PUTTING OUT THE FLAMES

OBJECTIVES:

Once you have completed this blog post, you will have an overview of ways to:

  • Identify lifestyle stressors that could contribute to job burnout
  • Assess your level of job satisfaction or lack of job satisfaction
  • Develop an effective plan to enhance your job satisfaction and productivity
  • Learn effective methods of inducing self-relaxation
  • Effectively cope with holiday stress and stressors

WHAT IS STRESS?

Stress comes in two forms: eustress and distress. Eustress are life’s positive stressors that you control and enjoy. For instance, the stressors associated with preparing for a very special and pleasant experience, i.e. getting married, getting a promotion, graduation, taking your loved one to their favorite restaurant, buying that dream home, car, or computer, etc., and having more than enough money to pay the bill. Stressors like these add joy and happiness to your life.

As for distress, your body is responding to negative and undesirable events resulting in a fight or flight response. Your body prepares to either fight your way out of a situation or run from the situation altogether. Once your body experiences distress, it may take, hours, days or even weeks for it to relax. Depending on your lifestyle, you can go from one stressful event to another without any breaks in between.

Stress occurs when your body responds to events that interferes with your sense of balance (homeostasis) or challenges you to change, and you feel that you lack the necessary resources to cope with these changes. Stressors are life’s daily events, such as traffic jams, broken air conditioners, or too many bills, etc., that threatens your well-being. All stress is positive because it lets you know that a change is necessary. Whether you respond or react to this stressor is the key.

If the doctor prescribes a particular medication, he or she have a need to know whether you respond to it or react to it. Responding is a good thing because this means the drug is working the way it is suppose to. On the other hand, if you have a reaction to the drug, this means the drug is having an adverse affect on your body. Your method of coping with the results of the stress will determine if you will have positive or negative results.

It is very important to realize that stress is a normal part of living. Therefore, you must develop effective methods of coping with life’s stressors. In coping with stress, you can do one of three things: you can control it, reduce it, or learn to live with it. In order to cope effectively with life’s stressors, you must not ignore them, because ignoring stress will only compound your problems.

BURNING OUT THE EMPLOYEE

Employee burnout is becoming an ever-increasing problem. Rarely does burnout occur suddenly or without warning. On the contrary, burnout is a very slow and methodical process that can literally take months and even years to reach its peak. It not only have a drastic effect on the employee, it also effects everyone whom the employee comes in contact with. This includes co-workers, family members and friends.

The road to burnout is paved with an enormous amount of stress, adding to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Burned out employees believe that they are no longer in control of their own lives and their efforts to affect a change is useless and not appreciated. Some employees also perceive their supervisors as being unreasonable and overbearing. These employees often carry these feelings home and take them out on their families. Now the burned out employee feels on fire at the two most important places in their lives – home and work. The following are some signs and symptoms of Job Burnout:

  1. The thrill is gone-the mere thought of going to work creates stress
    1. Most first time heart attacks occur at 8:00 AM on Monday mornings. People are literally dying to go to work.
  2. You are feeling emotionally and physically tired, drained and exhausted.
  3. The belief that your efforts are useless and you should not even bother.

Some employees experiencing signs and symptoms of job burnout are too eager to adopt the position of a poor helpless victim of circumstance. Many times, job burnout is one’s beliefs that you have reached a glass ceiling and the only opportunity for growth is if someone either- leaves, dies or is fired. This attitude is tantamount to pouring gasoline on an open flame. No matter how well you do, you think your efforts are not appreciated.

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

In effectively coping with life’s stressors, you must realize that your attitude is everything. What and how you feel about a particular stressor will greatly influence your response to it. If you feel overwhelmed and develop a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, you will feel victimized by life. You will then seek out someone or something to blame. The worst-case scenario is that you may end up blaming yourself, resulting in excessive guilt. You can sing “What ifs” until the cows come home and the truth is that you may never know the answer to “What if.” Therefore, guilt can be the most destructive stressor of them all.

