A friend of mine recently told me that she was thinking of quitting her job.
I was astounded; she's one of those people who actually does (or did) bound out of bed, and looks forward to her days at work. She's always loved her job, and she fought tooth and nail to get it.
Yet there she was, on the brink of quitting. What was going on?
I dug a little deeper, and she told me that she was just exhausted and didn't care anymore. She'd stopped putting much effort into her work, she'd started taking sick days, and she barely spoke to her colleagues at all. In short, she'd "checked out."
In her words, "It all feels like too much, and I just can't be bothered with it."
Alarm bells started ringing, and it became clear that she was suffering from emotional exhaustion.
Emotional exhaustion can be tricky to spot, as it manifests differently for different people, but is typically characterized by a "don't care" attitude, feeling low, and a lack of emotional strength. It's similar to burnout, and it can also be a precursor to depression, so it's not something to ignore when it happens.
It can be triggered by almost anything. But emotional exhaustion tends to occur as the result of long periods of stress. In my friend's case, it wasn't just her job that was the problem, but a combination of work and several personal issues that were sapping her energy.
Armed with the knowledge of what was wrong, she began work on setting things right and vowed not to let it happen again.
It got me wondering: how could she have prevented this from happening in the first place, and what strategies have other people used to avoid emotional exhaustion at work?
We opened up this question to our friends and followers on social media. As always, the responses were overwhelming, and loads of great advice was shared.
As DeeHurry (@Dehu_online) pointed out, we can't help ourselves unless we know ourselves. She said, "Each of us is wired uniquely, and so energized as well as depleted by different things. Know yourself, then respect and balance what gives you energy and what depletes it."
On Facebook, Randy Jenkins made a good point about not letting our thoughts control us. "Be aware of your thoughts," he advised. "Acknowledge them but guide them to focus on what you are doing."
And this suggestion from Kay Wheatly is a great one: "Do a personal 'check-in' every two hours. Take three deep breaths and check both physical and emotional health. Take quick steps to fix what you found and get back to work. You could be tense, frustrated, hot, hungry, hormonal, etc. You have to acknowledge it before you can change it."
Self-care was a big theme. Facebook friend Keely Davy suggested, "Have boundaries and invest in self-care. Don't work long hours unnecessarily on a regular basis. Take a lunch break away from your desk. Don't send or respond to emails 24 hours a day. Have fun and meaningful things to do and look forward to outside of work."
“Use your time wisely,” added Ashlea Gillespie.
Hodis Daniel Denis offered some practical tips, such as, "Stick to one cup of coffee per day, get eight hours of sleep, and meditate for 15 minutes before going to work. It should make the day more bearable."
In fact, meditation and mindfulness were popular strategies for a lot of people, including Akilah Ellison (@OrganicLeaderVB). She said, "Use mindful practices: taking a mindful moment to breathe; taking a joyful walk-and-talk meeting in lieu of sitting; stretching at your desk."
And don't forget about sleep. As Jenice Saint, on LinkedIn, rightly pointed out, "Inadequate sleep can cause us to not be able to deal with things as effectively as we normally would."
A lot of advice came through about seeking help and support, and realizing that you're not alone.
On Facebook, Angelica M. Garrido summed up this point nicely. She said, "Surround yourself with positive people. Breathe. Pace yourself. Acknowledge that we all have peaks and valleys. You may feel better or different with time. Other people may be going through a rough patch."
Suzanne Liliale Lavitalité highlighted the benefits of finding a mentor. She said, "Find a mentor or be a mentor. Both make those work hours so much more engaging and fulfilling. Mentoring can help us sustain an objective perspective and support our career growth or job mental health."
And Jenny Bevan made an excellent point about engaging with those around you. "Surround yourself with positive-thinking people and manage with a coaching style of leadership. Hold difficult conversations early so they aren't left to fester. Create a team which pulls together rather than apart. Recognize and celebrate differences."
What brilliant advice! I'm definitely going to suggest some of these tips to my friend, and I'll also make a note myself, because no matter how much you love (or hate) your job, sometimes things do get a bit much. But with these tips in mind it is possible to prevent emotional exhaustion at work.
Thanks to everyone who shared their top tips with us. If you have any more advice to add, please comment below.
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