Burnout is more than just feeling tired at the end of a 15-hour work day or having survived a challenging week trying to meet a tight deadline.
It is defined as a reaction to prolonged or chronic job-related stress and is typically accompanied with a few defining characteristics, such as exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced professional ability. It typically happens when you feel mentally tired, so overworked and stressed that you are skipping meals, deliberately depriving yourself of sleep just to get back to work and turning down social activities with your family and friends.
Burnout manifests itself both physically and mentally. If left unchecked, it could lead to more serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Classic Symptoms of Burnout
The signs of burnout are gradual and can worsen if ignored. It takes time to recover from stress, so the earlier you recognise the symptoms, the faster you’ll be able to take control of your mental health.
Mental and physical fatigue is one of the clearest indicators of burnout. If you are feeling tired all the time, or lack the energy to do simple things you used to have no problem doing, you might be experiencing the early symptoms of burnout.
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2. Lack of motivation
If you are simply clearing your to-do list instead of finding new and more efficient ways to get things done, you may have lost your motivation at work. The lack of motivation and enthusiasm about your work may also spill over to your personal life. So if your friends and co-workers have given you feedback about your disinterest during dinner or at work, it might be time to re-evaluate your stress levels and how you are dealing with it.
3. Reduced job performance
Have you been producing below your monthly quota? Are you constantly behind deadlines? Did your boss comment on the quality of your work? These are signs that you are not performing in your job. People suffering from burnout often feel negatively about work and it can affect their job performance. Fatigue and a lack of motivation often translate to a more difficult time concentrating at work and lower interest in the tasks that you are working on.
If you recognise some of these signs, you may be suffering from workplace burnout. Rest assured, there are measures you can take to get yourself out of this situation.
4 Ways to Deal with Burnout
Burnout is one of those things that will not go away by itself, so you will need to take some concrete steps to deal with it before it spirals out of control.
1. Sleep and exercise more
Exhaustion can exacerbate the burnout that you are feeling, and lead to serious mental and physical fatigue. Most adults need at least six hours of sleep every night to function properly. If you are not getting that, it’s about time you let your body get the rest it needs. And we are not just talking about one night of sleep marathon to compensate for what you’ve lost. It’s about getting a better balance between work and rest, and not accumulating sleep debt.
Many studies have also shown that exercising could be beneficial for both your body and mind. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that reduce stress and boost your mood. Having a decent amount of sleep and regular exercise routine are essential to improving your physical and mental well-being.
2. Take a break
Burnout stems from work-related stress, so naturally, the best way to combat that is to step away from work and go on a genuine break.
Take a week or two off from work if you can, and put some physical and mental distance between you and your inbox. Be it vacationing in Thailand or going on a yoga retreat, give yourself some breathing space and completely disconnect from your work during this period. You may be tempted to check your emails and messages during your time out, but try your best to resist it. Allow yourself to take the foot off the pedal and cut yourself some slack – you deserve the break.
3. Disrupt your daily routine
Interrupt the humdrum of your daily life by doing something different, anything at all. It could be as simple as reading a book, watching a comedy series or attending a concert. Do something different that disrupts the monotony and keeps things fresh and interesting. This will allow your brain to concentrate on something new for a change and offer a brief respite from your regular obligations. You may even be able to gain some new perspectives from doing something different and apply the newfound learning to your work.
4. Seek support from others
Something that tends to happen to people suffering from burnout is isolation, as they are too often mentally and emotionally drained to keep up with their social relations.
However, it is worth noting that isolating yourself from your support system is extremely detrimental to your mental health. Find time to reconnect with some friends you’ve lost touch with or make an effort to join your colleagues for lunch instead of eating alone at your desk. Some support from others may be just what you need to break out of the burnout cycle.
If you are experiencing symptoms that interfere with how you lead your life, it is important to seek professional help. Working with a healthcare professional can help you manage and reduce your symptoms as safely as possible.
A New Environment May Be What it Takes
Taking a break from work or even trying to sleep after a very long day can be very stressful for people who are dealing with burnout. Sometimes, it is easier to just walk away from the negativity for good, especially if your work is not being recognised by your team and employer.
If you are looking to break away from a burnout, you should think about what will help you be happier in the long run.