Getting Over Being Tired at Work

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When it comes the hectic lab setting, not being tired at work is a challenge. Here are some tips to help keep you energized.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from techs—especially Baby Boomers—is, “We’re tired,” sometimes adding, “and burned out.” As an economic crunch has hit healthcare across the country and hospitals are forced to do more with less, it’s become harder and harder to retain and recruit staff. Schools produce fewer and fewer young—and more energetic—techs, and those remaining are working in ever-decreasing circles.

I get that.

But a job is a job, and we all get paid. How do we recover from burnout, feel energized and avoid getting tired?

Forbes1 has some basic tips:

  • Have a clear goal. Come to work with an idea of what you want to accomplish. And if you’re working on a big project, just think of one step at a time.
  • Avoid distractions.  That means limiting email, social media (the old and new kinds) and breaks if you’re working on something.
  • Drink plenty of water. “Dehydration saps your concentration,” Forbes reports, “so make sure you’re sipping water regularly when you’re tired.” But avoid caffeine, sugary sodas, energy drinks and other substitutes.
  • Keeping moving. Avoid sitting or standing on one place. Instead of sitting down at break, take a brisk walk around the building.

I feel lucky. Most days I have a lot of energy for tasks at hand, but I work at it. Here’s what works for me, although it may not work for everyone:

  • Find a project to get excited about. There is more than enough drudgery at work that I have to slog through. I need at least one creative project to look forward to working on. For me, this is usually something related to programming.
  • Switch tasks. This is similar to “keep moving,” but it involves the mind. If I stand at an analyzer all day pushing buttons, I’m bored to tears. I usually have three or four tasks I’m working on at the same time. Switching between them every few minutes keeps my mind moving between them.
  • Exercise. One reason younger techs have more energy is youth itself. It’s harder and harder to maintain energy levels in general as we age. It’s important to eat right, get sleep, but most importantly, exercise. For me this is walking and lifting weights, but whatever gets you moving works. My mother in law, who is 80, still plays tennis.
  • Rest. This is different than sleep, which is a physiological need. For me “rest” is about recharging my batteries. This is different for everyone, but I’ll make a guess for most lab techs who are introverts this means spending some time alone, be it reading a book, watching a sunrise or checking the news on the Web.
  • Avoid “What If?” thinking. This is another way of saying, “Be positive.” There’s nothing more exhausting than imagining and worrying about bad things that can happen: not recruiting staff, not having a budget approved, a person calling in sick, a doctor working in the ED, etc. It’s much easier to go with the flow and see what happens. Often, it’s good.

That last point can be tough for lab techs. We’re trained critical thinkers. But (and this has also worked for me) avoiding television can make that step much easier. Televised news, talking heads and advertisements are exhaustingly, relentlessly, pointlessly negative and filled with destructive “What If?” thinking. Television left me feeling worried and powerless, feelings that sapped energy I needed for more important tasks. And if I’m tired at work, I’ll have no energy for the rest of my life.

But that’s what works for me. What works—or doesn’t work—for you?

NEXT: Patient SDI


References

  1. Hale, A. How To Work When You’re Tired. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/01/tired-energy-work-forbes-woman-time-business.html

 

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About Author

Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)

Scott Warner grew up in Western Maine. After a stint in the Air Force, he moved to the Maine coast. He has been a hospital laboratory generalist for more than 30 years and manager since 1998. As a freelance writer, his work has appeared in Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals and other publications. He now lives in northern Maine with his family.

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