Negative responses or coping techniques to stress can have a myriad of consequences. For instance, ineffective coping techniques can result in both physiological and psychological dis-eases. Your initial reaction to stress is a physiological one, causing your adrenal glands to increase its secretions, as well as increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. These responses are your body’s way of adapting to crises, which can be very helpful in the short term, because your body become alert to dangerous situations. However, repeated exposure to stressors, over prolonged periods, will result in your body’s rapid deterioration. Because of this deterioration, you can easily develop an increased susceptibility to various illnesses and dis-eases.

Psychologically, too much stress, too fast, can greatly reduce your ability to cope effectively with life’s everyday stressors. Because of your poor coping skills, it becomes increasingly more difficult to deal with life’s new stressors when they occur, as they will.

Furthermore, in addition to major illnesses, you can become a prime candidate for minor illnesses such as migraine headaches, back and neck pains, stomach problems, and some forms of asthma, etc. You may also become accident-prone.

CHANGE:

Often, some accuse me of making some solutions seem too simple. My typical response is that some people have a tendency of making things seem too complicated. You can easily put out the flames of job burnout once you have recognized the warning signs and are prepared to make the necessary changes.

Ah Ha! Here lies the problem – change. Oftentimes, people would rather burn alive in a situation that they are familiar with, rather than extinguish the flames by changing into a new and unfamiliar situation. The fear of change is linked to one’s fear of not being accepted by family and peers. You may think at a conscious or unconscious level, “If I change, my friends and family may not like the new me. Even worst, I may not like the new me.” As the saying goes, “The devil I know is preferable to the angel that I don’t know.” Realistically, change is a prerequisite for growth.

Remember, it is all about perception. To quote William Shakespeare “Nothing is good or bad except thinking makes it so.” In other words, it is not what happens to you in life; it is your perception about what happens that will make or break you. What you do about what happens in your life is what makes the difference.

You can identify with one of two perceptions. You can see yourself as a puppet or as a puppeteer. The difference is that if you see yourself as a puppet, someone or something outside of yourself is pulling your strings. Consequently, you have no choices about what happens to you. On the other hand, if you are the puppeteer, then you are in total control of your own strings. Therefore, you are the writer, director and actor of your own life, whether you acknowledge it or not.

Change is extremely stressful, although it is a necessity for growth and you have been growing most of your life. Before you began eating with a knife and fork, you suckled on a bottle or breast. Before you walked, you crawled or scooted along the floor. Before you graduated from high school, you first had to complete elementary school. The most important part about change is to remember to be the change that you want to see happen, as opposed to trying to change everyone else.

Your positive reaction to stress enable you to recognize the need for change and empowers you to do whatever it takes to bring about this change. Stress can motivate you to return to school or attend workshops in order that you may learn how better to cope either, financially or emotionally with your stressors. Stress can also assist you in realizing that all you can do is enough, when all you can do is truly all you can do. With this insight, you can derive the true meaning from the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I learned many, many years ago that the easiest thing in the world for me to do is to change other people. All that I have to do is to first change myself. Once I change, other people will now have to deal with the new me whether they want to or not. Some choose not to deal with me at all, which is still change. As for me, I am in a better place without some people in my life or my being in their lives.

 A GIFT   

 Too often, we spend most of our lives in a fantasy; reflecting on yesterday and wondering about tomorrow, which leaves very little time for what is truly important-the present. For the majority of us, we spend most of our days fantasizing about what we used to do, did not do or will or will not do tomorrow. Yesterday and tomorrow are both fantasies, because neither one of them are here now. All that you have is the gift of the “present.” So let go of the negative fantasies that you may have about yesterday or tomorrow and live in the present.

Take a few moments to make a “bucket list” with a timetable and remember-make a conscious effort to be happy right now because it is all about attitude.

ATTITUDE

“It only takes a second to change my attitude

In that second, I can change my minutes

In these minutes, I can change my hours

In these hours, I can change my days

AND

In these days, I can change my entire life!”

By Jerry Smith, LCSW, LMSW

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