As mentioned in chapter 4, good sleep is very important for a good
mood, efficient work, clear thinking, and good health. Avoid
stimulants, even coffee and cigarettes. The old advice of warm milk is
still good. Get exercise during the day, not right before bedtime.
Follow a routine, going to bed at the same time and in the same place.
Slow down before bedtime. Don't try hard to "will" yourself to sleep,
but do use your cognition to avoid thoughts that work up your
emotions (reading a book may be a good way to control your
thoughts). You can also mentally focus on a mundane task--counting
sheep or remembering a song or a dull book--which will reduce
upsetting thoughts. Take drugs if you have to, but only in small
quantities and for a short time. See the much more extensive
description of treatment for poor sleep at the end of chapter 4, as well
as Hauri, Linde, & Westbrook (1996), Catalano (1990), or Graber
Burnout. Work occupies an enormous amount of our lives. If we work
for 40 years, that is at least 80,000 hours and perhaps as much as
120,000 hours or more. Mind-boggling isn't it? Sometimes those hours
are among the most rewarding, proud, and fun parts of our life.
Unfortunately, for many of us work is often the source of much stress,
unhappiness, resentment, shame, boredom, neglect or even abuse,
harassment, discrimination, and dehumanizing conditions. In the US,
55% are stressed or angry about something at work. Since it is such a
big part of our lives, it is important to make it as good as we can.
Many people are simply in life-situations that require them to work at
jobs that are hard, dirty, uninteresting, unpleasant, repetitive, and
isolate the worker from others with common interests. Therefore, I
don't want to imply that everyone can make or find an exciting,
enjoyable job. But there may be ways to make the job better--more
tolerable and more interesting, if not exciting.
Among the several good books I reviewed in this area, I found it
interesting and probably fortunate that they suggest very different
approaches to bad job situations. I say fortunate because you should
consider all the approaches and see which ones seem to fit your job
situation the best. The different solutions might be classified into three
rough groups: change-the-system, change yourself, and get out of
Maslach & Leiter (1997) are in the change-the-system group. They
are academics in social and organizational psychology with lots of
applied experience. Burnout, as they see it, is usually the result of a
bad job situation, not something fixable by self-improvement or by
developing superhuman motivation. First, they say burnout may
involve several feelings or conditions, e.g. feeling tired or
overextended, doing as little as possible, feeling ineffective or
inadequate, having too much work to do, feeling stuck and stagnant,
believing your work is meaningless, and having work relationships that
are strained or distant. For each condition, the authors give specific
suggestions in the form of case illustrations.