The Mayo Clinic defines job burnout as a type of work-related stress that can lead to a state of physical or emotional exhaustion.
Burnout is a response to extended or chronic job strain and that is characterized by three main components: exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of professional inadequacy. Simplistically, if you feel exhausted, you are beginning to hate your job, or feel less capable at work, you may be showing the first signs of workplace burnout.
While burnout is not recognized as a medical diagnosis, the anxiety that can contribute to burnout can severely impact your professional and personal life – and your health.
What Causes Burnout?
Individuals may experience burnout from varying factors, however, common causes include:
- A demanding workload and a lack of control.
- Personal values that are not in alignment with the organizational values.
- Feeling taken advantage of, not fairly recognized for the value you bring, or undercompensated in your salary.
- Work that has become repetitive.
- Working in a toxic environment.
- Work life imbalances where work has taken over all aspects of your life.
Classic Burnout Symptoms
If you are unable to muster the motivation to be productive, you may be entering burnout. While most professionals can go through bouts of workplace stress, issues arise when these factors continue for a prolonged period.
Understanding root causes and being aware of the signs and symptoms will help you take pro-active steps to reduce the impact of workplace burnout.
Classic indicators are:
Diminished Physical Energy
Prolonged stress can cause you to be drained of your energy. You may have a hard time getting out of bed, have a sluggish feeling during the day, or want to crawl into bed as soon as you get home in the evening. If this is severe, you may want to see your doctor. But if it is a way to avoid work, this could signal burnout.
You Exhibit Avoidance Behavior
If the thought of interacting with people causes anguish or you start to avoid people, events, tasks, meetings, conversations, or even making decisions, you may be heading for burnout.
You Lack Focus or Concentration
Do you find yourself daydreaming or so inattentive that it reduces your productivity? Are you at work physically but your mind is in another place? If so, it might be time to change your routine to help you feel energized.
You Find Yourself Becoming Increasingly Frustrated
Burnout increases your irritability or lack of patience with coworkers, clients, or your customers. Things that normally go unnoticed may have you feeling annoyed. Irritability can frequently extend to your homelife which can leave you in a perpetual cycle of annoyance.
Every Day Feels Like Monday
The “Monday Blues” have given everyone a case of the blahs for a while. Be concerned if this is a daily problem or you notice increased absenteeism.
You Are Bored More Often Than Not
If what once motivated you now leaves you feeling uninspired, it is time to find new ways to breathe life back into your work.
You are Increasingly Disillusioned
Are you finding yourself questioning your purpose at work? Do you still believe in what your company stands for and do you remain optimistic about the future? Not feeling a sense of purpose is a classic symptom of burnout.
You Don’t Like the Person You See in the Mirror
People experiencing burnout have noticed that their physical appearance is not as important as it once used to be. Other classic symptoms include not caring about work or your work relationships.
There is Something You Would Rather Be Doing
I’m not talking about sitting on the beach or spending the day in your boat fishing. I’m talking about a career change. If you know that there is something that continues to rise to the surface and you cannot see a pathway toward satisfaction at work, sticking around for the long haul probably is not going to increase your happiness. The fear of the unknown can be intimidating, but it might be time to address your desires.
Because burnout can become chronic if left unaddressed, it can manifest itself in other ways that can severely impact your physical and mental health, not to mentioned putting your professional growth at risk. It is not an overnight process to overcome it but if you continue to ignore the burnout, it can have far-reaching tentacles that seep into all areas of life.
How to Head Off a workplace burnout:
Understand the Real Issues(s):
What specifically is troubling you? You must understand explicitly what is not going well. You will never be able to address a problem if you do not understand the underlying causes. Then you can determine if this is a temporary situation that can be corrected or one that requires greater action on your part.
Explore Your Options:
Is this something that you can discuss with your boss or Human Resources so that you can work together for solutions? Do you see a way that your job will allow you to be the best version of yourself? Your career should allow you to leverage your strengths so that you can perform at your peak. If you are experiencing a temporary downturn, that can be corrected. If you find that the organization or your role no longer aligns with your values or your interest, you have a decision to make about your future. Look at your long-term perspectives. Do you have a hopeful vision that things will change? If the prospects for reviving your career are not positive, it might be time to move on.
Take Care of Your Body:
For some, yoga, meditation or even tai chi works wonders. For others, taking a walk outside works just as well. Regular physical activity will help you and can protect your health. Research has shown that regular physical exercise also increases mental health.
Set Reasonable and Realistic Expectations:
Enforce reasonable work hours. If you have work overload, how can you set better boundaries without the pressure of continually working beyond normal hours?
Take a Break:
Time away from work gives you the distance you need to relax and de-stress. Taking time off may not make work issues vanish, but the rest you receive will be essential for working on a long-term solution.
Avoid People Who Add to Your Misery:
After spending time with your co-workers, ask yourself how they make you feel. Do they lift you up or do they fester your resentment toward work? Remember, misery loves company. If you are surrounding yourself with negativity, your chance to make positive strides in overcoming your burnout will diminish. Surround yourself with encouraging people who can help you feel rejuvenated and energized throughout the day.
Introduce Meaningful Work or Activities Into Your Life:
If you are unable to change your work duties, what can you do outside of work that will make you feel more excited about life? Meaningful activities do not have to be about work. You can work on a project that spurs your excitement and reduces boredom.
Burnout can take a serious toll on your health, performance, career, mental well-being, and professional and personal relationships. After reflecting on your situation, you conclude that it is time to move on, you have already made progress. No, you may not be able to give your notice today and that is okay. A good job search strategy takes time and planning. It is crucial to know where your new path should lead. Sometimes simply taking steps toward having positive actions will release some of the pressure at work and institute some happiness.