PUBLISHED: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Break free of burnout
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Feeling tired today?

You're not alone.

With better technology tools, busier schedules and less quiet time, Americans are pushing their bodies to the limit now more than ever.

"I think that we have a huge problem in our society with being sleep deprived and always going and going and having no down time," said Janie Pfeifer Watson, director and owner of Wholeness Healing Center and a licensed clinical social worker.

Courtesy photo
  In the workplace, employers should be on the lookout for employee burnout and take time to talk to employees who may be overworked or stressed.
Feelings of busyness and stress are spilling over to the personal and professional lives of adults and teens, making many feel overworked and exhausted.

"I definitely think there's been an increase in demands and pressure and expectations in the workplace," said Seanne Larson Emerton, owner of Family Resources and a marriage and family therapist.

The use of e-mail, cell phones, PDAs, the Internet and other technology means teens and adults can work and communicate almost anywhere.

It also means they have more to consider when choosing how to use and balance their time, said Anne Buettner, a licensed marriage and family therapist and mental health practitioner.

"Whenever we have more options, it always complicates (things)," Buettner said especially for those who have trouble making decisions.

"We always like to push ourselves to the limit, of course," she said.

Watson agreed.

"We don't know how to let down and just do some stress release and just be," she said.

A lack of personal time and sleep can lead to burnout, fatigue and sleep deprivation. Those can spurn irritability, problems with short-term memory and weight gain, among other problems, Watson said.

People need to be self-aware and recognize their limits, Emerton said.

"I think people have to pause and say, 'What am I doing to fill up my tank?'" she said.

To stay healthy physically and emotionally, people should make sure they're eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. Adults need at least 7 ½ hours of sleep per night. Teens and children need even more.

It's also important to spend a little time each day doing something that "fills the soul," Emerton said. The activity should be engaging, she said, such as meditating, walking, listening to music, volunteering or spending time outdoors; watching television doesn't count.

In the workplace, employers should be on the lookout for employee burnout and take time to talk to employees who may be overworked or stressed.

Employers should also try to make work fun when they can and acknowledge when their employees perform well and accomplish goals.

Businesses can create an employee assistance program for those who wish to seek counseling for stress management.

In the end, however, taking steps toward a happier, healthier life and challenging societal norms is up to each individual.

"Nobody's going to take care of us but ourselves, of course," Emerton said. "Just be aware of staying balanced."