Burnout can affect not only your work but also your relationships and your health. It’s important to know what burnout is and its symptoms so you can spot them quickly and take steps to intervene.
Burnout is the effect of chronic, long-term stress. The result of this stress leads to the inability to function well at work or in your personal life. Most people suffer from physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and the feeling that they can no longer achieve. Even if you love your job, you can still be at risk for burnout.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Understanding the symptoms of burnout gives you the ability to take care of yourself before things get worse. Daily tasks, such as getting exercise and fresh air and doing something outside of work that you enjoy, can help prevent burnout. For others, taking leave or going on vacation can help. The best practice is to stop burnout before it starts. Here are the top 10 signs you’re heading toward burnout.
You get sick more often. From colds to heart disease, your body starts wearing down under the constant stress.
Inability to sleep. Stress leads to insomnia in many people.
Physical fatigue. You feel wiped out at the end of your workweek, or sometimes even before.
Mental fatigue. Constant stress leads to forgetfulness and the inability to concentrate. You may find that making decisions is difficult.
Irritability. You may feel irritable at work or in your personal life. Little things that used to not bother you begin grating on your nerves.
Feeling apathetic. You’re heading toward burnout if your attitude is “What’s the point?” You may feel hopeless about your career, which can spill over into your personal life.
You don’t feel enjoyment at work. Most people find that there’s at least one thing they like about their job, but after a long period of extreme stress, you may find that you dread going to work, or you punch the snooze bar a couple of times more in the morning.
Negativity. Chronic stress leads to seeing the glass half empty. Feeling negative affects everyone around you, at work, and at home.
Anxiety. Constant worry is a classic symptom of burnout. It also produces a steady stream of stress hormones that can be very hard on the body.
Depression. Prolonged stress leads to feeling sad, hopeless, and worthless. You may start to isolate yourself from others, even people you love.
If you find yourself struggling with burnout, here are some tips that can help:
Connect with Others:
Reach out to others who care about you—such as your partner, family, friends, and co-workers.
Let them know what’s going on. They will be glad you reached out and trusted them enough to confide in them.
Develop friendships with your co-workers and colleagues. Having positive social connections at work can remind you to take breaks and make work enjoyable.
If you are working remotely, have as many video calls as you can.
Cut out or limit contact with people who are negative, toxic or bring you down.
Join a social, religious, community, or support group. It can be a place to connect with like-minded people and make new connections.
Attend to Your Needs:
Practice good self-care by:
Getting good, restorative sleep
Getting outside and getting some physical activity every day
Eating healthy meals and staying hydrated
Staying away from using alcohol or substances to cope
Connecting with spiritual supports
Creating daily routines that reduce stress and promote happiness
Focusing on mindfulness by doing meditation, yoga, or focused breathing.
Focus on Work-Life Balance:
Be mindful of taking breaks during the weekday—block time on your calendar to get out for a walk or even just step away from your workspace
Focus on leaving work at work
Set boundaries where you need by communicating needs and delegating tasks
Negotiate your workload, deadlines or work focus
Set goals for what must get done and what can wait
Take allotted vacation time and use it to refresh and re-energize
Schedule workouts, time for journaling, coffee with a friend, or reading a book into your calendar.
If you need more help, seek support:
If you are struggling with burnout, reach out to your EFAP for support. The EFAP offers personal counselling, which can help you identify strategies for coping and reducing burnout.