Overcoming Burnout in Life & in the Workplace
What is Burnout?
According to Psychology Today, burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.
A variety of factors may cause burnout. Though problems at work most often cause it, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.
About two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.
Work-related causes of burnout
Feeling like you have little or no control over your work
Lack of recognition or reward for good work
Unclear or overly demanding job expectations
Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging
Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment for an extended period
Lifestyle causes of burnout
No work-life balance
Not making enough time for socializing or relaxing
Lack of close, supportive relationships
Taking on too many responsibilities without enough help from others
Not getting enough sleep
Personality traits that can contribute to burnout
Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough for you
Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others
High-achieving, Type A personality
Though burnout is often caused by work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.
Have you experienced burnout? If so, you are not alone. A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.
That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.
How to Prevent Burnout?
It may seem like a vacation, a week off, or a spa day can cure burnout, but this rarely solves the root issues. Burnout usually comes from deeper feelings of frustration and stress, so it may require more than a bit of relaxation to overcome.
Dealing with burnout requires the “Three R” approach:
Burnout usually comes from feelings of frustration and stress
Recognize- Learn to identify burnout
Often, burnout is mistaken as just regular everyday stress. Although stress can contribute to burnout, there are distinct differences between the two. This table can help you identify the different qualities of each.
Burnout can manifest itself as physical and mental exhaustion, a sense of dread about work, and frequent feelings of cynicism, anger, or irritability.
It can cause you to feel like you can no longer do your job effectively or that the stress is never-ending. It often is accompanied by feelings of emptiness, apathy, and hopelessness.
Reverse- Undo the Damage by Seeking Support and Managing Stress
Burnout can be reversed through support, stress management, and building a routine that gives you a sense of purpose. Here are tips for reversing the effects of burnout and returning enjoyment to life and work
Build Social Connections - Building social connections is a great way to add meaning and enjoyment to your life and reverse the effects of burnout. This can look like connecting with those closest to you, such as friends and family, or building new friendships at work or in your community.
On the opposite end, try to limit contact with negative or draining people. This can be difficult if these types of individuals are co-workers, bosses, or acquaintances you must interact with each day, but doing your best to limit exposure to these people can benefit your outlook and mental health.
Finally, you can also build connections by joining a group or community that is meaningful to you. Volunteering in your community, finding a Facebook group that reflects your hobbies, or joining a group at work that influences the community is an excellent way to build connections.
Building social connections is a great way to add meaning and enjoyment to your life and reverse the effects of burnout.
Find new Values - Whether you have a job that leaves you feeling overworked or one that is monotonous and unfulfilling, the most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit and find a job you love instead. Of course, this solution isn’t always practical or realistic.
Luckily, you can take steps to improve your state of mind and find new value in everyday work without leaving your current job behind.
Focus on aspects of your job that you enjoy, even if it’s just chatting with your coworkers at lunch. Changing your attitude towards your career can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.
Focus on aspects of life that you enjoy. Try picking up a new hobby or make more time for a hobby you enjoy, spend time with your family and loved ones, support your favorite sports team, learn a new skill, or explore your neighborhood.
If you feel particularly overwhelmed, depressed, or unhappy, take time off. Taking time off can allow you to reevaluate your values, find new things to enjoy, and give you a much-needed break from work.
Try picking up a new hobby or make more time for a hobby you enjoy
Reevaluate your Priorities
Finally, burnout can often occur when our priorities do not align with what we want out of life. Take time to evaluate what is most important to you, set boundaries, and set up your life to work for you and your needs.
Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the commitments you want to make.
Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email or social media.
Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.
Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness opposite the stress response.
Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool in stressful situations by getting a good night’s sleep.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness opposite the stress response.
Resilience- Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.
Finally, one of the best ways to prevent burnout is to build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.
While it is impossible to completely avoid stress, by taking care of our bodies and minds, we can build up resilience that can help prevent burnout and other mental health problems. Here are a few tips to help keep your mind and body as healthy as possible.
Prioritize movement -Though it may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out, exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It’s also something you can do right now to boost your mood.
Do what feels good to you and your body whether that's weight lifting, swimming, dancing, or going on a walk. Don’t do activities that you dread, which can lead to further burnout.
Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout
Follow a healthy diet - what we eat has a significant effect on our daily mood. Try to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates. Drink water each day. Avoid highly processed carbohydrates and sugars. In addition, avoid nicotine and drink alcohol in moderation.
Take time to focus on yourself and your mindset - Some people experience great benefits from meditation. Still, anything that helps you relax, identify your feelings, and navigate stress can benefit your mental health in the long run.
Consider therapy - Sometimes, it takes additional support to build resilience to stress. Therapy is a great tool to help identify negative habits, learn how to set boundaries, and build your emotional toolkit. If you are having a hard time overcoming burnout on your own or are struggling with other mental health issues, seek professional help
Therapy is a great tool to help identify negative habits, learn how to set boundaries, and build your emotional toolkit
Preventing Burnout in your Organization
If you own or manage an organization, you may wonder how to prevent employee burnout and foster positivity in the workplace.
Research shows that when employees feel cared for, there is a chain reaction of positive outcomes both for employees and for companies
According to Dr. Reetu Sandhu, Manager at Limeade Institute–which conducts research, establishes market points of view, and keeps a pulse on the latest employee well-being and engagement research and trends— research shows that when employees feel cared for, there is a chain reaction of positive outcomes both for employees and for companies.” Sandhu shared their findings from people who feel cared for by their companies:
-60% plan to stay at their company for three or more years (as opposed to only 7% of those who don’t feel cared for)
-95% say they feel included in their organization (compared to 14% of those who don’t feel cared for)
-91% say they’re likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work (compared to 9% of those who don’t feel cared for)
Another study by Gallop found that burnout increased significantly when people worked more than 50 hours a week. However, even among those who work a lot of hours, employees can combat burnout when they have the job flexibility and feel inspired, motivated, and supported. When employees felt these needs were met, they performed better and did more work overall.
Employees can combat burnout when they have the job flexibility and feel inspired, motivated, and supported
If you are looking to prevent burnout within your organization, the key things to listen to and look for are: Do your employees feel safe? Do they feel well supported by colleagues, friends, and family? What are they anxious about? All these questions are essential to ask when considering employees' mental well-being.
Taking Actionable Steps
Burnout can make life difficult. It can take away your sense of purpose, keep you from doing productive work, and cause you to feel depressed and isolated. However, there are ways to overcome and prevent burnout.
By following the "Three R approach", you can find new meaning and motivation in your everyday routine
By recognizing burnout, taking steps to reverse the effects, and building your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health, you can find new meaning and motivation in your everyday routine.
What steps will you take today to help prevent burnout in your life or the life of your employees? What will you do to reverse the effects if you find yourself burnt out? Leave a comment down below of what actionable steps you will take or if you have tips and tricks of your own. We’d love to hear from you!