How to Prevent and Relieve Burnout

Feeling depleted, exhausted, and have that fried feeling? You aren’t alone. Read more.

Feeling depleted, exhausted, and have that fried feeling? You aren’t alone. The American Institute of Stress reports 40% of U.S. workers feel stressed out at work and about 26% are suffering from burnout.

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from work. It can cause on-the-job productivity to plummet and even damage your health. Dozens of studies have linked burnout, sometimes called vital exhaustion, to an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack, muscle aches and pains, type 2 diabetes, sleep disorders and depression, according to the American Psychological Association.

Why do countless people end up feeling so fried? Surprisingly, researchers have found you may be in this state of exhaustion not from an excessive workload but from other reasons related to your work and schedule.

University of California at Berkeley psychologist Christina Maslach, PhD, is an expert on the subject and developed what’s known as the gold standard job burnout assessment. The 22-question Maslach Burnout Inventory surveys 3 areas: feelings of exhaustion, depersonalization (a state in which thoughts and feelings seem unreal or lack significance) and whether a person feels effective in their profession. Maslach’s research has found that while people may think the demands of their jobs are the main reason they feel fried, the real culprit is often poor relationships in the workplace — including incivility, passive-aggressive behavior and bullying.

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology involving 100 people with burnout found that when opportunities and demands in the workplace didn’t match up to employees’ personal needs and personality styles, they felt depleted and worn down. For instance, those who preferred a lot of personal contact but worked in positions involving little interaction with colleagues developed ongoing stress symptoms leading to burnout. The same was true for people thrust into leadership roles who didn’t feel comfortable in that type of position.

Another new study of workers at a Fortune 500 company backs up the idea that feeling you lack control and flexibility in your job is a key cause of burnout. University of Minnesota sociologist Phyllis Moen, PhD, and Erin L. Kelly, PhD, professor of work and organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, looked at a work-flexibility program which included shifting work schedules to allow some employees to work from home.

The program also encouraged workers to rethink the number of daily meetings they needed to attend and coached them on ways to better anticipate very busy work periods. The results showed those who participated in the flexibility program had higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout than employees within the same company who did not participate in the program.

No matter the cause, there are strategies to help you get back on track when you are feeling burned out. If you feel your job isn’t a good match for your personality and talents, set up a meeting with your manager to discuss potential opportunities in other areas of the organization. If interpersonal conflicts or workplace bullying has become intolerable, consider discussing the problem with your boss or the human resources office at your company.

It also makes sense to speak up about the possibility of changing your work schedule so you can meet family obligations or decrease your commuting time. You may be surprised at your manager’s willingness to help. More companies than ever are aware flexible schedules can be a win-win situation.

“Today’s workers are bombarded by advice on how to juggle their work and family lives — we’re told to take up yoga or learn to meditate or only check email twice a day,” says Moen. “But individual coping strategies alone won’t solve the problem. Our research demonstrates that workers who are allowed to have a voice in the hours and location of their work not only feel better about their jobs, but also less conflicted about their work-to-family balance. Crucially, these workers are also more efficient and more productive on the job. In other words, workplace flexibility is beneficial — not detrimental — to organizations.”

No matter what’s going on in your workplace, self-care measures can help keep your life and work in balance and soothe burnout:

Reach out. Make the time you spend with family and friends as important as meeting deadlines. Avoid the temptation to include work in your conversations with them and turn off your phone and laptop for at least part of the time you are at home.

Commit to making healthy choices every day. You’ve heard it countless times before: You need regular exercise for mind and body. When you’re exhausted, instead of staying at your desk and working while eating a quick sandwich, go for a walk to boost energy and calm your stress. And skip the fast food and empty calorie snacks. If you take time for healthy lunches, you’ll likely feel more energetic and focused in the afternoon.

Make adequate sleep a top priority. Arianna Huffington is known for her business successes but she also made the news when she collapsed from burnout. Huffington was so tired she fell asleep one day while working, fell and broke her cheekbone. She now urges employees and friends to get enough sleep. Take her advice and you’ll have more energy to cope effectively with stress.

Get help if you need it. It’s not uncommon for people suffering from burnout to turn to excessive caffeine and alcohol, as well as prescription and recreational drugs. If you are dealing with substance abuse — or any other physical or emotional problems related to burnout — talk to your health care provider and get a referral to a therapist if needed.

