Don't get burned at work

Stress has long been known as a double-edged sword.

At work, it can be a motivator that gives you that burst of adrenaline to achieve your goals. But if you are continually on the edge about your job and workload, the danger is that you can get burned out.

Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that could take you from hero to zero in the workplace - from one who seems to be able to balance several portfolios at once, to a barely functioning soul who produces low-quality work with little or no interest.

Burnout in the office is usually brought on by the prolonged stress of meeting targets and expectations.

But long hours, inadequate rest and poor diet can also affect anyone, be they homemakers or caregivers of the sick and elderly.

Watch out for these signs that could signal a possible burnout:

1. Feeling exhausted all the time

2. Getting headaches more often

3. Feeling that every day is like a bad day

4. Feeling that routine tasks - at home or work - takes too much effort and are a waste of energy

5. Getting disillusioned with your state of affairs, and pessimistically thinking that nothing seems to make a difference

6. Having a bad attitude, a short fuse or irritability for no apparent reason

7. Withdrawing from friends and family

A vicious circle could set in.

People who have burnout tend to skip meals or eat the wrong things - often replacing well-balanced meals with high-carb or high-sugar snacks like chocolate bars and junk food.

These impair the immune system, leaving the body open to illness.

Add the lack of nutrients and inadequate rest, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Expect the condition to worsen if drugs or excessive alcohol are taken to temporarily escape reality.

What you can do

Recognise some of these signs in yourself?

Here are some tips to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Start the day right

Rather than jolting yourself out of bed and racing to work as soon the alarm goes off - try meditating, breathing exercises or stretching.

Eat healthy

Take time to eat properly, especially foods like fish and vegetables. And don't eat at your desk.

Work out

Make time for a basic amount of physical activity.

This will relieve stress and help give you more energy to tackle work.

Set boundaries

Don't over-extend yourself, manage your time.

Make a list of what needs to be done and what the priority tasks are. Then do them.

Procrastinating will only make your tasks seem all the more insurmountable.

Have a tech break

Take some time away from e-mails, computers, mobile phones or the Internet.

Get social

Easier said than done, but a change of scene could really help, especially if your routine is to go to work, back home to bed, and then off to work again.

The key to reducing work stress is creating your own programme and sticking to it.

The schedule shouldn't be a quick-fix solution but something that fits your lifestyle.

If you manage to do this, you can steer yourself away from an impending burnout and hopefully re-discover the passion that made you a standout employee.

This article was first published in The New Paper.