Most of us spend the majority of our time at work so when the feeling of dread starts Sunday afternoon, and all you can think about is how you can make it through another week, it can have a heavy toll on your health.
People who find themselves overwhelmed by workplace stress are at higher risk of burnout – a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that leads to loss of interest and motivation. Unaddressed, it can make it hard for the individual to function in their everyday life, even beyond work duties.
The most common symptoms of burnout are:
- Feeling tired most of the time, insomnia and changes in appetite.
- Frequent headaches or gastrointestinal issues as well as weaker immunity
- Feeling alienated from your work and a loss of motivation
- Decreased productivity, trouble concentrating, lack of creativity and cynical outlook
The factors that contribute to burnout can range from poor working conditions, organizational problems, and overall lifestyle along with personality traits such as perfectionism.
Common Causes of Burnout
Workload and Unreasonable Deadlines
Job demands that go beyond human limits are the most common causes of burnout. If your superiors give you unmanageable assignments and tend to be very “optimistic” about how long it should take you to complete them, they’re basically forcing you to either work at an unsustainable pace or work overtime.
Over-Engagement with Your Work
While we tend to see dedication and commitment to one’s job as a good thing, over-engagement can make you identify so strongly with your work that you have trouble setting healthy boundaries. You try to give it your all, which means you take on more than you can handle. Since you don’t give yourself enough time to rest and recover, this increases your risk of burnout.
Lack of Control
Feeling like you have no say in decisions that affect your work life, such as your schedule and assignments can have a negative impact on your mental health. You feel powerless, which leads to higher levels of stress and anxiety. This is an often-underestimated cause of burnout. We tend to focus on workload and time pressure, but lack of control is what often results in high turnover rates. Employees get the sense that there’s nothing they can do to make their jobs more manageable, so their only option is to quit.
Poor Work Culture
The attitude of your superiors and coworkers will also affect your job satisfaction and can lead to burnout. You may have a boss that doesn’t seem to care about your work-life balance and micromanages you. Maybe your colleagues are cliquey and overly competitive, which makes you feel isolated. Perhaps you’re not clear on what’s expected of you, or you’ve noticed instances of unfair treatment and compensation. All these factors increase your stress levels which results in the alienation and cynical attitude we mentioned earlier.
The most efficient way to deal with burnout is to take measures to prevent it. Since this isn’t always possible, you should know that there are steps you can take to recover from burnout.
Prioritize and Make Time for Self-Care
Recovery from burnout truly starts when you take back control and choose to prioritize yourself over a job that’s making you sick.
During your workday, take regular breaks regardless of how inconvenient it might seem. This will help you disconnect, clear your head and recharge. You may think that this is making you less productive, but in fact, trying to push through the exhaustion will only result in doing the same amount of work slower.
If you feel yourself getting angry from something your boss or coworkers said, take a break and use breathing techniques to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. You can also try natural solutions like the ones from Pure Hemp Farms to help you reduce stress and sleep better.
Create a wind-down ritual at the end of the workday to signal your brain that it’s time to disconnect and be present for your family. Talk to your loved ones about how you’re feeling so you can get some support. You’ll also want to set some time aside for at least one hobby. This will help you recharge and regain a sense of balance and satisfaction with your life.
Take a Vacation
If the suggestions above are not enough, you may want to consider taking a vacation or a leave of absence. Your burnout might have stemmed from postponing your much-deserved vacation for too long. According to a study done by the U.S. Travel Association in collaboration with Oxford Economics and Ipsos, 55% of American workers did not use all their vacation days in 2018, resulting in 768 million days from which 236 million were forfeited.
Your problems will still be there when you come back, but a vacation will give you some distance to relax, get some rest and figure out some long-term solutions to your burnout.
Re-Evaluate Your Goals
A major source of burnout is losing sight of your long-term goals. Some time off will give you a chance to take a step back and see if your job aligns with your values and serves your goals. Think about what made you decide to take the job in the first place and what aspect of your work gives you meaning.
This self-analysis will help you gain some insight into what matters most to you and what you’re missing. What would have to change for you to regain your motivation?
Do a Time Audit and Bring More Structure into Your Workday
It’s hard to focus and prioritize when you’re constantly bouncing between emails, calls and meetings. In fact, multi-tasking has been shown to decrease productivity by around 40%. Unrealistic deadlines and managers with poor time management skills only worsen the problem.
Do a time audit to understand where your time and energy are going. The first step is to simply take notes of everything you’ve been doing throughout the day and use an app to calculate what percentage of time these tasks take. You can separate them into answering emails, phone calls, meetings, breaks and so on. You’ll want to do this for at least a week.
Next step is to look over the report and see what you can change to bring more structure into your workday, so your time and energy go on the tasks that matter most. You can even use your notes to discuss the situation with your boss. You can then show them that last week you had to complete x, y, z assignments but this amount of your time was spent on [insert unproductive activity]. Then you can come up with better ways to organize your day and tell them you need their help to deliver the best results possible.