7 Tips To Identify and Prevent Burnout
Do you ever feel like you're on a deadline but never seem to get anywhere? That no matter how much sleep you get, or how many breaks you take, you can’t seem to shake the feeling of fatigue that seems to emanate from your very core? If so, you just may be experiencing burnout.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what burnout is, the signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing, and some tips for how to prevent it.
You Know You're Tired—But Are Your Burnt Out?
Burnout is a condition that was first coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. It describes an acute stress reaction that causes physical, mental, and emotional strain.
Feeling constantly drained, struggling to concentrate, and a general feeling of apathy towards your work are all major red flags for burnout.
Other tell-tale signs and symptoms include:
Feeling overwhelmed or underutilized at work
Cynicism or pessimism about your job, life, or the world in general
Constantly fantasizing about getting away from everything
Fatigue, exhaustion, and lack of energy
Isolating oneself from friends and family
Loss of appetite or overeating
Increased sick days or time off from work
If you’re experiencing any two or more of these symptoms, it’s likely that you’re suffering from burnout and should take some time to address the issue.
Herbert Freudenberger, the psychologist who coined the term "burnout", outlined how it manifests in 12 distinct phases in a sweeping review of the concept:
Ambition- More ambitious people are likelier to be susceptible to burnout
Pushing yourself to the limit- Once you've reached the limit, burnout is not far behind
Disregarding your personal needs-You start sacrificing your rest, exercise, and nutrition
Targeting others- Instead of taking stock of your excessive workload, you displace any anger or resentment onto others, blaming them for what you're feeling
Retreating from any non-work activities- You stop caring about the things you used to enjoy and isolate yourself from friends and family
Not taking responsibility for your changing behavior- You see yourself as a victim and not in control of your life
Withdrawing from your social networks- Interacting with others starts to feel like a chore
Becoming more irritable, aggressive, and pessimistic- You're more snappy and short-tempered than usual, and everything seems like a downer
Depersonalization- You feel removed from your existence; you feel as if you're only along for the ride rather than living your life.
Feeling empty inside- If you're feeling anxious or empty, you may turn to thrill-seeking behaviors to cope, such as abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances. You may also find yourself binge-watching Netflix, gambling, or eating excessively.
Depression- Life begins to lose its luster and you feel hopeless
Physical or mental collapse- You start losing the ability to cope with everyday stresses; small issues can set you off—medical attention may be necessary to help you break out of the burnout cycle
Don't Let It Get to You
Identifying burnout is simply the first step; the next is taking action to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Seven tips to stay ahead of burnout:
Take breaks throughout the day and week, even if you only have five minutes to yourself
Stay organized by setting realistic goals for yourself instead of trying to take the point on every little thing
Talk openly about how you're feeling with your friends, family, and coworkers
Invest in your emotional wellness by making time for activities that bring you joy outside of work, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with loved ones
Make sure to get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy diet
Maintain wellness by practicing stress-relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises
If the burnout is work-related, try to renegotiate your workload or find a new job that's a better fit for you
Burnout can be very harmful both physically and mentally if left untreated. It's important to be proactive and take steps to identify it early on so you can address the issue before it gets out of hand. By following the tips above, you can help yourself stay healthy and avoid burnout altogether.
Getting Out from Under
If you're already experiencing the signs and symptoms of burnout, it's important to take action right away. Getting professional help would be best but, if that's not an option, here are a few things you can do to start feeling better:
First, identify what's causing you stress and see if there's anything you can change or remove from your life.
Second, make time for yourself. Dedicate at least 30 minutes each day to doing something you enjoy—whether it's reading, going for a walk, or taking a bath. Overwork can lead to physical changes, such as heavy eyebags as well as dry and flaky skin, making you feel worse about yourself and adding to your stress.
Third, talk to someone. Venting to a friend or family member can help lighten the load and make you feel more supported.
Fourth, take care of yourself. Make a concerted effort to eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise. These things may seem like common sense, but when you're overwhelmed they can be the first to go.
Try reaching out to your boss or Human Resources department for assistance. You might think that you have to tough it out and soldier on through the burnout, but that's doing more harm than good.
Burnout can be a very scary thing, but with the right tools and support, you can overcome it. It's easy to forget that you're not alone while burnt out but, by following the tips above, you can start to feel better in no time.
Remember: burning out doesn't mean that you're a bad employee, it just means that you need to take a step back and reevaluate your work-life balance. Over time, you'll learn how to better manage stress and avoid burnout altogether.
Words by Katherine Pierce