The capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance. (Pablo Casals)
"Burnout is the gradual process by which a person, in response to stress and physical, mental, and emotional strain, detaches from work and other meaningful relationships. The result is lower productivity, cynicism, confusion...a feeling of being drained, having nothing more to give," says Mark Gorkin, LICSW, a Washington, DC-based expert on stress.
It's the rare employee who hasn't experienced some on-the-job pressure. Ups and downs are part of the natural cycle of work—and life—but when stress continues, unabated, for extended periods of time, burnout can result.
"Burnout itself is a process. It develops through stages," says California executive coach and psychologist Sandra Paulsen, PhD. Those stages are the following:
Though unhappy employees like Kelly James are prime candidates for burnout; you don't have to hate your work to be at risk. Even people who enjoy their jobs can get worn out, says Bob Gardella, assistant director of alumni career services for Harvard Business School and author of The Harvard Business School Guide to Finding Your Next Job.
Many employees find themselves constantly fighting to maintain a balance between their home and work lives. The combination of long hours, work and family pressures, increased job responsibilities, business travel, and a lack of boundaries between time on and off the job can all conspire to make even the most dedicated worker frazzled. And if you don't enjoy what you're doing, those factors can wreak even more havoc.
So you're a little worn down. You don't feel the same motivation you used to, and your work is more of a drain than a joy. So what? Everyone goes through ups and downs. It'll pass—won't it?
Don't be so quick to shrug off workplace stress. While it's normal to occasionally experience some level of workplace dissatisfaction, long-term stress—burnout—can damage your career and your health.
"Most of us can handle the 'speed bumps,' as I call them," says motivational speaker Tom Bay, author of Change Your Attitude: Creating Success One Thought at a Time. "It's when it's prolonged that it becomes a problem."
According to the Center for the Advancement of Health, various studies indicate a significant correlation between on-the-job stress and mental, emotional and physical problems, such as heart disease; absenteeism; and mental, immune system and musculoskeletal disorders—all of which affect quality of life and workplace productivity. In sum, job burnout is a pervasive problem that individuals and companies can't afford to ignore.
If you're facing a mild case of workplace angst or if your stress comes from a short-term problem, such as a co-worker's absence, a week's vacation or acknowledging that your situation is temporary may be enough to get your life back on track. But if you're facing an advanced case of burnout, the solution may be more drastic.
If you're unhappy, don't automatically assume the solution is to change jobs. First, assess what you might be contributing to your woes. For instance, do poor time management skills result in always being behind on your work? Are you inclined to take on more than you can possibly do? Do you have trouble delegating or saying no? If so, those problems won't disappear just because you're hanging your hat in a different place.
There are times, though, when the only solution is to make a break. If your priorities don't mesh with your current corporate culture or if you don't see a path towards a different working environment, you may have to say goodbye. Or if you take a break and don't find yourself returning with more energy, it may be time to move on.
Even if these lifestyle decisions reflect your priorities, making choices that may jeopardize your position or reputation in the company is difficult, especially if you've always been a top performer.
"But one has to have the intestinal fortitude to protect one's self and one's family," says Dr. Paulsen. "One has to. No one else is going to do it."
Bay agrees, "It comes back to the fact that it's your life—and it's all you've got."
Bay T, McPherson D. Change Your Attitude: Creating Success One Thought at a Time. Career Press; 1998.
Burnout in the workplace. Baptist Hospital East Health Information for the Workplace website. Available at: http://www.baptisteast.com/100000.cfm.
The Center for the Advancement of Health
The Job Burnout Inventory from the Secretan Center
Potter B. Beating Job Burnout: How to Transform Work Pressure into Productivity. Ronin Publishing; 1994.
The Stress Doc, Mark Gorkin, LICSW
It is impossible for human beings not to communicate their innermost thoughts. In many cases body language, eye contact, and sexual gestures are more effective than verbal communication. Learning to interpret body language can help you discern what people are really saying.
Body language reveals many of our most intimate feelings, whether we intend to confide them or not. From simple eye contact to a light touch on the leg, body gestures are a very direct form of communication. In a romantic relationship, reading the cues correctly is critical.
Eye contact is the most common initial sexual advance. Eyes can reveal sparked interest, fantasy, or disinterest. We initiate eye contact every day, in places as disparate as the subway, the office, the supermarket, and the bedroom.
Making eye contact is a simple, universal way to show someone that you are interested in them sexually—by making eye contact you make it easier for him or her to respond to you. When speaking in person, look at him or her directly, not over a shoulder or down at the floor. To show your interest across a room, hold your glance longer than you would in an ordinary social situation. Don't overdo it, though. Most people find anything more than intermittent eye contact (five seconds out of every 30) uncomfortable or threatening and will probably look away. You can assume some mutual interest if he or she returns your gaze steadily.
When your glance is recognized and welcomed, the recipient may move in a way that "opens up" the body, giving you more to look at. Perhaps he will stand sideways and push up his sleeves or lean back against the wall with his torso slightly pushed forward. Or she might place her hands in in the back pockets of her jeans, or playfully push her hair back off her forehead.
Other encouraging responses include raised eyebrows, eyes that are wide open, or fluttering of the eyelashes. If you are looking at each other for longer and longer periods and moving closer in toward each other, that is a definite mating call. You can test this by moving slightly closer and noting whether the person moves closer in or draws further way.
