9 Ways to Handle Job Stress and Burnout

Last week on the podcast, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen covered the three signs of burnout. This week, by request from listener Liz L. from Boston, we’ll get your fire burning brightly again with nine ways to cope.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD,
August 21, 2015
Episode #079

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Tip #4: Then, try to make a better match. Once you’ve pinpointed the problem(s), have a go at creating a better match.  Some problems are intractable, like working against your values or a horrible workplace culture.  For that, see Tip #5.  But sometimes change is possible. Can you diversify your job description?  Transfer to another team or location within the company?  Justify hiring an assistant?  Make the case for flex time or working from home a day a week?  If the problem is social, can you suggest some changes that will help all employees?  

Tip #5: If improving your current job doesn’t work, make some big decisions. Be a boss. Make some executive decisions. If making a better match doesn’t work, it might be a sign to  look for another job or go back to school.   

Tip #6: Shift your expectations. Notice I didn’t say “lower your expectations.”  But it’s been shown that burnout is a consequence of a longstanding mismatch between a worker’s expectations and the actual job duties.  Unfortunately, the most idealistic among us often fall prey to burnout first. So make some internal changes as well: shift from saving the world to helping those who will let you. Or aim for improvement, not perfection.

Tip #7: Delegate. Hear me out on this one. By “delegate” I don’t mean dump the part of your job you don’t like on the intern. Instead, fight the feeling that you’re the only one who can handle things.  

Interestingly, those with a sense of over-responsibilityyou think if you want something done right you have to do it yourself--are more vulnerable to burnout.  This might be true--your dissertation, your patients--sometimes you are the one in charge.  But sometimes things can be delegated. If you’re suspect you’re a little on the over-responsible side, test out delegation and see what happens.  

Tip #8: Diversify your time.  By the time we burn out, we’ve often become one-dimensional.  Life whittles down to work and maybe going to the gym, which we chalk up to “taking care of ourselves” but is really just another duty.  Do things you want to do, not just more things you should do. Ask yourself what you used to like to do, and then dust off your hiking boots, your madeleine pan, or your table saw.

Tip #9: This seems too simple, but take your vacation days.  And while we’re talking about time off, if you do end up quitting on Friday, try your darndest not to start your next job on Monday. If you can afford it, take some time off to travel, see friends and family, or at least rest: work on your house, read some novels, or play with your kids.

So if you instinctively swipe your work ID to get into your house, test out some of these nine tips. You'll go from burned out to fanning the flames. 

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Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E., Leiter, M.P. (1996).  MBI: The Maslach Burnout Inventory: Manual.  Press CP, Palo Alto.

Maslach, C. (2011).  Burnout and engagement in the workplace: New perspectives. European Health Psychologist, 13, 44-47.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B., & Leiter, M.P. (2001).  Job burnout.  Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422.

Schaufeli, W. B., Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (2009). Burnout: Thirty-five years of research and practice. Career Development International, 14, 204-220. 

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.


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