Even if you love everything about your job, burnout can still affect you. A person often experiences burnout when they feel as though they are investing more in their work than they are getting out of it. This can happen if a persons job is not rewarding, however it is more likely that it occurs because they are not taking care of themselves.
Before you can treat burnout and prevent it from happening in the future, you need to be self-aware enough to recognise the warning signs so that you know when you need to act. Here are some of the warning signs to watch out for.
Difficulty in both personal and work relationships – When you are stressed it affects everything you do, especially the way in which you interact with others. You may feel as though you are keeping your stress under control at work, however you may find it then manifests itself at home instead and as a result your relationships can suffer. In general stress makes a lot of people more likely to lose their cool, snap at others and get involved in unnecessary conflicts. On the other hand, some people tend to avoid those they care about and become more withdrawn.
Cognitive Difficulties – Research has shown that the prefrontal cortex is hammered by stress, this is the part of the brain which is responsible for executive function. Executive function impacts your memory, emotional control, ability to make decisions and focus. When you realise you are forgetting important things, making silly mistakes and poor decisions or having outbursts of emotion, it is likely that you are on the path to a burnout.
Health issues – Burnout has a severely negative impact on both you mental and physical health. If you’re experiencing depression, back pain, frequently sick etc. you need to take a step back and ask yourself what role your job is playing in this. When you realise that burnout is actually affecting your health, you need to decide whether the approach you currently take to work is worth the consequences.
Bringing your work home – If you are lying awake at night worrying about all the work you never got around to completing and praying that you didn’t miss anything important, this is a sign. When you can’t get work out of your head when you get home, it’s a very sure sign that you are burning out.
Fatigue – A lot of the time, burnout leads to exhaustion as a result of the toll the stress is taking on both your body and mind. The indications that you are experiencing burnout fatigue are drinking significant amounts of caffeine to help you to get through the day or waking up with no energy even after you have had a good night’s sleep.
Decreased satisfaction – The vast majority of the time, burnout leads to a sense of dissatisfaction. The people and projects that once made you excited don’t anymore. This fall in satisfaction makes it difficult at work as no matter what you put into it, you don’t feel as though you are getting much out.
Loss of motivation – When we first start our jobs, we tend to see things through rose coloured glasses. Motivation comes naturally to you in this phase. However, if you are experiencing burnout, it is hard for you to find the motivation to complete the job. You may still complete your tasks and do it well, but the motivation you had at the start which used to drive you is no longer there. You do the work now, for fear of missing deadlines or getting fired, not for the sake of the work itself.
Performance issues – A lot of people who burn out tend to be high achievers and so if their performance starts to fall, other people don’t always see it. It is important to monitor any slips, compare how you were performing last month to a year ago, with your current performance. If you notice a dip in your performance, you need to work out if burnout is responsible.
Poor self-care – We constantly struggle against things that feel good in the moment but aren’t actually good for you. When burnout occurs
How to fight burnout!
Disconnect: This is the most important strategy on the list as if you can’t electronically remove yourself from work you haven’t really left! If you make yourself available for work 24 hours a day you are opening yourself up to a constant stream of stressors which will prevent you from recharging. If you can’t take the whole evening or weekend off, try setting specific times to check in on your emails and return voicemails. For example, during the week you can only check your email for 30 minutes after dinner or on the weekends maybe an hour after breakfast would be a good time for you. By scheduling small time blocks, you can alleviate stress without having to sacrifice you availability.
Watch out for your body signals: It is easy to put that stomach ache down to something you ate or that headache down to dehydration or looking at your computer for too long, however quite often this is not the case. A lot of the time, these aches and pains can be the result of an accumulation of anxiety and stress. Burnout manifests in the body so it is important that we learn to pay attention to the signs our body gives us so that you can stop burnout before it starts. This involves a certain level of self-awareness.
Schedule time for relaxation: It is equally as important to plan out time for relaxation as it is for planning time for work. Scheduling in things like ‘take a 30-minute walk’ or ‘read for 30 minutes’ can make a huge difference. Actually scheduling in these activities is a good way of making sure that they actually happen and also gives you something to look forward to.
Avoid sleeping pills: Anything that sedates you, so you can sleep should be avoided as these substances seriously disrupt the brain’s natural sleep process. When you sleep your brain removes any harmful toxins, it goes through a number of stages working through the memories of the day and either storing or discarding them. Sedation however, alters the brain’s natural process by interfering with these cycles. Anything that messes with the natural sleep process of the brain has serious effects on the quality of your sleep and to avoid burnout you need good quality sleep.
Get yourself organised: A lot of the stress we feel on a day to day basis actually comes about as a result of being too disorganised to effectively deal with the work. When you take a bit of time to get yourself organised you will feel lees stressed as the load of work will feel more manageable.
Take regular breaks: Physiologically we work best in windows of between an hour to an hour and a half with a following 15-minute break. If you wait to take a break until you are tired you have missed the peak productivity window. If you keep to a schedule you can make sure that you work when you are the most productive.
If you have tried these strategies and still feel no difference then you may need to take a look at your job and decide if that is the problem. The wrong job alone can cause burnout, if this is the case you will have to decide if your job is worth your health. For more articles on self-awareness check out our website at www.rfc.ie
Valcour, M. (2016) Beating Burnout [online] https://hbr.org/2016/11/beating-burnout
Bradberry, T. (2016) 7 Powerful Ways To Beat Burnout [Online] https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/11/08/7-powerful-ways-to-beat-burnout/?utm_source=LINKEDIN&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Malorie%2F#19e2403a61e6