But there's a problem. For about a month now, you've been feeling exhausted all the time. If you think you might be burning out from the strain of the job, what can you do?
Job strain doesn't have to lead to burnout.
Job strain doesn't always lead to burnout--there's one risk factor that can make all the difference: a lack of sleep.
In a cross-sectional study on finance sector workers, those who slept well were protected from burnout, despite severe job strain, whereas those who had insomnia were not.
But what if you can't sleep well?
If, despite doing everything you can, you're so wired at the end of the day that you can't switch off and fall asleep, there is one more thing you might want to try.
Stop hitting the playback button.
When you go through a stressful experience, your autonomic nervous system increases sympathetic activity and a cascade of signaling agents travel around your body and brain.
When the experience is over, everything reverts back to normal. But there's one bad habit that interferes with this -- ruminating, especially if you're already chronically stressed.
If you continue to dwell over a stressful experience after the experience is over, you're prolonging your experience in your mind by playing it back over and over again -- as a result, you take longer to recover from it.
In people who have a tendency to ruminate like this after a stressful experience, a stress response can either be more intense (in men) or more prolonged (in women), leading to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol at the end of the day.
Even if you're not normally a worrier, if you ruminate at the end of every stressful encounter in the setting of chronic stress, you might be extending your stress response without being aware you're doing so.
If you're playing it back, you're probably not sleeping.
In a 2014 study on Dutch Helicopter Emergency Medical Service pilots, those who tended to ruminate after a distressing experience found it harder to fall asleep when they finished their shift, compared to those who did not.
Your autonomic nervous system (the "automatic" nerve network that plays a central role in your stress response) follows a day-night rhythm. As night nears, your parasympathetic activity should rise and your sympathetic activity should fall.
This signals "safety" -- that it's ok for your body to relax, and drift off to sleep. Your cortisol levels follow a day-night pattern too; they reach a nadir at night.
If your sympathetic activity is still high (and your cortisol level is elevated) when you head to bed, because you haven't fully recovered from the stressors you faced all day, your brain thinks you're still under threat and it dare not lose awareness. As a result, like those Dutch Medical Service pilots, you'll find it difficult to fall asleep.
It's hard to believe that your actions in the moments after a stressful encounter can affect your ability to fall asleep hours later, but in a high-stress environment, poor recovery from individual stressors adds up.
Take action -- press "stop."
Create a habit of shifting your attention away from the scene immediately, after every stressful encounter. Never dwell. One way to do this is by immersing yourself in an activity that absorbs your attention so intensely that your mind can't wander. A game like Tetris is a good example.
Ruminating at other times during the day increases your stress load, too. If you're finding you're reliving the event later on in the day, do the same again.