Job burnout, a long-standing concept, represents a unique work-related stress characterized by physical or emotional exhaustion, diminished accomplishment and a loss of personal identity. Common risk factors include heavy workloads, long hours, poor work–life balance and a lack of control. Unlike stress, burnout persists despite traditional recovery methods and can have lasting effects. If you feel you might be experiencing burnout, ask yourself:
• How often do I think, “How can I get through the day?” or “I can’t do this anymore”?
• Do I feel like I’m working harder but can’t catch up?
• Am I more irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or community members?
• Am I being picked on or bullied by another member of my unit and don’t feel like I can talk to anyone or do anything about it?
• Do I lack satisfaction from my achievements or feel disillusioned about my job?
• Am I using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel at all?
• Am I troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, insomnia/changes in my sleep patterns or other physical complaints?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing job burnout. Recognizing burnout is crucial for effective solutions. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for employees to think it is all “in my head” or “I just need to toughen up” and press on. As a result, burnout can lead to major negative physical and mental health consequences and elevate our vulnerability to stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, alcohol or substance use, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Consider talking with a doctor or a mental health provider because these symptoms can also be related to other concurrent health conditions such as depression.
Take action! If you’re struggling with where to get started, consider the following:
• Collaborate with your supervisor. Instead of pushing harder to get through burnout, discussing specific concerns with your supervisor is the first and possibly easiest place to make a difference. Working with your boss is critical to helping you feel you have some form of control over what you do. No matter what you’re struggling with, you’re not likely to get the organizational support you need if you don’t ask for it.
• Prioritize relationships. If you do nothing else, find time to reconnect with friends, family, co-workers and loved ones. At the end of the day, it’s your personal relationships and your people that can help you feel more connected, aligned to your values, and offer you an opportunity to breathe and reset.
• Practice self-care. Remember what helps you feel rested and relaxed and do more of it. Explore programs that can help with stress, such as yoga, meditation or even focused breathing exercises. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
• Practice grace and gratitude. Cut yourself a break every now and then and demonstrate self-compassion, particularly when you’re having a tough day.
• Get some help. If you need additional support navigating how to create a more value-driven life, consider talking with a trained peer supporter or one of our police psychologists at Psychological Services Bureau by calling the office at (213) 738-3500 for a consultation or a confidential appointment. Sometimes, we need another set of eyes to help us see our options more clearly.
• Make a change. If you’ve exhausted your options, practiced all the above and you’re still miserable, maybe you’re in the wrong unit. The Sheriff’s Department is a large organization with many units and just one of the many departments within the County of Los Angeles. There may be more options than you think. Explore what’s out there!
Feeling trapped in a job that is misaligned with your values is unsustainable for both you and the organization. Hopefully, knowing some of these options can help you smooth the real and/or potential bumps. Again, if you would like support around this topic or others, you can contact Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 for a confidential and free (for Department employees and their significant others) consultation or appointment.