10 Ways to Secure Your Mobile Phone

The more we use our smartphones for everything from communicating with friends to work, the more we’re exposed to mobile security pitfalls. Read more.

The more we use our smartphones for everything from communicating with friends to work, the more we’re exposed to mobile security pitfalls. And the dangers are increasing and becoming more sophisticated.

For example, malicious apps have become so tricky they can gain access to address books, GPS coordinates, and even redirect your data across the net.

“You may think that the phone in your pocket is safe, but think again,” said Lorenzo Cavallaro, information security researcher and lecturer at Royal Holloway University of London. “We’re used to considering our phones as a trusted, private channel of communication, and suitable to receive authentication information to access specific online services. Unfortunately, this information can be leaked or abused by colluding malware if the mobile device is infected.”

Fortunately, there are ways to foil cyber criminals and keep your phone safe.

Ten mobile phone security tips:

  1. Set a personal identification number (PIN) and password on your phone’s home screen. This is your first line of defense in case your phone is lost or stolen. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also recommends configuring your phone to automatically lock after 5 minutes or less when your phone is idle.
  2. Update your phone’s operating systems often. Don’t ignore pop-up reminders. Charge your phone, clear out some space, if needed, and install the update immediately.
  3. Don’t change your smartphone’s security settings. Altering your phone’s factory settings undermines built-in security features offered by your wireless service and smartphone, the FCC warns. By modifying the settings, you’ll make your phone more susceptible to an attack.
  4. Be aware that public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure. Think twice before using public Wi-Fi to make bank transactions or send sensitive data.
  5. Install security to enable a remote wipe. This security feature allows a network administrator or the owner of a mobile phone to send a command and delete data. If your phone is lost or stolen, you’ll be able to wipe all of its data remotely so criminals can’t access it. In addition, you can often use a remote wipe to find the location of your phone.
  6. Only install apps that you are positive can be trusted. Many apps from untrusted sources contain malware designed to steal information, install viruses, and cause harm to your phone’s contents, according to the FCC. Make the time to research to ensure an app is legitimate before you install it. Investigate an app by checking reviews, confirming the legitimacy of the app store, and comparing the app sponsor’s official website with the app store link to see if they are the same.
  7. Be careful when getting rid of an old phone. Remember, your mobile device probably holds sensitive information, including addresses and phone numbers, passwords, account numbers, email, voicemail, and more. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urges you to make sure information on your old device doesn’t fall into the hands of criminals. Check to see if your phone has a hard reset or factory reset setting that allows you to wipe and clear information in the phone’s memory.
  8. Be careful with SIM and SD cards. SIM cards inside a phone carry a chip with an identification number unique to the owner, store personal data, and prevent operation if removed. Secure Digital (SD) cards are ultra-small flash memory cards designed to provide high-capacity memory in mobile phones. Even when you wipe your device, your SIM card or SD card may retain information about you, the FTC warns. Remove or erase SIM and SD cards if you sell or give away your old phone. If you’re getting a new phone but keeping your old phone number, ask your mobile provider about transferring your SIM card to your new device.
  9. Regularly backup and secure all data on your phone. Contacts, messages and photos on your phone can be stored on your computer, a removal storage card, or in the cloud. Then, if your phone is lost or stolen, you can quickly restore the information to your phone.
  10. Report a lost or stolen mobile phone immediately to local law enforcement. Also register the missing phone with your wireless provider. This will notify all the major wireless service providers that your phone has been stolen and will allow for remote bricking of the phone so it cannot be activated on any wireless network without your permission. Most wireless service providers, working in cooperation with the FCC, have established a stolen phone database that may help locate your phone.

Visit the FCC Smartphone Security Checker, designed for a variety of mobile operating systems, to help you quickly check for other ways to secure your phone.

For more information about safely using apps on your phone, visit the FTC Understanding Mobile Apps page.

Avoid Packing on Pounds This Holiday Season

It’s a fact: Holidays can be fattening. In the U.S., many of us put on 1 or 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Read more.


It’s a fact: Holidays can be fattening. A recent study showed it’s not only Americans but folks in Japan and Germany, too, who gain some girth around national holidays.

In the U.S., many of us put on 1 or 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s not much of an increase and wouldn’t matter if we lost the extra weight quickly. Unfortunately, researchers say the excess pounds typically hang on — so you could end up 10 to 20 pounds heavier in a decade, thanks to feasting during the year-end holidays.

