Burnout is an insidious, stress-related condition that can zap the joy from work, friendships and family interactions. But burnout, while serious, isn't always noticeable.
That's why we've created this article to help you identify & treat burnout in yourself and others.
UNDERSTAND THE SIGNS
Burnout is a major issue for many people in various occupations, but it isn't always obvious to those suffering from it. Burnout occurs when your enthusiasm for a job begins to wane.
In some cases, the signs are more subtle than others, such as feeling indifferent about work or a lack of drive to complete tasks. But if you're willing to be aware of the signs, you can avoid burnout and thrive at work!
The key to properly managing burnout, as with any other ailment, is to recognize early signs and initiate treatment as soon as possible.
Three major elements are included in the official definition of burnout. However, the early signs of burnout might be subtle and vary from person to person. Here are some early indicators of job burnout that are easy to overlook:
- Feelings of energy depletion or weariness can manifest as feeling exhausted regardless of how much sleep you receive, inability to relax, changes in sleep patterns, bodily aches, getting or feeling ill more frequently, skipping meals, feeling listless, and a lack of motivation in non-work aspects of life.
- Avoidance, impatience, procrastination, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, arriving late or leaving work early, cynicism, and difficulty following through on or completing duties are all symptoms of "increased mental distance from one's workplace."
- "Reduced professional efficacy" might show as a refusal to communicate with coworkers, delays in completing critical duties, a lack of interest in continuing education and increasing abilities, working on other projects during work hours, and feeling lost or detached in meetings.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms above, you may be suffering from job burnout. Consider speaking with a doctor or a mental health practitioner because these symptoms may be related to a medical problem, such as depression.
Recognize the things that stress you out
You know that headaches and lack of sleep are signs of stress, but stress can manifest itself in many other forms. Things like restlessness, anger, or emotional outbursts could indicate that you're taking on more than you can handle. But the first step is to recognize those things that are causing you stress in the first place.
Once you've identified these stressors, figure out ways to reduce your exposure. For example, if having work emails sent directly to your phone makes you feel overwhelmed and stressed, talk with your IT department about disabling this feature. Or, if crunch time at work is causing high levels of anxiety for you personally and professionally, schedule a meeting with your boss or manager, so they know how this affects your performance and well-being.
Next up: permit yourself to get emotional about it all. You might be worried about seeming weak or unprofessional by talking about your struggles coming from a place of vulnerability—but what's truly unprofessional is letting burnout affect the quality of work you produce for yourself and others.
Now that you know the signs and the triggers for you let's cover the part that can help you prevent burnout.
HOW TO DEAL WITH BURNOUT
Take time to recharge
The American workforce is not known for its downtime. The United States is the only developed nation that does not require employers to offer paid vacation time. Without this requirement, many feel pressure to work as much as possible and take little to no time off.
However, it's important to remember that work-life balance is a good thing! Taking some time away from the office can help you recharge your batteries and come back ready to do your best work. Here are a few ways you can spend your downtime:
- Take a walk
- Listen to music
- Read a book or watch TV shows
- Go on vacation
- Get some exercise.
Make room for fun
Suppose you've ever been in a work situation where your boss is more interested in busy work than seeing you succeed. In that case, you're probably familiar with the stress that comes from feeling like you have to push your brain beyond its limits to get some semblance of work done.
Research shows that a fun environment can prevent burnout by making employees feel more motivated and productive. In addition, fun, physical activity and social connections are proven to improve moods, and studies show that these factors may be critical when it comes to preventing burnout.
In a positive work environment where people are willing to take time out of their schedules for something they enjoy, working hours feel shorter as they go along, and stress is reduced.
Personalize your workspace
Adding a little of your aesthetic to your workspace can go a long way to helping you get comfortable at work.
Why not get yourself a slim wireless charger? If you want a minimalistic and functional accessory on your desk without the obtrusive cables, it's definitely a perfect one for you.
Small changes like these can help you connect with colleagues and make workspaces more inviting to you and your visitors.
Organize your schedule
Examine what you have to do in detail. While everything may appear to be necessary, the truth is that you're wasting a lot of time and energy on the wrong things. As a result, you wind yourself concentrating on either dull or unimportant things.
You learn to prioritize your time to counteract the time-sucking effects of less important things. Making it a point to focus on no more than three tasks you want to complete today is one of the simplest ways to calculate timelines. Ideally, these should be tasks that have a purpose or move you closer to accomplishing a goal.
Build a support network
The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to think about the people in your life who could help. Whether a friend, parent, mentor or even a therapist, having someone to turn to can make all the difference. They can offer advice, vent with you when you need to unload some stress or hug you at the end of the day.
"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve."
Be willing to say 'no'
It's important to be willing to say no because it prevents you from committing to more work than you can handle, which will leave you feeling drained and exhausted.
Here are a few good rules of thumb for when it's okay to say no:
- If someone asks if you can get something done by the end of the day, and it's already 4:00 pm, saying no is okay. It doesn't matter how fast or slow you work; if the task truly isn't possible, don't set yourself up for failure by agreeing to do something impossible.
- If someone asks if they can talk to you about an issue that isn't urgent right now (meaning it won't impact your team negatively if this issue is resolved tomorrow instead of today), then go ahead and say no. It might not seem like much, but all those little 5- or 10-minute meetings add up. Those minutes will have turned into hours by the end of the week!
- In general, unless there is some emergency that needs your attention right now (like a server going down), try saying no as often as possible. This way, you'll be able to focus on what matters most instead of getting caught up in minor distractions throughout the day.
Prevent work burnout by treating yourself well and valuing your feelings and needs. So many people think that work-life balance is all about getting the work done outside of work. But it's not. And that's because so many people are afraid to ask for help when they need it—whether from a friend, family member, or doctor.
You may not feel like there's anything wrong with you, but you could be in danger of burnout if your needs aren't being met. Burnout is defined as "a state in which an individual has lost interest and enthusiasm for their job or life." It can leave you feeling stressed out and fatigued daily. To prevent this from happening to you, remember to do the following:
Make time for yourself every day by taking an hour just to yourself (outside of work if possible). Try doing this before dinner if possible; this way, your meal won't interrupt your quiet time with yourself.
This May bank holiday celebrates spring by doing what makes you happy without guilt or shame (be honest about that). Have a night out with friends or reconnect with your family. It's the perfect time to recharge so that when work resumes, you're ready to take on another project with newfound determination.