work. The best way to accomplish this is to rally support from your co-workers. If they bring healthier food to work, you’ll have healthier food when you steal their lunches from the break room refrigerator.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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