If your initial contact is not welcome, the person you are looking at may try to shield themselves from your view or try to create a barrier between you. Hence, if the object of your attention suddenly disappears into the crowd or abruptly crosses her arms or legs, she is saying "you're going too fast for me", or "I'm not interested right now."
To send out a signal that you are interested in getting to know someone better, smile! Smiling sends the message that you find someone attractive and would like to initiate further conversation. Hand and head movements are also ways of encouraging people as you become interested in them. Turning your head and stepping in towards him sends the message that you'd like to get closer. Gesturing her to sit down next to you or moving over to create some standing room indicates a willingness to pursue conversation. However, make sure you stand or sit a proper distance away—moving in too close too soon encroaches on personal boundaries and raises issues of proprietary space.
Finally, learning to use touch can step up the pace of any relationship. To offer positive encouragement during the early stages of a relationship, try touching her arm or hand while engaged in conversation. When coming up behind, put your hand on his shoulder in greeting. But keep it subtle. Don't overstep the line between showing interest and being overly pushy. Remember, too, that skin-to-skin contact—touching a bare wrist, for example—is always more intimate than skin-to-clothing contact.
Along with body language, our five senses also play a role in physical attraction and intimacy. From initial visual contact to watching a partner undress, sight is an important sexual stimulus.
Hearing soft music or the special intonations of your partner's voice can serve as a caress or even foreplay to sex itself.
Touching and holding can foster exquisite closeness and intimacy on their own.
The taste of good food and wine can put lovers in the mood by making them feel good and lowering their inhibitions. There is a definite correlation between eating and deriving emotional nourishment from your partner.
The "smell" of your lover's body mingled with perfume or other scent can act as a powerful stimulant. Is there any question, then, as to the aphrodiasiac quality of a romantic dinner accompanied by soft music and followed by an evening of dancing cheek-to-cheek?
Let's assume that the above encounters have led to a relationship culminating in physical intimacy. Remember that body language doesn't end in the courting stage of a new relationship. You can learn a great deal about your partner's feelings and moods by paying attention to his or her body language before, during, and after sex.
Even though a partner may eagerly get into bed with you, he may be uncomfortable about having sex. Telltale signs include legs or arms that are drawn close in to the body, limited eye contact, and the presence of a physical barrier, such as a book, a pulled-up blanket, or a TV remote. If your partner is sitting on the edge of the bed, slightly frowning, or has arms pressed closely to his or her side, you can surmise that he is nervous. A relaxing, sensual massage will probably diminish his nervousness to the point that his arousal overtakes the discomfort.
You may also find that upon getting into bed, your partner turns her back on you and draws her knees up into a fetal position. This indicates inhibition and a performance anxiety. One excellent remedy for this is a warm, nonthreatening cuddle. Match your breathing to hers, and then slowly make each breath longer and more relaxed. Hopefully your partner will copy this breathing and spontaneously begin to relax.
Because many people find it hard to converse verbally, body language can help them communicate. As you learn to interpret the various nuances of body language, you can learn to understand what people are really "saying".
Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC)
As a Rehabilitation Counselor, one of the most frequently asked questions of me by my patients pertains to their resumption of sexual activity following heart disease or a CVA (stroke). I try to keep myself apprised of new medical data on the subject as well as user friendly articles written by physicians. The following is an example of the latter and may offer a response to any one of my readers who night be concerned about sex following heart problems.
Love can cause heartache and even heart break. These are mere figures of speech, but what about people who have had a heart attack or heart surgery? Can someone with heart disease safely have sex? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the developed world, according to Caroline Arnold in her book Heart Disease. In the United States alone, one person dies of heart disease every 30 seconds and one dies from a heart attack every minute, according to Drs. Michael DeBakey and Antonio Gotto, Jr. in The New Living Heart.
Although people can safely resume sexual activity at some point after a heart attack or interventional surgery, only one in four men return to previous levels of sexual activity, according to Dr. Miriam Stoppard in The Magic of Sex. This has more to do with anxiety of the patient and his partner than with physical limitations, according to Dr. Jack Gillis in the The Heart Attack Prevention and Recovery Handbook.
Gillis writes that most patients can safely resume sexual activity 3-8 weeks after a heart attack or bypass surgery. Sexual activity is no more dangerous to the heart than climbing up three flights of stairs. Of course, the patient should consult his or her cardiologist prior to resuming sexual activity.
So many of his patients had questions about sex that Miami cardiologist Dr. Eduardo Chapunoff has written an entire book on this subject, Sex and the Cardiac Patient, in which he outlines ten considerations for resuming sex after a heart attack.
In The Heart Attack Handbook, Dr. Joseph Alpert has additional recommendations for making sex just as enjoyable as it was before your heart attack. The recommendations apply to both men and women.
Most post-heart attack anxiety is from fear of having a heart attack during sex. Only six of 1,000 heart attack sufferers die of heart attacks during sex, and 80% of those are cheating on their partners when they die!
Having a heart attack and/or bypass or other interventional surgery can be a very traumatic experience. But with time, patience, and an understanding and sympathetic partner, there is no reason why people with heart conditions can't enjoy satisfying love lives.