More and more people find themselves feeling overwhelmed and drained by their job. You might be asking: “Am I experiencing burnout?” If so, you’re not alone. Burnout is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion caused by stress, which can lead to a lack of motivation, feelings of cynicism, or a negative attitude towards your job and your clients.
When it comes to burnout, there are several signs you can look out for in yourself. These include feeling exhausted, having trouble focusing on your work, experiencing anxiety or depression, and having a negative attitude about what you do for work. Other signs include lacking inspiration, being less able to cope with problems at work or home, and finding it harder to complete tasks.
What is burnout
Burnout is the point where you just feel completely drained and exhausted by your work, so much so that you stop caring about it and often start to resent it. It can affect any type of job, from a fast food cashier to a surgeon performing life-saving operations. There are ways to keep burnout at bay, whether your job feels particularly draining or not.
What causes burnout?
Burnout mainly happens when you have an imbalance in the three components that make up your job: the effort you put in, the reward you get out of it (including intrinsic rewards such as fulfillment), and how much control you have over how you do your job. When one of these components is out of balance with the others, stress levels rise. For example, if you don’t feel you’re getting enough reward for the work you do you lose the motivation, eventually start feeling under-appreciated, and lose your will to continue working.
Signs and symptoms
It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of burnout and know what steps to take to prevent it from happening to you.
Some common symptoms of burnout are:
- You start making more mistakes at work.
- You have a hard time concentrating on the task at hand.
- You don’t enjoy going into the office anymore.
- You have trouble sleeping or getting along with your family and friends.
- You’re more irritable than usual.
- You’re having more accidents than usual, like bumping into things or dropping items.
- You’re experiencing a lot of tension in your body that’s difficult to relieve, like migraines or backaches.
- Your memory or concentration has gotten worse than it was before.
- You feel hopeless about the future and pessimistic about what lies ahead for you at work.
Stress vs Burnout
Stress and burnout can feel like the same thing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between stress, the temporary feeling of being overwhelmed, and burnout, a state of mental exhaustion that might last for months or even years. If you’re not careful, stress can turn into burnout—and burnout can make your stress worse. Both can wear on you mentally, physically, and emotionally. So how do you spot the difference?
Stress is defined as feeling a sense of pressure or strain from having to deal with something difficult. It’s usually short-term and doesn’t last long; in most cases, you’ll get over it quickly or realize that what caused the stress was really no big deal after all. You might experience stress when you’re facing a tough exam, dealing with an unpleasant boss or coworker at work, or managing a heavy workload. You may also feel stressed if you have problems with family or friends, relationship issues, financial concerns, health issues like heart disease and diabetes, or any number of other things that cause worry in your life.
Burnout is more than just feeling stressed out. It generally refers to exhaustion brought on by chronic stress that lasts for more than two weeks and interferes with your daily life, work, and relationships.
How to deal with burnout
You treat it like any other physical ailment. When someone’s sick and they need rest, you give them space. Similarly, if your brain is feeling exhausted, you need to give it a break. Don’t overwork yourself by cramming hours upon hours of work into every day, nor should you limit yourself to being productive during only certain times of the day. Make time for yourself every day and don’t be afraid to put some things off until tomorrow. If an assignment needs more than one night’s worth of work, take a break before diving back in—it might not seem like much at first but it could save your sanity in the long run.
How to prevent it
The good news is that you can beat it—and prevent it from happening again in the future. Here are some tips on how to do so:
Take breaks—even if they seem counterintuitive at first. Your workday might be packed with activity, but that doesn’t mean you should just plow through every task no matter how much of a slog it is. Instead, schedule time throughout your day and week to take a breather. Some people may suggest microbreaks, where you do something small and simple during an otherwise busy day, like taking a moment to stretch and look up at the sky. As silly as this might sound, it could help keep you grounded and remind yourself of why you decided to do what you do.
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