Things get difficult, and we recover. Then, they get really difficult, and we recover again. But then there comes a time when, despite trying and giving the best we can, we crumble. Whether it's because we didn't give ourselves enough time to heal from previous trauma or because we, day to day, can't catch a break under constant and continual external stressors, the result is the same – we feel hopeless, demotivated, and miserable.
But everyone feels like that at times, don't they? Change, even if toxic at times, is okay, isn’t it? Stress at work is normal, insomnia comes and goes, things get busy, so a little bit of anxiety here and there is nothing to worry about, right? No, no and no.
Being actively exposed to stress and pressure at work is not a healthy, normal way for things to be. If you constantly feel stuck, if you feel like you are on this hamster wheel that never stops spinning, it's time you stopped brushing those red flags aside and actually addressed the problem. The problem being – burnout.
What's burnout, anyway?
Although there still isn't a centralized definition of what burnout is, the World Health Organization defined it as a "state of vital exhaustion." It's now classified as a "syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." The WHO emphasizes that burnout is strictly work-related, and "should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life".
We all have bad days
A bad day at work does not exhaustion make, and "a few bad days" aren't what qualifies as burnout.
Burnout is a permanent state of exhaustion, a feeling of depletion whenever being presented with a new task. A person feels like they no longer have mental or emotional resources to deal with anything work-related, and their mood doesn't seem to pick up. Essentially, burnout is not about having a tough few days or weeks; it's a permanent state of depressed-like behavior that goes on for an extended period of time with no apparent way of that changing.
How does burnout differ from sporadic stress?
Although it's never simple to tell what's what when it comes to stress, the easiest way to tell these two apart is to understand that burnout is a long-lasting feeling of demoralization and hopelessness while sporadic stress is, well, sporadic. Burnout does not allow you to "switch" to a better mood, while occasional stress does.
What to do if you're experiencing burnout?
If you start exhibiting any behaviors/feelings discussed above, talk to your doctor before you talk to your manager. The doctor will probably suggest a lifestyle change and advise you to make healthier lifestyle choices. What you should personally do is ask yourself if it may be time for a career change or a company change. Also, see if there's anything you can do to reduce stressors at work. If it comes to it, speak to your manager about taking some time off. You’ll be even better when you come back rested, that’s for sure!
If you are worried that you may be experiencing burnout, here are the most common symptoms to look for:
#1 Work no longer excites you
You wouldn't be the first one to start slacking at your dream job in the midst of losing all motivation. Burnout does that to a person, and it's actually a pervasive symptom people experience. You may have been the most excited and fulfilled person at work, but the fact that you no longer show interest or get any satisfaction from the projects you complete shows that burnout's got to you. If you don't react in time, the attitude of indifference towards work-related subjects may extend to your life outside of work.
#2 You are reluctant to put in the effort
Most people suffering from burnout feel like they must convince themselves to even go to work, let alone complete their tasks. For the most part, it's all about "I'll do the bare minimum, no further investment of myself into the project." In the case of burnout, this is not about being disrespectful to one’s company and/or colleagues; it's survival. Also, burnout is known to appear in people who have the reputation of being high achievers, so a change in their behavior is more apparent than it would be in someone whose efforts at work were average.
#3 Your performance is suffering
Being the primary parameter of one's dedication to work, performance is the first to suffer under someone's burnout. The problem is that, no matter how aware the person becomes of their poor results, they just don't have it in them any longer to try and fix the situation. They want to, but they feel like they can't.
If you ever start feeling like this, take this red flag seriously and re-evaluate your next steps realistically. Try relying on workflow management apps like PomoDone App; pick up hobbies that’ll make you happy; invest in your relationships outside of work. Still, if none of it helps, consider taking some time off of work.
#4 Frequently missing work
As someone who's lost all joy related to work, the fact that you are chronically late or even find excuses to frequently miss work doesn't surprise at all. However, if you find yourself constantly finding excuses not to go to work or you keep calling in sick (even when you are not), it may be time to stop and think if what you are doing is a consequence of burnout.
#5 Persistent cynicism at work
If your workplace has become a torture-chamber causing you to feel frustrated, pessimistic, suspicious of your colleagues/boss's intentions, etc. you may be experiencing burnout. Usually, the feeling known as "being sick of it," and feeling annoyed with everything and everyone all the time, is predominant in burnout.
#6 Stress-related health problems
Not everyone experiences burnout in the same way in terms of physical manifestations, but some of the most common health problems reported include:
- Immunity dropping
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Stress-eating/refusing food
- Changed behavior: Cynicism/negative attitude
Naturally, all of the symptoms mentioned above could be a result of something else. However, if you are experiencing them in relation to work, they may suggest burnout.
Along with all of this, know that recovering from burnout takes a lot of time and energy. Don't force yourself into healing quickly, but rather – let your body and mind recover at their own pace. Good luck!
About the author:
Michael Deane has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael's work at Qeedle.
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