Burnout is a condition where you’re physically and mentally exhausted. You struggle with simple tasks and your focus plummets. Productivity at work will probably get hit first. If you leave it unchecked, it’ll creep into other areas of your life.
A survey by Deloitte shows that 77 percent of US professionals have experienced burnout, with over half of them having gone through it more than once.
To curb this, organizations have to look beyond wellness programs to combat the issue. One way is to include ‘anti-burnout’ strategies in organizational culture.
Work burnout can be dangerous if not properly handled. Keep reading to know how to identify when you’re showing signs of burnout. You’d also learn the phases of burnout so you can catch it early. Finally, you’ll get tips to manage and avoid burnout, and how to help someone with it.
What is Burnout?
In the 1970s, Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist, describes burnout as the effect of exposure to high levels of stress which causes severe emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.
Burnout comes with a feeling that you can’t cope with the stress and can’t handle your daily responsibilities. This can make it hard to start the day or have a negative perspective to life.
Burnout can affect anyone; those exposed to consistent high-stress situations are more vulnerable. Health workers, for instance, are prone to burnout as they rarely get away from the stress of their jobs.
What Are the Signs of Burnout?
Certain signs can show you’re burning out. If you don’t pay attention and respond, it will get worse. The signs are your body’s way of letting you know it’s time to slow down.
Those signs could be physical or emotional. Kindly note that these signs will be different for everyone. It’s important to be mindful enough to notice when they come up. Those signs include:
- You need shots of caffeine to stay up and go through the day
- Frequent headaches and sickness
- Craving junk food and sugar for energy
- You’re so fatigued that you sometimes sleep off with your work clothes still on
- You often wake up still feeling tired, and it’s a struggle to get out of bed
- Change in sleep and appetite patterns
- Isolation from friends and family
- Loss of motivation
- Feelings of helplessness
- Procrastination and taking too long to get things done
What Are the Stages of Burnout?
Burnout happens over time, which makes it tricky to detect. It doesn’t hit you at once like a stomach bug or flu.
Gail North, also a psychologist, and Freudenberger created the 12 stages of burnout syndrome. They are:
1. Excessive drive and ambition
2. Pushing yourself to work harder
3. Neglecting your needs
4. Displacement of conflicts
5. No time for responsibilities not related to work
8. Behavioral changes
9. Depersonalization—a feeling of disconnection from yourself
10. Inner emptiness or anxiety
12. Mental or physical collapse
How Can I Avoid Burnout?
While it’s useful to know when you’re burning or burned out, it’s important to know how to manage it. It’s better to avoid burnout, but if you already exhibit some of its signs, these tips too can help.
Exercise benefits the body in many ways, including reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin. That’s not all, it also makes your body produce endorphins—brain chemicals that serves to boost your mood and act as a painkiller (1).
Research has shown that 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise gives you a calming effect that can last several hours afterward.
If you can’t churn out 30 minutes at a time, you can find 15 minutes twice or 10 minutes three times a day for a mini workout.
It’s important to eat balanced and healthy meals. This will keep your hormones in check and avoid disruption.
Omega-3 fatty acids can serve as a natural antidepressant. So, eat foods rich in it, such as fish, walnuts, and flaxseed oil, for a boost in your moods.
Get sufficient sleep
Sleep is essential for your wellbeing. Not getting enough sleep makes you vulnerable to stress and lowers your cognition, hence dwindling productivity.
Your body needs sleep to rest and reset. When you notice the signs of burnout, you can respond by changing your sleep patterns to see how it helps.
National Sleep Foundation suggests you create a relaxing ritual when it’s nearing your bed time. It’ll help you fall asleep faster and remain so for longer. The foundation also suggests that you avoid taking caffeine and using smartphones close to bedtime.
Be in control
This doesn’t mean you should turn into a control freak. Schedule the events within your control in your favor. Avoid packing them too closely; give some room for unseen circumstances. That way, you won’t overwhelm yourself.
As for the things outside your control, you’re better off accepting them and moving on. Focusing on those will only bring you more stress without resolution.
There’s no award in life for doing everything yourself. If you need help, ask for it. Trying to get everything done yourself is a quick way to burnout. Surround yourself with capable hands and delegate the things you can.
If you let it, work will creep into your personal time. Don’t take work home, tomorrow is another day to get it done. Overextending yourself is the beginning of burnout, refer to stages 1 and 2 of the burnout syndrome.
For no reason should you work through weekends. Those are the days you should get work out of your system and reset. It might seem like you’re hard working at first, but your productivity will soon suffer. Remember, all work and no play…
Protect your energy
This will require some emotional intelligence (EI). Learning how to sense and avoid conflict is a valuable skill in the workplace. Arguments can quickly drain your energy, and working through a depleted level of energy will make things worse.
So, be mindful of the people you’re dealing with, and your environment. In that vein, most times, you might be your own worst enemy. Your thoughts can drain you faster than people and environment.
With a high EI, you can read your mood, and when negative thoughts are brewing. Deal with them early by thinking positively or expressing gratitude. As your mood changes for the better, you can focus and do your best work.
How Can I Help Someone Who’s Dealing with Burnout?
Burnout is more common than you might think. If you’re not burned out, chances are you know someone who is, or might be.
You’d be of great value if you could help a friend or family deal with burnout. Learn ways you can support them to deal with the burden.
Talking about your problems can make you feel better. So, if you want to help a friend, offer a listening ear and let them voice out how they feel and what they’re going through. This can go a long way in helping them find relief.
It’s easy to respond with “I’m sure things will work out fine” or “It can’t be that bad”. Honestly, it’s better not to listen to them at all. Saying such things invalidates their condition.
Show empathy and understand how they feel. If you truly care about the person, it won’t be hard. Acknowledge their efforts and offer words of reassurance. Of course, only if you mean them.
Offer to help
Exhaustion comes with feeling burnout. You can offer to bring them a meal, do a load of their laundry, or run a few of their errands. That will save them some efforts and give them more time to rest.
Help them get professional help
Sometimes, burnout victims might need to see a professional. You can help them look out for one in the area. Going the extra mile and offering to drive them down will bring them joy.
You Don’t Have to Risk Burnout to be Productive
Burnout is a serious issue and you shouldn’t take it likely. If you leave it untreated, it can escalate into depression, diabetes, or heart diseases. Follow the tips above to avoid burnout and to deal with it if it happens.
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