Some years ago, a non-profit group called My Officer Needs Assistance published a “Job Stress/Burnout Questionnaire” designed to help guide officers to an understanding of their level of stress, the impact it may be having on your life and your potential for experiencing pending—or existing—issues related to burnout. Their potentially life-saving mission is obviously just as important today as it was then.
Here are the questions that were asked followed by an associated scoring sheet that can help determine how well you’re managing stress in your life. Be candid. As we said, this could be a life-saver.
1. I am dissatisfied with my job.
2. I am pessimistic about my work.
3. My work affects my home life.
4. I cannot wait for my shift to end.
*5. I sometimes use alcohol or drugs to forget work.
6. I often wish I could switch jobs.
7. I take a lot of sick days.
8. I feel I can’t talk to anyone about what my job is like.
9. I often feel like crying or breaking things.
10. I have less energy than I used to.
11. My work absenteeism is up.
12. I feel under stress.
*13. It is rare for me to be completely relaxed.
14. I am gaining or losing weight.
15. My sex life has deteriorated.
*16. My job performance is deteriorating.
17. I think more and more about my job.
*18. I often feel depressed.
19 I am not sleeping well.
20. I do not feel like helping citizens anymore.
21. There is no one I can trust.
22. I am sometimes underaggressive or overaggressive.
23. I don’t have many outside interests anymore.
*24. I sometimes feel I will explode.
25. I no longer take good care of myself.
26. No one understands me.
*27. I think of suicide.
*28. I often flash back to unpleasant things in my past.
*29. My family and peers are worried about me.
*30. I keep hoping for a major change in my life.
31. My spiritual life is not satisfying.
*32. I feel like I’m on a treadmill and can’t get off.
*33. My life is becoming unmanageable.
*34. I feel very bad about several aspects of my job.
* Critical items indicated by a star: Any one or more of these items indicates a problem requiring professional assessment.
If you checked 0-3 non-critical items, you may be handling stress well and are probably not approaching burnout.
If you checked 4-10 non-critical items, you are moderately stressed and could be heading for burnout. You may need some help soon, if not right now.
If you checked 11-15 critical and non-critical items, you are probably highly stressed and likely experiencing burnout. It’s advisable to seek help now.
If you checked 16 or more items, your stress/burnout level is dangerously high.
Additionally, an issue of Men’s Health Magazine featured an article on job stress that offers these additional indicators that you’re caught in the burnout cycle and may be headed for a stress/burnout meltdown:
— You feel frustrated, angry, depressed, dissatisfied or anxious more than just occasionally – so often, in fact, that these emotions become chronic and you experience “emotional fatigue.”
— When conflicts arise in your personal relationships, you may overreact with an emotional outburst or intense hostility. Communicating with fellow officers, supervisors, friends and family becomes increasingly difficult.
— As your emotional reserves become depleted and the quality of your relationships deteriorates, your physical resilience declines. Symptoms may include headaches, insomnia, frequent colds, fatigue and back pain.
— You may become bored with your job or lose enthusiasm for your personal projects. It may be more difficult to concentrate and your productivity may decline.
— Drinking, smoking or loading up on fatty foods and caffeine are often signs you’re running down.
— Increasingly you ask yourself, “So what? Why bother?” If your youthful enthusiasm has been replaced by cynicism and loss of hope, you may be burned out.
In its report, Men’s Health probed the stress-management secrets of workers in a variety of high-stress occupations. One of the people interviewed was a SWAT veteran who was at the time married to a detective. The officer had seen first-hand the dire results of unattended-to stress and burnout. “We had this woman hallucinating, shooting up the neighborhood from her porch because she thought she saw invaders from Mars, and all of a sudden one of our guys is laying out on the front lawn, convulsing,” he recalled. Later, it was determined that the officer’s collapse and seizure were brought on by stress overload.
The SWAT officer’s favorite stress fighter is vigorous exercise. He did free weight exercises several times a week for about 90 minutes at a time. He also tried to play tennis at least once a week and runs about three miles twice a week. “You have to prepare yourself physically for this job knowing you’re in a high-stress occupation,” he said. “I push myself with that in mind.”
Definitely the right track to be on. Physical exercise is a proven antidote to stress and depression, as well as an activity that promotes good decision-making in crisis situations. That makes an excellent starting point for fight back against dangerous job burnout.