The last quarter of the year brings increased intensity for insurance industry professionals as they keep busy with AEP and assist advisors with critical end-of-year financial-planning decisions. Under this sustained pressure, workplace burnout becomes a real possibility.
Burnout is not only feeling tired or being anxious in the face of a heavy workload. Like clinical depression, this is a condition with specific symptoms. The Mayo Clinic lists several warning signs:
- Becoming extra cynical or critical on the job
- Dragging yourself to work and having trouble getting started
- Being unusually irritable or impatient with co-workers, associates, and clients
- Lacking the energy to be consistently productive
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Getting little or no satisfaction from your achievements
- Feeling disillusioned about your job
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better
- Changes in sleep habits
- Being troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical ailments
Things You Can Do
Though the World Health Organization recognizes burnout as a workplace issue, its prevention and remedy largely rest with the employee – on the job and off.
Away from Work:
- Get a good night’s sleep. It may take some willpower, but hitting the sack for your required rest (7 – 9 hours) must become a consistent habit. Train your body to fall asleep by going to bed around the same time every night. Add some time to wind down. The recommendation is a good 30 minutes of being unplugged (no TV, no smartphone, no notepad).
- Watch what you eat and when you eat it. Feeling better because you have a well-fueled body is helping you avoid burnout. Rather than one or two large meals, a regimen of more frequent, healthier, and lighter meals will better keep your energy up and steady.
- Get some exercise. Faced with danger, we are biologically programmed to either run away or fight. We feel stress (a component of burnout) when neither of these is an option, as is the case when stuck in a difficult situation at work. Exercise mimics indulging our instincts, thereby providing the physical and mental release we need.
- Take time to do something you enjoy. Does any of the below activities make you happy? Regularly engage in a favorite activity to put daily pressures out of your mind and reset for a fresh start when you return to work.
- Quality time with your family
- Walking a park
- Preparing a new cooking recipe
- Reading good books
- Plan Your Day. Create a checklist of tasks before you start work. When you get something done, literally cross it off your list. (To better appreciate your progress try breaking them down into separate tasks. Larger projects may require more attention.) Noting your headway will help end the day on a positive note.
- Step away from your station. From time to time, take a little break to stand up and stretch or go for a short walk. Also, if you’re working from home and you have a pet nearby, your fur-baby would probably appreciate a few moments of loving attention – and it would do you a world of good as well.
- Avoid multitasking. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that multitasking can lead to memory problems, being easily distracted, chronic stress, and depression, and ultimately, it makes people less efficient. Focus on one thing at a time.
- Ask for a helping hand. If you’re overwhelmed, check with your supervisor or a trusted colleague to see if assistance is available. (Most people are pretty good about giving aid when asked.) Likewise, if you see an opportunity to help out a co-worker, be sure to do so. Nothing is quite as empowering or gratifying as being someone’s white knight.
Your team serves as a critical ecosystem. Because everyone is busy this time of year, it’s unlikely someone will notice if you’re feeling worn down. Co-workers and clients are counting on you to take stock of your situation and act as your own proactive, first-line of defense against workplace burnout.
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