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Handling Professional Exhaustion
(Rafia Waqar)

Handling professional exhaustion
As part of a team of human resource services, one sees fellow professionals grow and transform with time. A study of this transformation can be an eye-opener and amazing at times. Very recently, I met one of my senior colleagues after a gap of nearly five years. He was beyond recognition and the transformation had been real awful.

As a professional, the first question that came to my mind was why? The inspiring sparkle in his eyes was missing so was his confident body language. He used to have a very impressive dressing and extremely optimistic outlook about life, was just not there. I was just wondering what has gone wrong with him who had so much life and chill in just five years.
It is a proven fact that time adds to professional skill and grooming. But here I could see a totally changed scenario. I took the initiative to ask him to join me over a cup of tea, which to my surprise he accepted very reluctantly. By this time, one thing was clear that he had totally exhausted his energies. His frequent headaches, muscle tensions, throat infections, etc, had become a normal part of his life. The only thing he was worried was about his job, spouse and three kids. His major concern was that he felt guilty when he was not able to give time to his family or complete his work in the office. He told me that he had developed low frustration tolerance, to the extent that he has frequent fights with his spouse and co-workers. His marriage was at stake and the worst part was that her professional and family life was no more satisfying.

Surely, there must be some positives in his life, so that one could start block-building? To my horror, I could not identify any. I could easily see that his job was interfering with his personal life. There seemed to be a loss of balance between the various spheres of his life. He was doing too much in too little time ? working long hours, unfortunately on routine unchallenging tasks, with no time to observe the results of his job. There were no real successes in his job and no satisfying achievements. His work environment had made him isolated from his colleagues and they had started undermining him. He had started perceiving his work environment as hostile.

Unfortunately, usually other people would get credit for his work. In spite of his efforts he remained unappreciated. He was caught up in a chain of events for which he totally felt out of control. His sufferings were at every level. He was paying the cost at both professional and personal level. It is not a very rare and unique phenomenon to suffer from emotional exhaustion or state of professional burnout. Through it is real, the signs and symptoms hardly get recognized by the professional themselves, and this is the worst part of the story.

Professional burnout is real and it can strike anyone, at anytime in their lives. It is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors encountered on job. It can be an individual experience specific to the work context. What pains is that we hardly realize it. Our jobs and professional achievements become more important to us than anything else in the world.

Professional burnout is a state in which a professional is like a candle burning at both ends, without realizing that the flame can diminish totally and maybe forever. Various factors can contribute towards burnout. Among them the most evident being the feeling of powerless, unclear job roles and responsibilities, pressure of satisfying conflicting demands, favoritism at the work place, poor team work, work overload, and last, but not the least, the attitude of the boss.

Early diagnosis and prompt intervention can help overcome professional burnout. Life can be made easy by restructuring the work environment to some extend. So that the remain opportunities for promotions, job benefits, contingent rewards. It?s important to remove ambiguity in jobs roles and duties. Improving teamwork and attitudes, and creating an impartial work environment can, to some extend, rectify this state.

At the personal level, things can be improved with mere common sense ? realizing the need for time out from professional lives is extremely important. All professionals are human beings first, with emotional and physical needs. They need time for themselves. Recreations and breaks in professional lives can be rewarding enough to fight boredom, stress, anxiety and depression.

We must realize that our bodies and minds are machines that need spark to function and rest to restore to an optimal state. At times it becomes very important to reset our bodies? state of equilibrium. Take time to enjoy life, watch a movie, go to a park, even being with family and friends can break the monotony of professional life. Be a person with a profession, not a professional having a person. Become a bee, extract happiness from small things in life.

Professional burnout doesn?t make you the sole sufferer, it makes your family, friends, clients and co-professionals suffer too. If things don?t seem to catch up easily, there is always professional help available from psychologist. Life is short and it should be lived with a quality; so live life and love life.

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