Burnout is so common that medical researchers have taken the time to study it.
Job burnout in particular is a specific kind of work stress that—left untreated—can have extensive physical and mental health repercussions. This post will explore how job burnout happens, what it looks like, and what you can do to mitigate it.
What Is Job Burnout?
Feeling burned out on the job, or simply in life?
While burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, it’s undeniably linked to your well-being.
Maybe you’ve been logging longer hours than usual, or staring at screens for far longer than you’re comfortable with. You have a tough time concentrating and feel tired all the time.
Maybe you’ve become cynical or hypercritical of your clients or colleagues.
Maybe you’re always down on yourself, or frustrated with others.
Maybe you’re grappling with burnout: a state of overwhelming exhaustion caused by prolonged stress.
Coined by Herbert Freudenberger in his 1974 book Burn-Out: The High Cost of High Achievement, the author defined burnout as: “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Today, we’ve shifted gears some and view burnout as a reaction to chronic professional stress. It’s associated with exhaustion, pessimism, and productivity issues.
Now, burnout isn’t a death sentence. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or drained, you might just need to take a step back and reevaluate. From there, you can communicate with your supervisor, colleagues, and loved ones—and act strategically to get back on track.
Are You Struggling with Burnout?
Burnout can sneak up on even the best of us. Again, it isn’t a diagnosable psychological condition—but there are a number of signs and symptoms that indicate you might be dealing with this less-than-desirable state of being.
Think you might be dealing with burnout? Here are some common signs:
· Isolation from friends, family, and coworkers
People facing burnout typically view their jobs as a major source of stress. In addition to becoming more cynical about their role, they’ll likely distance themselves emotionally from loved ones and colleagues. There’s an overwhelming sense of numbness at play.
· Headaches, stomachaches, and exhaustion
Chronic stress tends to creep up in both the mind and body. This means burnout can result in a number of physical symptoms, including migraines, upset stomach, or sleep issues. It may also lead to chronic fatigue, as people struggling with burnout tend to lack energy.
· Productivity and performance issues
People dealing with burnout tend to find being responsive challenging—at work and at home, for that matter. If you notice the quality of your work suffering, your email response times lagging, or your caregiving abilities dwindling, you may be dealing with burnout.
Burnout tends to result in difficulty concentrating, trouble getting started, and a negative view of tasks in general. If you lack satisfaction in your role, feel disillusioned by your job, or use food or substances to dull your negative feelings, you’ll want to identify the root cause things.
From there, you can take action. Though your solution may be as simple as setting healthier boundaries, don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed. A doctor or mental health practitioner can put you on a healthier, more productive path if you’re struggling to get there on your own.
What Are the Causes of Burnout?
People who view their career as their identity are more likely to experience burnout because they tend to lack balance in their personal and professional lives. If you’re bored or overworked, have a sky-high workload, or tend to be a people-pleaser, you may be more susceptible to burnout.
The following are common causes of job burnout:
· Perceived lack of control
If you feel your workload, your schedule, and your daily tasks are all outside of your control, you could end up feeling burned out. Be sure to speak up if it looks like things are spiraling.
· Dysfunctional dynamics
You may feel undermined by one of your peers, or micromanaged by your boss. Whether you’re bullied at work or simply feeling unheard, dysfunctional dynamics are known to cause burnout.
· Poor support
Many of us feel alone at work and at home—which causes our stress levels to skyrocket. If work starts to take up all your time, and you feel you lack support, you might be burning out.
· Lack of clarity
Unsure of what your supervisor expects from you? Weary of how much authority you really have in your position? It may be time to ask for clarity or reexamine your role.
· Unmanageable work environment
Whether your job is chaotic or on the boring side, you’ll need a lot of energy to stay focused. Over time, this can magnify feelings of chronic dissatisfaction and burnout.
Do any of these items resonate with you? If so, pay close attention to them. Awareness can be a productivity boost in itself, and help you address issues like burnout head-on.
5 Tips to Reduce Burnout
While there’s no surefire strategy for overcoming burnout, a number of insights can go a long way. Here are five things you can do to eliminate burnout:
1. Find time to talk to your supervisor.
It may sound daunting if you prefer to fly under the radar at work, but speaking up can be wildly beneficial. By finding time to talk to your supervisor, you can bring up the specific things that are getting you down, pinpoint solutions, and come to an agreeable compromise.
2. Schedule free time each day.
Even if it’s just a half-hour, prioritizing leisure time can make your life significantly more enjoyable. If you have a tough time making time for yourself, treat it like any other obligation—and pencil it right into your calendar! Your mind and body will thank you.
3. Care for your body.
Speaking of your physical self, make sure you’re taking good care of your body. You know the drill: Sleep for an average of eight hours each night when possible, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. By doing so, you’ll be in a much better position to manage stress.
4. Use those vacation days.
768 million vacation days went unused in the U.S. in 2018. Yikes! No wonder we’re so burned out. If you’re starting to feel like you’re losing it, and you have vacation days on hand, use them—do not feel guilty about asking for time off. We all need to recharge from time to time.
5. Change your environment.
Unable to take paid time off? At the very least, try to work a change of scenery into your life every once in a while. Whether it’s a weekend away or a month of remote work somewhere entirely new, a change of environment can bring a renewed spark to your work and life.
Are you still feeling stressed after implementing these tips? Be sure to communicate with your loved ones, colleagues, boss, or a health professional if needed. Remember that people are here for you—and that there is absolutely a light at the end of the tunnel.
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