Everyone has a breaking point. If you push and push and go and go, eventually you’ll burn yourself out.
That’s why it’s critical to fight against job burnout as a proactive part of your career strategy.
Given everything that’s happened over the last two years, it’s no surprise that job burnout became more commonplace:
- 60% of adults felt burnt out during the pandemic (HBR)
- 85% felt like their well-being declined over the course of the pandemic (HBR)
- 84% experienced stress-related emotions over the course of the pandemic (APA)
But you don’t have to be in a pandemic to experience job burnout. In fact, it can creep up at any time.
When you take on a new role, job burnout can be particularly nefarious. You want to make your mark and add value to the organization, so you go full speed ahead. But then you hit the inevitable wall, and your performance starts to slip.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can proactively fight against job burnout, setting you up for greater success in your organization.
What is Job Burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive or chronic stress. Those experiencing job burnout usually experience a lack of energy or motivation, or even a sense of hopelessness regarding their job.
Typically, burnout consists of three components:
- Depleted energy or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from the job—including cynicism or negativity
- Reduced effectiveness on the job
Burnout goes much further than mere fatigue. Fatigue is part of it, yes, but the other two components are necessary for it to be considered burnout.
If you’re wondering whether or not you’re burnt out, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you become more critical or cynical lately?
- Do you have trouble starting your day?
- Are you irritable or impatient with people at work?
- Is your productivity slipping?
- Do you no longer get satisfaction from your job accomplishments?
- Are you self-medicating with food, drugs, or alcohol?
- Have you changed your sleep habits?
If you answered “yes” to the majority of those questions, then it’s quite possible you’re experiencing job burnout.
What Are the Causes of Job Burnout?
There’s no one, clear reason why people experience job burnout. However, here are a number of factors that come into play.
Lack of control.
When you don’t have the power to make key decisions about how you do your work, you can start to feel discouraged and burnout can set in. This is also the case when you aren’t given the resources to do your job.
Unclear job expectations.
Expectations are key to a functioning work environment. If your supervisor doesn’t give you clearly defined expectations, then stress can take hold and impede your ability to do your job.
Your relationships with your coworkers can set the tone for your entire work experience. When there’s drama in the office, it’s easy to let it overwhelm you.
Extremes of activity.
The best jobs are neither monotonous nor chaotic, but strike a happy balance. When you spend too much time on one side or the other, then it’s easy to become exhausted and bored with your work.
Remember: you work to live, not live to work. If work is constantly getting between you and your family, friends, hobbies, and other “life” stuff, then you’re going to end up resenting the job.
How to Fight Against Job Burnout
The best way to fight against job burnout is to take a proactive approach. By prioritizing your mental and physical health, you can ensure that you’re in peak performance when you show up to work.
Here are six tips to take action and prevent burnout before it becomes too big of a problem.
1. Practice healthy habits.
Your mental health and physical health are inextricably linked. After all, your brain is part of your body!
Even though we often use unhealthy habits to cope with stress, try to fight against them. Eating well, practicing good hygiene, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly can all help stave off burnout.
2. Set boundaries (especially if you WFH).
One downside of working from home is that it blurs the lines between work and life. However, one of the keys to fighting burnout is to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Try keeping your work computer and materials in a separate room if possible, and at the minimum set office hours for yourself. It will help you use your off-time to recharge and come back to work the next day in fighting shape.
3. Schedule time off.
If you’re starting to feel burnt out, see how long it’s been since you had a vacation. Taking a week to refresh and recharge can do wonders for your energy levels and mental health, even if you don’t end up taking a trip.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Although it seems like the “trendy” thing to do these days, practicing mindfulness is proven to reduce stress and help you process your emotions. This can be as simple as a five-minute meditation practice where you focus on your breath, scan your body to identify aches and pains, or engage in a simple yoga practice.
The goal here is to keep your mind from running amok so you can manage and control your negative thoughts.
5. Reach out to loved ones.
Sometimes, a little perspective can help you to bring you back into alignment. Talking to a loved one—whether a parent, sibling, significant other, or friend—can help you to feel less isolated. This, in turn, will improve your resilience.
6. Lighten your load.
Sometimes, burnout happens because you have too much on your plate. Remember: you can only handle so much! If you’re working 60-80 hours a week, on top of your personal and familial obligations, you’re almost certain to burn out at some point.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t put in extra work for a set amount of time. For instance, the first 90 days of a new role are a critical time in your relationship with the company. You want to invest extra time to prove your value to them.
But if this continues over the long haul, that can be a problem. There are a number of strategic ways to lighten your load:
- Become an expert at prioritization, and focus on the tasks and projects that deliver maximum value to the company
- If the workload continues to pile up, consider hiring someone (even an intern) to take on some of the smaller tasks
- Remember to take breaks throughout the day and give yourself the chance to recharge
You’ll want to be open and transparent about communicating these things with your supervisor. If you have a good relationship with your manager, they can help you figure out a good path forward.
Final Thoughts on Fighting Job Burnout
If you experience job burnout, it’s important to know that’s not a death sentence for your relationship with a company. With the tips listed above, you can actively fight against it and have a long, well-established tenure with the organization.
Make sure that you communicate with your team if these feelings of burnout become more serious. Sometimes the fix is simple, and it can lead to great things for you, your team, and your company.
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