Burnout can happen to anyone. But, it’s most likely to strike the most dedicated and passionate professionals. That’s because job burnout emerges as a result of chronic overwork, certain types of work stress, lack of work-life balance and lack of self-care. Therefore, the folks who are the most driven and committed to their jobs tend to be the most vulnerable.
Sound familiar? If so, it might be time to make some changes. Beat burnout in its early stages, before it becomes a bigger problem. If the situation goes unchecked for too long, it could destroy your career.
5 warning signs of burnout:
There’s a big difference between feeling tired and being burned out. If a few days off would solve your problem, you’re probably just tired or stressed and need some time away. This problem tends to run a little deeper.
1. You’re more irritable and impatient
It’s perfectly normal to have off days. But, if you notice that you’re more irritable or impatient with clients, bosses and/or coworkers, it could be an indicator of burnout. This state can make you feel more pessimistic and even more hopeless. So, it stands to reason that it’s difficult to be your normal sunny self when feeling the effects.
You may not even realize that your impatience is correlated with your feelings about work. It might seem like it’s about the people. But, take some time to be honest with yourself about whether you’re feeling more irritable with others because of increased negative feelings in your day-to-day work-life.
2. You’re working toward goals that don’t resonate
Burnout doesn’t just happen because of long hours. The problem goes beyond mere physical exhaustion.
If you feel that you’re routinely working toward goals that simply don’t resonate with you, it could be taking a major toll. Having a sense of purpose and connectedness to what you do is really important. You may feel some internal turmoil when doing your job when that sense of meaning and connection is missing.
Perhaps you find yourself parroting the company’s beliefs and ideas when working with clients even though they go against your own. Or, maybe you’re working on projects without understanding the value and without feeling invested. Over time, doing this kind of work can lead to burnout.
Time for a new job? Take the PayScale Salary Survey and find out how much you could be earning.
3. You’re less productive
Feeling burned out at work has a big impact on your energy levels. You might start to notice that it’s harder to concentrate and stay engaged at work than it used to be, for example. When this becomes a chronic problem and not an issue that can be reconciled with a little time off and rest, take note.
Burnout can impact your productivity and your efficiency at work. This happens when feelings of exhaustion and mental depletion couple with an increased sense of distance or disconnect from your job. You might notice that you’re more distracted than you used to be. Or, you might realize that you aren’t able to stay focused as well, or for as long, as in the past. If you’re less productive and efficient than you used to be at work, or if you simply care less about doing a good job, it could mean that you have a problem.
“A lot of it is just not caring anymore,” said Alice Domar, PhD, Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, speaking with The Muse. “You think, ‘Okay, I’m going to go to work and I’m going to complete the tasks that are set in front of me. But I’m not going to put myself into it and I’m not going to go out of my way to improve it. I’m just going to do the bare minimum to get by.”
4. You’re not taking care of yourself
It takes a lot of energy to pull yourself through the workday when you’re not engaged. Over time, this drains your energy and motivation — and that can lead to some pretty self-destructive behaviors.
Some people engage in unhealthy coping strategies when they’re feeling this way. So, if you notice that you’re drinking more, exercising less or eating less healthy food than you used to, take note. Sleeping more — or less — than you used to might also be a sign.
5. You’re dreading going to work
It’s natural to feel some resistance to going to work, especially after a weekend or a vacation. Of course, everyone is different. How much you enjoy your job has a big impact on how you feel heading into work, as will your general disposition and approach to life.
Burnout can elevate negative feelings about your job. So, if you’re beginning to notice that you’re feeling more dread and internal resistance to getting out of bed in the morning and heading into work, it’s something to pay attention to. Dreading going to work is an indicator of burnout. Generally, it only gets harder to live with these feelings as time goes on.
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today,’” said Steve Jobs in his commencement speech to Stanford’s 2005 graduating class. “And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Tips for combating burnout:
- Recognize the signs – It’s nearly impossible to solve a problem that you haven’t identified. So, pay attention if you notice any signs of burnout, and be honest with yourself about what’s happening. Don’t just ignore the problem. It’s better to catch burnout early. If left unchecked, it could cause serious professional consequences.
- Take time off – Exhaustion and chronic stress aren’t the only factors that contribute to the problem. But, they certainly don’t do anything to help you feel better either. So, take a little time off if you can to reset your energies. Getting some time away can help you catch up on rest and regain some much needed clarity. It can allow you the time and space you need to evaluate your feelings about your job. You’ll likely gain some new perspective on how best to proceed once you’ve had a little time away.
- Get support – If you’re struggling, it could be very helpful to seek support both at work and outside the office. Talking with friends or family about what you’re going through can help you cope. Depending on your relationship with your boss, you may also want to discuss the situation with your manager. You can work together to evaluate your options and come up with some solutions that will help you feel more aligned with your work.
- Do interesting things during your downtime – Experts say you can help combat job burnout by maximizing your off-hours. Taking the time for “restorative experiences that you look forward to” can really help you cope. You’ll get more energy from doing things that engage your interest than you will from lying on the couch. Although lounging around might seem like a great way to relax, it can often leave you feeling even more fatigued and listless. Focus on “approach goals” like going for a hike somewhere new or meeting an old friend for a meal. Researchers have found that these kinds of goals are more enjoyable to achieve than “avoidance goals,” like not checking work email on the weekends.
- Make adjustments at work – You don’t have to leave your career to feel better. Sometimes, a change of responsibilities is all it takes to find new motivation and enthusiasm for your job. You’ll most likely have some new ideas about what would help once you’ve had some time to rest and restore your energies. A change of pace can go a long way. If talking to your boss isn’t an option, make adjustments to the way you work independently. Try changing things up by completing tasks differently or working with new people when you have the option. Or, consider unplugging from work more during your off hours. Even small changes can make a big difference.
Tell Us What You Think
Are you experiencing signs of job burnout? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.