Burnout is a sneaky little devil. And when I say devil, I mean it. In fact, you could be suffering burnout right now, and you don't even know it.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a result of chronic workplace stress. While it's not officially considered a medical condition, it wreaks serious havoc on mental and physical health. The Korn Ferry Institute recently conducted a survey about the impact of workplace stress. 76% of respondents said workplace stress had a negative impact on their personal relationships. 66% said they lost sleep due to work stress. Studies conducted by the American Institute of Stress show that work-related stress is the major source of anxiety for American adults. Many consider stress to be a regular part of the workday. We take on more (responsibility, work hours, dealing with difficult people) without considering the consequences. "It's all in a day's work," we say. We've been brainwashed to think it's true, only to end up damaging our own health and happiness along the way.
4 Telltale Signs of Burnout
Workplace stress gradually seeps into your everyday life. You may see and feel its repercussions but, being a dedicated employee, you ignore the signs. Here are some of the most common signs that you're already in burnout:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion. You used to wake up excited and energized to start your day. Now you wake up with a slight feeling of dread for the workday ahead and your body feels like a lead weight.
- Increased mental distance from your job. You used to have 100% buy-in for your job and your purpose at work. Now everything feels more cumbersome and the negatives outweigh the positives. You don't really care that much anymore.
- Increased cynicism about your job and or co-workers. You used to consider your workplace a happy and healthy second home. Trust in and harmony with co-workers was the norm. Now you're seeing everyone's glaring faults and it's difficult to identify their good qualities.
- Reduced Productivity and or Effectiveness. You used to feel like you conquered the world at the end of your workday. You got a lot accomplished and everything went smoothly. Now you feel depleted and have nothing left to give. Tasks that you used to accomplish easily have become cumbersome and time-consuming.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, it's time to take action. Getting over burnout is much more life-changing than avoiding it altogether.
5 Ways to Avoid Burnout
- Identify Your Current Outlook. You likely have no idea that your current level of stress is leading to burnout. Take a quick survey on The American Institute on Stress to help assess your perception of workplace stress. It's important to understand that you need to conduct your own wellness checks. Others, even those close to you, have no idea that your current level of stress is leading to burnout.
- Stop Ruminating about Work. Minds tend to wander during times of relaxation or rest. Work-related issues seep in and take over thoughts. We ruminate about how the day went and come up with scenarios, most of which will never even happen. A healthy mind requires time to rest and rejuvenate. Identify some solid methods of relaxation that work for you. We promote several good lifestyle hacks here at Roxy Fit Club.
- Use Your Tools. Technology has changed the pace of modern society. Computers, cell phones, and tablets offer access to a mind-boggling amount of information at a moment's notice. People are hitched to their devices and pride themselves on always being available. Time to use your tools to help you in a different way:
- Your online calendar can remind you. I used to have an extremely hectic job. Hours would fly by before I even looked up. Most often, others would suddenly be saying their goodbyes at the end of the workday and I hadn't even taken a lunch break. By that time I was already late to pick up my spouse for our commute home. I added an appointment to my calendar every day: LEAVE. Scheduled at the appropriate time, my computer and cell phone reminded me automatically that it was time to call it quits. This also worked well to send me on a lunch break. Suddenly my days were a bit more manageable.
- Your smart home device can be your personal assistant. If you're like many busy working people, you might have a smart home device (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.) I use Alexa to set reminders, keep a grocery list, and a host of other conveniences. How can your smart home device help you at work? It can remind you to call in for jury duty at the appropriate time with a pop-up on your cell phone. Now your mind is free from having to store that bit of info. It can also remind you of tasks you need to complete throughout your workday. It can even remind you to take three deep breaths and relax. (This is harder than it seems.)
- Take Time Off. Some jobs require longer than normal work hours, some require employees to be on-call 24 hours or more, and some are just always hectic and stressful. People get so wrapped up in their work that sometimes it seems impossible to take time off. What would happen without you? You may be surprised to learn that life goes on whether you take time off or not. More importantly, people who take time off report higher productivity and enjoy more workplace satisfaction. The U.S. Travel Association states that 52% of American employees didn't use all of their vacation days in 2017. A staggering 212 million vacation days are forfeited annually. This only applies to those who actually receive paid time off. More than 15% of American workers don't have this benefit, making the above statistics even harder to believe. Bottom line: Go on vacation, even if it means staying home and enjoying your family and friends. And don't work while you're on vacation.
- Get Adequate Sleep. "I'll sleep when I'm dead!" I hear this a lot. People don't realize that lack of sleep can cause a slow demise. Even more alarming, most people don't realize they are sleep deprived. (We'll discuss sleep deprivation in further detail in a separate post.) Sounds a lot like burnout because sleep deprivation is a good friend of burnout.
Lack of sleep negatively affects work performance and work relationships. Without adequate sleep, it's difficult to concentrate and communicate. People are moody and less tolerant of others. All of these factors, brought on by lack of sleep, accelerate the rocky road to burnout.
While it's difficult to identify how many hours of sleep each individual needs to thrive, studies show that American workers are sleeping less all the time. The National Sleep Foundation, recommends that adults get 7 to 9 solid hours of sleep per night. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, roughly 40% of Americans sleep less than 7 hours per night, with 14% getting only 4 or 5 hours. There is only one solution: to get adequate sleep.
Job burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that can be life-changing. If you have a high workload, work with difficult people or situations, work long hours, or lack work/life balance, you're a prime candidate for workplace burnout. Being mindful of the risk factors and taking immediate action can help you thrive rather than survive.