Sure, you love your job. You wouldn’t stay in it if you didn’t love it, right? Well, let’s at least pretend you do for the moment. Do you feel annoyed, exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel on a job that once made you leap out of bed with excitement every morning? It may be due to burnout, and not dissatisfaction with your current role or employer.
After years of unrelenting emails, meetings, projects, and all of the other pressures that most employees face in their day-to-day roles, even the best of us can face burnout at some point during our careers. Traditional theories have us believe that burnout is caused by working too many hours or enduring too much stress in our roles, but that’s generally an oversimplification of the matter. Some people love nothing more than diving deep into their inbox which never reaches the coveted inbox zero, or the ongoing challenges that may arise during overcomplicated projects. Surprisingly, the pressure at work can help some people to perform at a higher level – rather than negatively impact their performance.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you?
SYMPTOMS OF BURNOUT
1) Lack of engagement: Do you feel unmotivated at work? Is your attention span shorter than it has been in the past? You may be finding it harder to focus on individual tasks which you previously found easy to manage.
2) Anxiety or stress: Are you feeling like you’re on the edge? Is everything becoming too much for you to manage?
3) Low energy: Do you feel both emotionally and psychically exhausted? Are evenings spent watching Netflix or alone on the sofa as you feel disinterested in engaging with others?
4) Increased cynicism: Negativity can be toxic. If you’re finding yourself feeling more cranky, negative, cynical and defensive around people, you may be on the path to burnout. It’s not normal for people to have feelings of resentment for a prolonged period of time.
5) Lack of sleep: On average, you should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to perform to the best of your ability. If you’re finding that you’re consistently not doing this, you may risk some level of burnout.
6) Self-criticism: It’s normal for people to be overly critical of some of their actions, but if your mind continues to dwell on these thoughts without stopping, you may be on a one-way path to burnout. Pushing yourself to work harder, do more, accomplish more and hit new milestones on a constant basis is not a healthy state of mind.
If any of the above symptoms sound familiar, you need to put a stop to them now. Avoiding burnout requires a plan of action – a series of preventative measures that you’re held accountable for by someone you trust. This can be a fellow colleague, a partner or a good friend who help you implement a series of steps to protect both your physical and mental health. Many people focus on short-term solutions such as taking a holiday, which can certainly have a positive impact, but the relief is often only temporary. It’s likely the symptoms of burnout will return if you don’t focus on strategies that will have a bigger impact.
Strategies to avoid burnout
1) Regular Exercise: No, we don’t mean taking the stairs over the lift. And no, walking to work instead of taking the bus still doesn’t count as proper exercise, so don’t even try to convince yourself that it is. You probably didn’t even break a sweat.
You need to do an activity that gets your heart rate up, pushes you harder than daily activities and releases endorphins and endocannabinoids that give you a kind of natural high. If you’re not a fan of the gym then don’t worry – you can exercise at home, go to the park or explore the great outdoors. Try to get up earlier than usual or exercise at lunchtime when you would have otherwise stayed at your desk eating lunch. For those that struggle to exercise alone, you can team up with colleagues or friends for some form of fitness challenge so that you have a goal to work towards.
2) Short Recharging Breaks: You can’t work at peak performance from 9-5. Sure, you can be in the zone at particular times of the day which may make it difficult to stop working, but you need to pay attention to both your mind and body by taking regular breaks. It could be something as simple as chatting with other colleagues, popping out for a coffee, grabbing a glass of water, messaging some friends, or stretching your legs by going for a short walk. Sitting at your desk for more than 60-90 minutes without a break is putting unnecessary stress on your body – don’t do it.
3) Treat Yourself: Exercise can be great for releasing stress, but you may hate any form of physical activity or spending any time at the gym. We don’t blame you. You should instead ask yourself: when was the last time I did something for myself? It doesn’t need to be something big or expensive. It just needs to be something that you can look forward to each week which will help you look past your day-to-day tasks, and focus on something exciting and rewarding. This could be a weekly visit to the cinema, enjoying brunch with friends, ordering your favourite takeaway or going home to visit family or friends.
4) Change Your Environment: This isn’t possible for everyone. A lot of companies still have an old-school mentality about remote working, but if you can, take your laptop and spend a week or two working from somewhere else. Most roles nowadays use cloud-based platforms like Basecamp, Dropbox, Google Drive and Skype, so there’s very little that can’t be done from a different location. If your freedom is hindered by disgruntled management, you could ask to work from a different desk or floor in the office as the change in environment can help spark a level of creativity that you would otherwise struggle to achieve through the same day-to-day routine.
5) Be More Accepting Of Yourself: Are you stressed and feeling anxious about life because you’re fighting against your natural tendencies? Do you continually compare yourself to others in terms of appearance, job performance and overall focus in life? You could be your own worst enemy by not taking time to reflect on your own achievements. When was the last time you set aside time to focus on the positive things in your life and what you have achieved in both your career and personal life? Stop being so hard on yourself.
Remember, if you believe that stress and burnout are having a significant impact on your health, you should seek the advice of an appropriate professional. You don’t need to tackle it alone.