Everyone goes through a period of feeling stressed at work. It may be in response to an excessive workload, a change in management, or juggling competing demands.
But when does feeling stressed tip over into becoming burned out?
The following five signs may signal that shift.
1. Sheer Exhaustion
It’s that feeling of constantly being tired, both mentally and physically. You may wake up exhausted, rather than refreshed.
2. No Motivation
If you’re burnt out, you’ll likely experience a lack of desire to complete even the simplest of work tasks. Things that may have gotten you enthused in the past – such as a new coding project – simply don’t any longer.
3. Declining Performance
Burnout affects the way you think, putting you in a perpetual state of brain fog. In such a state, it can be hard to concentrate on work. You may notice yourself trying to do as little as possible to get the job done, or excessively procrastinating. Your colleagues or boss will likely pick on this and speak to you about your tardy work.
4. Frequent Negative Emotions
Negative emotions are a normal part of life. But if you feel constantly negative, burnout may be to blame.
This might manifest as being overly pessimistic or cynical, or having a short fuse with colleagues (or family and friends at home). Another sign is wanting to isolate or detach yourself from others, whether it’s at work or socially.
5. Physical Symptoms
Chronic stress (the main cause of burnout) also causes physical symptoms. You might have persistent head or neck aches, a loss of appetite, an inability to sleep, or lower immunity. These might result in frequent illnesses that take longer to resolve.
Note: these are just a selection of burnout signs – there are a number of others. It’s also important to be aware you may not experience all, as burnout manifests in different forms across individuals.
Why Burnout Occurs
Burnout happens when you experience workplace stress over a long period, and no longer have adequate resources to cope with it. It occurs for many reasons; from feeling like you’re an imposter at work, to trying to deal with too many demands, to constantly shifting work expectations.
While burnout is not considered a mental health disorder, the World Health Organisation recently re-labelled it as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, to cover the fact that it specifically relates to stress in the workplace.
Suggestions For Dealing With Burnout
1. Work Out Your Burnout Triggers
Clearly identifying stressors is a crucial part of dealing with burnout. Spend some time thinking about all your worries and list them out. Then try to pinpoint the areas causing you the most angst.
If you struggle to do this on your own, ask for help (see tip 3).
2. Create An Action Plan
Most people who experience burnout spend a lot of time worrying about all the things they need to get done. This is where creating a ‘to-do’ list is beneficial, even for simple tasks. Seeing it written down, prioritising and ticking tasks off goes a long way towards reducing stress. This is the first step in your burnout action plan.
The second part is to attempt to tackle the ‘big picture’ stressors from your burnout trigger list. Pick one and brainstorm what you can do to impact the stress it causes you. For example, if you have too many competing demands, your action point might be to lock in a time this week to speak to your manager about it.
3. Ask For Help
Dealing with burnout on your own is difficult. There are many supports available to help you cope including your manager, colleagues, friends, family, and a range of mental health professionals. Reaching out might be difficult, but you’ll be thankful you did as support is imperative.
If you decide to speak to your manager, provide them with concrete ways they can help. It might be support in allowing you to say ‘no’ when work demands are too great, or a request for flexibility in your work hours.
4. Prioritise Your Physical And Mental Health
Looking after your wellbeing covers the physical – ensuring you’re eating well, exercising and sleeping properly – but it also extends to the mental.
Find way to relax before and after work. Switching your phone to do not disturb at certain times is a good one. Commit to doing things you enjoy. It might be as simple as cooking a meal at a leisurely pace, catching up with a friend each week, or going for a morning jog.
Recognising the signs of burnout is a vital first step in dealing with the stressors causing it. While reaching out to management or family and friends is important, there are also many online resources to further support you.
As you work through the issues, you may find your current role isn’t the right fit for your stage of life. If a change is in order, please get in touch with one of the team here at Rowben, as we’d love to present you with a range of opportunities that may be better suited.