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Friday, October 19 News

Health Check / Avoiding work burnout: Look for inspiration

I began this, my first-ever full-time adult job, a few months after graduating college a year ago. I love my work as a reporter. In my seven months on the beat I’ve interviewed prominent professionals in diverse fields, embedded myself in town government debates, and chased breaking news. But, I’ve also experienced bouts of burnout.

When I feel tired or robotic on the job I often think inspiration will dispel my feelings of burnout. I dream of ambitious journalism projects to get me excited and passionately plan for their culmination in the future.

“Inspiration gets you going, but it’s not sustainable,” Westport-based psychotherapist and executive coach, Allyson Maida told me in response to my inspiration-based antidote to burnout. “Inspiration is important but it’s not the whole thing, because inspiration doesn’t necessarily decrease burnout.”

Maida, who calls on neurology in her work with people and companies, said inspiration is an emotional state explained by the arousal theory. We’re pulled to the excitement of a state of inspiration, which is why we so often turn toward inspiration to get us out of a low place, Maida said. Inspiration, a form of arousal, gives us the juice to get through the day, she said.

If I work tirelessly on a project hoping the inspiration of it will kick my woes, Maida said, “you will burn out because it’s sucking the life out of you. Literally, it’s exhausting,” she added.

Instead, Maida suggests her corporate clients promote workplaces where people can collaborate on projects that inspire them to decrease the potential for overwork burnout. “If you give people the opportunity to increase their resources and collaborate, it almost immediately decreased burnout,” Maida said. Periods of hard work and inspiration can sometimes be good, but need to be balanced with rest in order to avoid burnout in the long-run, Maida said. “Anything in good measure,” Maida said

On an individual basis, Maida recommends organizing your life around when you feel most energized during the day and to sleep, relax and take a weekend to do nothing when your body’s running out of energy. Those college kids coming home to sleep for a week soon after finals may be onto something that could benefit us all.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1

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