Unexplained exhaustion, a need to constantly be critical of others, losing patience with work-related complications and losing interest in getting things done, are all symptoms of burnout. Among other things, psychological stress syndrome, the technical term that the American Psychological Association uses to describe the condition, comes from experiencing pressure to deliver without access to the resources needed for it. 

Work-related pressures can be so serious, burnout symptoms are often reported in workers as young as 30. The answer can’t be not working as hard; if you took it easy, you would not get ahead at work. Instead, the answer could lie in working smarter without burning out

How do you work smarter and keep work-related pressures from getting to you? A number of possibilities exist. 

1. Experiment 

If you are stuck in a job that does not inspire you, you might fantasize about quitting and finding something else to do entirely. There is a better alternative. You could consider informally taking on projects at work that are not strictly your responsibility, but that interest you.

You can try to help colleagues with parts of their projects that you like or ask to be transferred to a new department once a week to try out unfamiliar work. Change, even if it is still work, can feel like rest, and can refresh you. 

2. Become more important

The more in control you are of your situation, the less stress you are likely to feel. Rather than simply accept the decisions of others in your company, go out to every department, learn about their processes and understand how their decisions affect you.

Not only will you understand more about your situation, you will begin to find ways to informally contribute to processes outside of your immediate area, too. The more you leave your stamp around the company, the more in control you will feel. As you take an interest around the company, you will also help your case when a promotion comes around. 

3. If you are a woman in the middle management, be yourself

Women in middle management often still face the problem that they are not seen as manager-like by those used to seeing men in those positions. To be taken seriously, they often feel the pressure to act and talk like men.

It turns out to be a huge source of stress to not be allowed to be oneself. Giving up the male act altogether and finding other more reasonable ways to get taken seriously, can help with stress. 

4. Take a real vacation

Completely unplugging from work is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries. Any kind of change of scene will help. Taking a class, helping an elderly relative – anything that lets you get off the treadmill will help you feel like yourself again. Then, you can go back to working as hard as ever.

5. Stop worrying about doing your best

Trying to be at the top of your game in everything you do at work can be a huge energy drain. You should save your best efforts for things that are really important and merely coast in things that are not. Saving yourself for the most important parts of your workday can help with stress.

6. Work out, no matter what

Giving yourself a pass from working out just because you have a busy day is a terrible idea. You will simply find yourself giving up your workouts all the time. Exercise is a tremendous stress buster. Burnouts become less common when you put yourself first for at least a little while each day. 

7. If you were the boss, you would reward yourself

Managers tend to reward their workers for their efforts – even if they are far from perfect. You should do the same for yourself and reward yourself from time to time, too. A massage, a movie, a gift for yourself – all these add up to helping you feel good about yourself. 

8. Create

Learning how to create – artistically, in business or anything else – can be a tremendous contributor to feeling in control. Identify a creative endeavor to apply yourself to and commit yourself to it. You will quickly begin to feel better. 

9. Find company therapy or support

If you fear that you could be close to burning out, find out if the company has an Employee Assistance Program, and take advantage of the service. 

10. Learn to not be hard on yourself

Guilt is one of the most unproductive emotions that one can experience. If you have not been working as well as you would like, being severely self-critical will not help you improve.

Rather, it will only make you feel as if you will never do better. Resolving to never indulge in guilt or obsessive self-criticism can immediately help you feel better about life and work.

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