I have experienced burnout and in many ways I was a classic case of burnout: multiple, chronic stressors over an extended period of time left me totally exhausted and no longer performing at my best. In a few short years, I went from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to seriously burnt out and demotivated. Here are signs you could be headed down the same path.
What Exactly Is Burnout?
As it turns out, my story isn’t uncommon; many millennial women are experiencing job burnout before they even turn 30. Burnout has been described as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.”
“A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress,” says Dr. Ballard, who is the head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”
Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. In order to catch burnout and combat it early, it’s important to know what to look out for. Burnout often leads to depression.
The term “burnout” was coined in the ’70s by Dr. Herbert Freudenberger. But what exactly is burnout? Researchers say burnout can be broken down into three parts:
Exhaustion from burnout could lead you to being easily upset, having trouble sleeping, getting sick more often, and struggling to concentrate. You may feel a lack of enthusiasm, as if you are just going through the motions and surviving rather than enjoying life.
Cynicism is sometimes called depersonalization in this context, because it’s categorized by feeling alienated from the people you work with and lacking engagement in your work.
Finally, inefficacy refers to a lack of belief in your ability to perform your job well and a decrease in achievement and productivity.
But how do we get into this sorry state? It’s not as simple as overworking.
What Causes Burnout?
It’s a common misconception that burnout is simply a result of working too hard or for too long, according to Alexandra Michel, a science writer at the Association for Psychological Science.
“Ultimately,” writes Michel, burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.”
APS Fellow and professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, Christina Maslach, has been studying burnout since the 70’s. Maslach and her collaborators came up with six components of the workplace environment that can contribute to burnout:
We end up with burnout when one or more of these areas of our work don’t match our needs.
It’s not a rare condition, either. Research by Gallop recently found that 2.7 million workers in Germany report feeling symptoms of burnout. A different survey in 2013 found nearly 30% of UK-based HR directors surveyed believe there’s widespread burnout in their companies.
And the effects are serious. Michel says burnout is “not just a state of mind, but a condition that leaves its mark on the brain as well as the body.”
The Risks of Burnout
Being tired and lacking engagement in your work is no fun, but the risks of burnout run even deeper. Research has shown that the chronic psychosocial stress that’s common in people suffering from burnout can impair personal and social functioning as well as overwhelming your cognitive skills and neuroendocrine systems. Over time the effects of burnout can lead to memory, attention, and emotional problems.
One study also found burnout sufferers may have accelerated thinning of the brain’s front cortex—a part that’s essential for cognitive functioning. This section of the brain thins as part of the natural aging process, but the thinning effect was more pronounced in participants who’d experienced burnout.
It’s not just the brain at risk, either. A study of nearly 9,000 workers found burnout significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
This is all sounding rather grim, so let’s move on to something more positive: how to overcome burnout.
So you’re feeling the effects of burnout or you’re worried you’re at risk. What can you do? Psychologists suggest looking for ways to make your workload easier to manage—delegating more, saying “no” more often, and writing down what’s making you feel stressed at work.
But burnout isn’t just about workload stress. To overcome burnout, you also need to find ways to relax and enjoy life again.
Focus on Your Daily Care
It’s easy to forget about looking after yourself when you’re burned out. You’re feeling stressed, you’ve got too much on your plate, and the last thing you have time for is looking after yourself.
But according to Sherrie Bourg Carter, psychologist and author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout, that’s exactly what you should be doing. Carter says making sure you eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, and get plenty of sleep is critical when you’re facing burnout. Take naps if necessary without guilt. See this as productive rest that allows you to continue to work rather than thinking of it as shirking your responsibilities.
Carter also recommends remembering what you like doing to relax, and finding more time for those activities. Think about positive energy flowing in to your life. Who/what makes you feel happy and inspired – do more of this or seek out this type of energy to renew your reserves.
Do What You Enjoy
Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer believes burnout is caused by something simple and easy to fix: a feeling of resentment toward your job. Burnout is the result, according to Mayer, of work getting in the way of workers’ lives. She says people “will become resentful if work makes them miss things that are really important to them.”
To avoid this resentment turning into burnout, Mayer says it’s important to know what you care about most and schedule time for those activities.
Software developer Kent Nguyen agrees. He says burnout comes from “not being able to do what you love or what is important to you regularly.” In Nguyen’s case, he started feeling burnt out when he was spending more time on his management duties than on writing code.
Nguyen thinks of periods of time spent coding like checkpoints, each one staving off burnout for a little longer. He has small daily checkpoints and bigger weekly and monthly checkpoints so there’s always a new bout of the thing he loves to do coming up. And when he misses a checkpoint, he makes sure to schedule another one as soon as possible so he never goes too long without doing what he enjoys most.
Add Something New
This will probably sound strange, because it’s a very counterintuitive idea, but James Sudakow, author of Picking the Low Hanging Fruit: And Other Stupid Stuff We Say in the Corporate World, actually added to his hectic schedule to help him avoid burnout.
Sudakow admits his schedule was hectic. Between his family duties, work, and the hours he spends writing every week, there wasn’t much wiggle room.
But Sudakow did what few of us would—he added piano lessons to his schedule. 30 minutes per week for the lessons and an hour to practice every day meant more than six hours per week of extra commitments.
But here’s the strange thing: it actually worked. That extra commitment helped Sudakow stave off burnout. The trick, he says, was choosing something that helped rejuvenate his energy. Playing piano at night made me feel better when he went to sleep and when he woke up the next day. That daily rejuvenation seeped into his work and made him feel better overall.
While adding to your schedule or even finding more time for something you already enjoy doing might seem impossible when you’re facing burnout, looking after yourself is a great place to start. Simply focusing on sleep, eating well, and getting a little exercise every day can help you avoid the worst of burnout while you get back on track.
It’s important to recognise that you are experiencing burnout in the first place. Many clients who see me don’t even realise that their lack of motivation is caused by burnout. They have lived with their exhausting routine for so long that they have ‘normalized’ their routine to themselves and feel they should be doing more. Accept your limits and remember you are human. Life shouldn’t be just about proving yourself and achieving. Taking time out to relax and have fun is just as important, if not MORE important.
A guide to burnout: what it is, and how to overcome it | RescueTime
Belle B. Cooper is the co-founder of Melbourne startup Hello Code, an iOS developer, and a writer.
References/Source if info: https://lifehacker.com/what-causes-burnout-and-how-to-overcome-it-1792910323