Signs you’re burning out, and how to stop it, another article by Thomas Bradberry for LinkedIn. (ME: I typed this up several weeks ago, and posted this tonight after getting home late from a long day at work. Is that a bad sign?).
Even the best jobs can lead to burnout. The harder you work and the more motivated you are to succeed, the easier it is to get in over your head. Burnout is increasing as technology blurs the lines between work and home (ever notice it is always work infringing on home, and not the other way around?). 53% say work leaves them overtired and overwhelmed (some insensitive managers would say just suck it up, not realizing that doesn’t work for everyone). “Burnout from my current job” is one of the top reasons why people quit.
You get burnt out when you feel like you’re putting more into your work than you’re getting out of it. While this happens when your job isn’t rewarding, more often it’s because you aren’t taking care of yourself. Before you can treat and prevent burnout, you need to recognize the warning signs so you’ll know when to take action:
1. Health Problems – either physically or mentally. Back pain, depression, heart disease, obesity, or just getting sick a lot. Consider the role your work plays in this. You’ll know when burnout is affecting your health, and you’ll have to decide whether your approach to work is worth the consequences.
2. Cognitive difficulties: Stress hammers the part of the brain responsible for executive function. This impacts memory, decision-making abilities, emotional control, and focus. When you notice you’re making silly mistakes, forgetting important things, having outbursts of emotion, or making poor decisions, you’re likely burning out.
3. Difficulty with work and personal relationships: Stress bleeds over into everything you do, especially how you interact with people. Even when you feel you’re keeping your stress under control at work, it can rear its ugly head at home. Often it’s your relationships that suffer. Stress makes many people more likely to snap at others, lose their cool, and get involved in silly unnecessary conflicts. Others are more inclined to withdraw and avoid people they care about.
4. Taking your work home with you.
5. Fatigue: Burnout often leads to exhaustion because of the toll stress takes on your mind and body. Waking up with no energy after a good night’s sleep, drinking large amounts of caffeine to get your through the day, or having trouble staying awake at work.
6. Negativity – even when you’re usually a positive person. If you find yourself focusing on the down side of situations, judging others and feeling cynical, it’s clear that negativity has taken hold and it’s time for you to do something about it.
7. Decreased satisfaction: Projects and people that used to get you excited no longer do so. This makes work more difficult because no matter what you’re putting into your job, you don’t feel like you’re getting much out of it.
8. Losing Your Motivation: Instead of going work for the sake of the work itself your motivation stems from fear – of missing deadlines, letting people down, or getting fired. What if those things don’t motivate you?
9. Performance Issues: people who burn out are often high achievers, so when their performance begins to slip other’s don’t always notice. It’s crucial to monitor you slippage. If you see a dip in your performance it’s time to determine if burnout is behind it (is my work slipping, or has the workload increased so much that I’m doing more than ever but it’s not enough to keep up?).
10. Poor Self-Care: Life is a constant struggle against the things that feel good momentarily but aren’t good for you. When you experience burnout your self-control wanes and you find yourself succumbing to temptations more easily. This is mostly due to the way stress compromises your decision-making and self-control, and also partially due to lower levels of confidence and motivation.
FIGHTING BURNOUT – a simple matter of self-care. You need good ways to separate yourself from your work so you can recharge and find balance.
1. Disconnect: the most important strategy. If you can’t find time to remove yourself electronically from your work, you’ve never really left work (not a big problem for me).
2. Pay Attention to Your Body Signals: Oftentimes aches and pains are an accumulation of stress and anxiety. Burnout manifests in your body, so learn to pay attention to your body’s signals so you can nip burnout in the bud. Your body is talking but you have to listen.
3. Schedule Relaxation. Gives you something to look forward to (not a problem for me).
4. Stay Away From Sleeping Pills – anything you take that sedates you so you can sleep. Alcohol, Nyquil, Benadryl, Valium, Ambien. These substances greatly disrupt your brain’s natural sleep process. Have you noticed that sedatives can give you some really strange dreams? As you sleep your brain removes harmful toxins, it cycles through various stages of stages, at times shuffling through the day’s memories for storing or discarding them (which causes dreams). Sedation interferes with these cycles, altering the brain’s natural process. Anything that interferes with the brain’s natural sleep process has dire consequences for the quality of your sleep. You need adequate, quality sleep to avoid burnout. Usually not a problem for me.
5. Get Organized: most of the stress we experience on a daily basis doesn’t stem from having too much work, instead it stems from being too disorganized to handle the work effectively. When you take time to get organized the work feels much more manageable.
6. Take Regular Breaks During the Workday: Physiologically we work best in spurts of an hour and a half, followed by 15 minute breaks. If you wait until you feel tired to take a break it’s too late – you’ve already missed the window of peak productivity, and fatigued yourself unnecessarily in the process. Keeping to a schedule ensures you work when you’re most productive and rest during times you’d otherwise be unproductive.
7. Lean on Your Support System: It’s tempting to withdraw from other people when you’re feeling stressed, but they can be powerful allies in the war against burnout. Spending time with people who care about you helps you remove yourself from the stresses of work and reminds you to live a little and have fun.
RECAP: If these strategies don’t work for you, it may be your job that’s the problem. The wrong job can cause burnout just by itself. In that case you’ll have to decide what’s more important: your work or your health.