The most creative people on the planet are equally prone to burnout as the rest. And chances are, you too, are facing that doom. Here’s how to stop fanning the flames and extinguish the fire for good.
We’re going to begin with a story today. Having spent nearly 3 decades at her job where she juggled long hours, and endured tedious write-ups, early reporting times, and extremely late hours, Natalie had started to question whether she actually loved her job. Having reached the end of her tether, Natalie was starting to wonder if it was worth staying. You see, she hadn’t exactly fallen out of love with her job or her craft, she had just grown weary of all that came along with it. Simply put, Natalie was facing burnout; and a serious one at that! Here we would like to point out that burnout doesn’t exactly look like it does in the movies where you see an overworked employee collapsing at their desk after a string of late nights and having an outburst at the office thus, quitting on the spot. Burnout is sneakier and is a slow wearing-down that hits all at once.
Most confuse burnout with exhaustion, but contrary to popular belief, the terms are not interchangeable. The concept of burnout is extremely complicated, so much so that it was only in 2019 that the WHO officially defined it as a syndrome. This just goes to show that while 2020 made burnout an even buzzier keyword, we had actually reached a burnout pandemic well before that. If we were to go the statistical route, in a study conducted in 2019, 76% of full-time employees claimed that they felt burned out at work at least “sometimes.” And 28% from the same study reported feeling burned out “always” or “very often.” This should paint a picture of how common this problem is among employees and students.
Burnout is a slow wearing down that usually hits all at once.
ARE YOU BURNED OUT?
The very first thing to do is ask yourself some very direct questions:
1. Are you becoming cynical or critical at work?
2. Are you finding it hard to concentrate at work?
3. Are you forcing yourself to come to work and facing a lack of ideas?
4. Are you facing trouble in falling or staying asleep?
5. Are you finding it hard to appreciate your own achievements?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it might be time to face the music. You’re probably burned out or on the verge of one. Take action immediately or you risk losing your passion. Burnout is especially common if you actually love your job. Loving your work and being passionate about it cause you to put in more effort than necessary which means you make your job the sole focus of your life. On the other hand, if you don’t actually care about your job, you would go home on time and tend to other hobbies which would give you a respite from the stress of the day.
If left unchecked, burnout can have some serious consequences.
If left unchecked, job burnout could actually have some significant consequences. These include alcohol or substance abuse, anger and irritability, fatigue and insomnia, chronic stress, heart disease, blood pressure problems, Type 2 diabetes, and many more. Burnout is usually characterized by three symptoms: exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of efficacy. Those facing burnout usually have a combination of all three symptoms. But depending upon your point of view, you could be experiencing one of these more than you experience the other. So, if you’re facing any of these symptoms, it is time to sit down and evaluate your options.
THIS IS WHAT COULD BE CAUSING YOUR BURNOUT
1. Lack of Control: Finding yourself unable to influence decisions affecting your job; like your schedule, assignments or workload could give way to burnout. This also includes a lack of resources you require to complete your work.
2. Unclear Job Expectations: Being unclear about the degree of authority you possess or what your supervisors or others expect from you could lead you to feel uncomfortable at work. If this feeling persists, it could give way to burnout.
3. Dysfunctional Workplace Dynamics: Have an office bully? Are colleagues undermining your authority? Juniors causing problems for you? Boss micromanaging your work? All of this can contribute to job stress.
4. Lack of Social Support and a Work-Life Imbalance: This is a major one. Feeling isolated at work and in personal life could lead to more stress. And if your work takes up most of your time and over your life, it could diminish your energy for spending time with family and friends.
5. Other Factors: A heavy workload with long hours or working in a helping profession like healthcare or police work could give way to extreme job stress which takes a toll on your mental health.
The passion you possess for your work will only go so far if you stop taking care of yourself.
HOW TO ACTUALLY DEAL WITH BURNOUT
The passion you possess for your work will only go so far if you stop taking care of yourself. And if you don’t take care of yourself, you really cannot take care of other people. Whether it is taking a long hot bath with colorful bath bombs, or going to a Pilates class once every week, self-care actually helps. And if you’re suffering from exhaustion and burnout, sometimes the only thing that helps are those acts of self-care that we make fun of so frequently like treating yourself to a face mask or going for a mani-pedi. However, self-care is just one step on the ladder, and if you’re exhibiting the other signs of burnout as well such as cynicism and lack of efficacy, you might have to turn to other measures as well. But it is easy enough to tackle these as well, doing kind things for others helps like volunteering or even just treating a colleague to a cup of coffee. The tricky part is tackling the third symptom – the meaninglessness that inefficacy brings along with it. But the first step would be to break down your goals into small, actionable tasks that help you achieve a sense of accomplishment. This is an occupational hazard, so your workplace is equally responsible for inducing measures that help prevent burnout in their employees. To ensure you don’t end up facing burnout, there are a few things you could do on a personal level: Seek out a work environment that aligns with your values, check reviews of companies before accepting job offers, and check whether you actually enjoy doing the work. Keep notes about your workday mentioning what you like and dislike about your day then start looking for patterns and decide if it’s worth staying.
The best solution to combating burnout is addressing the root cause of the problem. Usually, burnout is job-driven, but chronic stress could be caused by other things like financial problems, and relationship woes among other things. Take advantage of the mental health resources of exercise benefits that your employer might be providing you with. Exercising could help take your mind off work and help you deal with stress in a better way. Try to sleep on time every day and get enough rest. Practice mindfulness – it is the art of focusing on your breath and being aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at the moment. Try relaxing activities, anything that you love doing that relaxes you is a great choice to relieve stress Seek out support from your loved ones, it could be a friend or a co-worker, or even your boss if she/he is understanding enough. Keep an open mind and keep quitting as the last resort. Evaluate your options, discuss them with your supervisors and work with them to find a solution to your problem.
Take some time out and practice deep-breathing and mindfulness.
Set boundaries with your co-workers or boss, be assertive, and tell them that you will not be available 24/7. Stick to your contractual obligations, figure out how much you’re legally obliged to work, and stick to it. It is not necessary to over-give to your work no matter how much you love it. Take your sick leaves, take your vacation and paid leaves, work will still be here as you come back. Priorities yourself and ensure you’re taking enough care of yourself. Lastly, keep an open mind as you consider your options, and don’t let an unrewarding job defeat you. Burnout can be dealt with and is not something to fear.