Burnout is a real phenomenon – separate from being tired, or general stress. It can significantly impact your physical and psychological well being, and even put a stop to your working life in a career you love! Today we’re taking a look at how to recognise burnout, and what to do about it.
It can be difficult to identify burnout when the symptoms first start to appear – it can look like simple physical tiredness or exhaustion, and even if you suspect the worst there is the possibility of denial. In many cases, people enter burnout because they’re working in their dream career, and don’t want to consider the possibility that they’ve entered an unhealthy work-life balance. In others, people don’t have the option of getting away from the source of stress that’s burning them out, and so the notion that there is a solvable problem becomes unthinkable.
The worst symptoms of burnout include total physical exhaustion, depression, and a dread of getting out of bed in the morning to face the day that can stimulate unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol and drug abuse. Early warning signs include a lack of energy, increasing instances of ‘normal’ sickness and prevalent escapist fantasies intruding when you try to concentrate. As these minor symptoms escalate you can begin to neglect your personal needs in an attempt to focus on the cause of your stress, but this causes a plunge in your general state of well-being and accelerates the process.
The most important thing you can do if you’re beginning to experience burnout is to attempt to separate yourself from the source of the stress that’s causing it. For career related burnout this can be a challenge – if you’re being affected by childcare, or another situation in your own home, it can be almost impossible.
If you can, attempt to draw boundaries. Identify working hours when you focus on work, and outside them, you are the priority. The personality types who tend toward burnout can find it hard to relax, so rather than leaving that time empty, it might help to find another structured activity to fill it. Exercise, cooking, or even a craft subscription box can all help you create a healthier life outside work, not just distracting you but also relieving stress and boosting your well-being.
One of the most important areas for you to address is sleep: sleep is one of the first and most significant things to be affected by burnout, and you can slow or even halt the effects by improving the length and quality of the sleep of the sleep you get. Establish a formal ‘bed time’ and cut out screen use in the hour that precedes it. Ritualising your preparations for sleep, and avoiding the blue light from screens helps your brain power down and get you the rest you need.