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EAP helps employees with stress, burnout

Stop by Health 1st’s Wellness Wednesday table in the Children’s Hospital lobby between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. June 25 for information on stress management and job burnout prevention from MUSC's Employee Assistance Program. Employees will receive a stress-relieving star shaped massager (while supplies last).

by Jeni Bowers Palmer
MUSC Employee Assistance Program
We have all experienced periods of time in our lives that seem out of control. Life is throwing too much at us: too many demands, too much pressure and too much stress. Stressed out people feel that if they could just get through this busy period in their lives they will feel much better.
For those experiencing job burnout there is no such hope. These people have lost the belief that finishing a project will decrease their stress. Burnout is a result of long term exposure to stress. Job stress and job burnout are not the same. When someone is stressed out at work they are overly involved and care too much. When someone is burned-out, they become detached, cynical and hopeless.
The longer someone experiences exposure to stress and burnout the greater the emotional and physical consequences. Burnout can lead to depression, headaches, high blood pressure, obesity, chronic neck, back pain and other stress related illnesses. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of job burnout and get help as soon as possible.

Signs, symptoms of job burnout
Feeling empty, numb or emotionally exhausted
Lack of motivation
Feeling hopeless
Believing that nothing you do will make a difference
Feeling constantly frustrated
Feeling trapped in your job
Feeling like a failure
Being cynical or sarcastic
Feeling apathetic
Avoiding others
Lack of patience with co-workers or customers
Feelings of anxiety prior to going to work especially on Sunday evenings
Difficulty sleeping
Certain people and professions are more vulnerable to job burnout than others. Personality traits such as perfectionism, people-pleasing and difficulty setting boundaries may make people more susceptible to burnout. Lack of an active social life and over identification with your job also are high risk factors. People in the helping professions such as heath care, social work or public safely have high rates of burnout. However, burnout can occur in any job in which an employee experiences risk factors.

Risk factors in job burnout
Inadequate resources to perform job
High pressure to perform
Regular exposure to traumatic events
Monotonous activity
Chaotic activity
Low levels of social support
Poor job fit
Working with people that you don’t like or respect
Conflict or ambiguity about job role
Low levels of praise or feedback from supervisor
Being criticized for things that are beyond one’s control
Feeling underpaid or under-appreciated
Feeling trapped in a job for financial reasons
Doing work that requires the employee to compromise personal values
Certain things can be done to help prevent or relieve job burnout. Talk with your supervisor and clarify your job description. You may also want to ask for some time off. A brief change in job duties has been shown to be helpful in decreasing burnout symptoms. An active stress-management program is essential to the prevention of burnout. This includes taking care of oneself by adhering to a balanced diet, exercise and rest.
Activities such as meditation, prayer, yoga or tai chi give a sense of balance and connectedness to the world. Strong social support at work and home is key to stress management. So, take the time to get to know your co-workers, strengthen a friendship or spend time with your family.
Finally, seek counseling, if needed. Your employee assistance program (EAP) is a great place to start. An EAP staff member can help clarify the problem and offer suggestions for improvement and resolve.
All MUSC, MUHA, UMA and Carolina Family Care employees are eligible for benefits through MUSC EAP. MUSC EAP is a confidential and free counseling service located at 51 Bee St.
To schedule an appointment or find out more information on the assistance program, call 792-2848.

Editor's note: The preceding column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing numerous employee wellness organizations and committees on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide MUSC, MUHA and UMA employees with current and helpful information concerning all aspects of health.

Friday, June 20, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.