If you are determined to stay in shape or you’re trying to drop a few pounds, you may be hoping self-control kicks in when you’re confronted with holiday goodies. However, coming up with a plan that lets you have your cake and eat it, too (in moderation), might be more realistic.

Synergy visited with nutrition expert Andy Yurechko, RD, for advice on how to enjoy the delicious tastes of the holidays while using strategies to keep your waistline under control.

“Avoiding favorite foods during the holiday season can lead to withdrawal — causing you to give in to cravings and then eat more than you wanted,” says Yurechko, a dietitian at the Augusta University Digestive Health Center. “Plan to enjoy the foods you love! But reduce the caloric ‘damage’ by reducing portion sizes of favorite foods. Stick to a single plate of appetizers if they are out in the open. The same applies to the main meal — stick to a single plate.”

Drinking water before heading out to a party is often touted as a way to reduce your appetite. Yurechko says it’s true water can help fill your stomach a little before a meal.

“But a better strategy may be to eat a small snack containing fiber or protein,” he says. “These foods stave off hunger because they take longer to break down. Eat an apple with water or grab a handful of peanuts before going to the party.”

When you are confronted with lots of choices at a party or festive meal, aim to eat a higher volume of foods that contain fewer calories, Yurechko advises. For example, fruits and vegetables (with minimal dip) contain fiber that will help you feel full and also are loaded with nutrients. Another tip for cutting down on calories: If you are eating vegetables with dip, spoon some dip onto your plate to control portions.

“Nuts also have fiber, protein and healthy fats,” he adds. “Watch portions of nuts, however, as they contain more calories from the healthy unsaturated fats.”

In addition, Yurechko advises everyone to remember that many dishes and drinks are loaded with far more calories than most of us realize. For example, just 1 slice of pecan pie has an average of 500 calories. If you opt for a piece of pumpkin pie instead, you’ll consume about half as many calories.

Other dishes often served during the holidays sound healthy and non-diet busting because they are made from vegetables. But beware.

“Candied sweet potatoes involve taking healthy sweet potatoes and packing on sugar and marshmallows,” Yurechko says. “Green bean casserole takes a low-calorie vegetable and turns it into a fat fest with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions. Also watch out for heavy dips like avocado or sour cream. Avocados do contain healthy fats, but they pack on many calories per tablespoon serving.”

If you slip up and go overboard on the dip, chocolate chip cookies or other goodies, is there any way to regroup — or have you blown your diet to smithereens?

“Do not feel bad about overindulging a bit,” Yurechko answers. “The holidays come only a few times a year.”

To compensate for some slip-ups, he advises working in exercise — it will reduce hunger and burn calories, too.

“Walk the dog, run with a friend, do some home-based aerobics or play sports,” Yurechko says. “The key is to do something you enjoy.”

What You Don’t Know about Diabetes Could Make You Sick

You may have already heard there’s an epidemic of diabetes in the U.S. More than 29 million Americans are living with the disease. Read more.

You may have already heard there’s an epidemic of diabetes in the U.S. More than 29 million Americans are living with the disease. But what you may not know is that millions of people — maybe you or someone in your family — are walking around unaware that they have type 2 diabetes (which comprises 90% to 95% of all cases of diabetes in the U.S.).

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association — a great time to get the facts on this common health problem.

About 5% of those with diabetes have type 1, which usually starts in childhood or adolescence. It occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that regulates sugar (glucose) in the blood. People with this form of the disease must take insulin.

However, the vast majority of Americans with diabetes, more than 90%, have type 2 diabetes. While immune system and genetic factors are linked to the development of type 1 diabetes, type 2 is mainly caused by lifestyle factors, primarily being overweight and sedentary. Untreated, diabetes raises the risk for heart disease and stroke, nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage (nephropathy), hearing impairment and other health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Type 2 diabetes develops slowly and may not produce any symptoms for some time. When symptoms do occur, they include increased thirst and urination, hunger and fatigue. It’s important to talk to your health care provider about screening for diabetes if you have any of these symptoms — or if you have risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including being overweight and sedentary.

Losing weight and regular exercise can help keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range and can sometimes reverse type 2 diabetes. And if you have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, working with your provider to make needed lifestyle changes, including getting more exercise and eating a healthy diet, can help you prevent diabetes in the future.

For more information, visit the CDC’s Diabetes page.