Burnout is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s workforce—so much so that the World Health Organization has classified it as a syndrome. You can probably relate if you have feelings of exhaustion regarding your job, but how do you know if it’s burnout or just regular stress?
Too much vs. not enough
When people get stressed out, it’s usually because they have too much on their plate. The good news is most individuals rally once things are under control. When burnout happens, it’s typically because there’s not enough—not enough motivation, not enough hope—and the person becomes disengaged, as opposed to over-engaged.
Burnout can take a physical toll on the body. You might feel rundown or pick up bad eating and sleeping habits. Some people notice they get sick more often or have more headaches and muscle pains.
Emotional symptoms can vary from a lack of motivation and accomplishment to a sense of self-doubt and detachment. You may think you’re all alone and have feelings of cynicism, negativity, and resentment.
Whether your symptoms are emotional or physical, the consequences will probably be the same. Maybe you’ve been more irritable than usual and have started taking your frustrations out on others. You might self-medicate with food, alcohol, or drugs. In some cases, you may procrastinate or withdraw from your responsibilities altogether.
Cause and effect
Many factors can contribute to burnout, but most are related to a lack of control on some level. You may feel undermined or micromanaged or think you don’t have a say regarding your schedule or workload. If you have no work-life balance or feel unsure about what’s expected of you, your lack of comfort will most likely lead to more anxious feelings.
Whatever the cause, the effects can be detrimental—even deadly. Victims of burnout tend to suffer from fatigue and insomnia, which is bad enough. Eventually, your relationships may suffer, particularly if you’re sad or angry all the time. If burnout goes untreated for too long, it can result in high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Fortunately, you can take control so burnout doesn’t affect your long-term health.
1. Get some support
See a professional to rule out any anxiety or mood disorders. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can put a plan in place and start to see light at the end of the tunnel. Talk to family, friends, and coworkers and take advantage of your EAP (employee assistance program) if you have one. Let someone know how you’re feeling so you don’t have to go it alone.
2. Talk to your boss
Be honest with your manager so you can set new goals and manage expectations. Try to focus on things you can change rather than just complaining. This shows you are invested in a solution. Set clear objectives and request regular meetings to review your progress.
3. Take care of yourself
Exercise is particularly important for someone experiencing burnout. Activities like yoga and tai chi will reduce stress and promote relaxation. Go for regular walks to get fresh air and a change of scenery, particularly if you work in a windowless office or cubicle all day.
Eat a balanced diet. Try to stay away from stimulants like caffeine and sugar that give you a temporary energy boost but inevitably result in a crash a few hours later. In addition to fruits and vegetables, eat lean protein so you’ll have the energy you need to get through the day.
Get some good, restorative sleep. Most experts recommend 7-8 hours per night, but only if you’re sleeping restfully and aren’t distracted by the TV or cell phone notifications. Turn off everything electronic, make sure your bed is comfortable, and shut out the rest of the world for as long as you can.
4. Be present
Meditation is a good way to be more mindful since it calms your breathing and helps you focus on your feelings instead of obsessing over your thoughts. The goal is to carry this mindfulness into your job to help you increase your patience and keep an open mind. When you notice a knee-jerk reaction to something negative, slow your breathing and notice how you feel so you can stay calm.
Of course, the best way to treat burnout is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Pay attention to your feelings throughout the day and use the healthy practices mentioned above to improve your emotional and physical well-being. Take back control—your body will thank you for it.
Noticing burnout across your team?
Development programs guide individuals to best manage the tyranny of the urgent while working strategically toward their goals. This is key in managing workloads and creative energy at the office. An integrated learning experience that incorporates coaching, resources, and hands-on learning can drive new energy and positive behaviors for your team. Learn more here!