Burnout at work: what to do about it

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If you feel like your brain is constantly on fire with thoughts about work and you’re beginning to suspect there’s a better way to live, then I guess this article is for you! It’s normal to feel stressed at work from time to time. But for some people, the stress becomes all-consuming, leading to exhaustion, cynicism and hatred towards their job. And this is known as burnout – the topic of today’s article.

Burnout used to be classified as a problem related to life management, but recently World Health Organisation re-labelled the syndrome as an “occupational phenomenon” to better reflect that burnout is a work-based syndrome caused by chronic stress. In the era of smartphones and 24-7 emails, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to switch off from the workplace.

But just because burnout can happen at work or because of work, doesn’t mean how you use your time outside of work can’t help prevent it. In overall life, you do need to find time to take care of your health, do things you find refreshing and have a sense of purpose. The closer you are to living your truth, the less likely you are to burnout. And later in the article we will talk more about it.

You may not have the ability to change everything you don’t like about your job, but you do have the ability to improve how good you feel about yourself and life in general. By investing your time based on the truth of your body, personality and reality, you can reduce your risk of burnout. And if you already feel burnt out, you can recover faster.

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What is burnout?

First of all, what is Burnout ? It is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

Actually, burnout is more likely when you expect too much of yourself, never feel that the work you are doing is good enough, feel incompetent, feel unappreciated, be in roles that are not a good job fit.

The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD describes job burnout 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.”


Burnout symptoms

If you are still not sure of what Burnout is, let me share with you the most common symptoms:

  • Feel that every day at work is a bad day
  • Feel exhausted much of the time
  • Feel no joy or interest at work
  • Feel depressed
  • Feel overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • Engage in escapist behaviors
  • Have less patience with others than you used to
  • Feel hopeless about your life or work
  • Experience physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, sleeplessness, etc.
  • Feel negativism
  • Reduced work performance
  • Feel anger about your work, colleagues, clients
  • Feel guilty that you are not spending enough time with your friends, family
  • Feel increasingly emotional, for example crying, getting angry, shouting, or feeling tense for no obvious reason
  • You dread going to work in the morning
  • You’re complaining about work a lot even though you’re not typically a complainer
  • You’re having frequent work nightmares
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore
  • Interpersonal problems at home and at work
  • Reduced efficiency and energy
  • Increased errors
  • Increased frustration
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Burnout prevention strategies & treatments

If you are still not there, check these prevention strategies that might help you in the future. If you feel like you are already there, check the burnout treatments, in most cases they help!

  1. Provide clear expectations
  2. Have the necessary resources and skills to meet expectations
  3. Ongoing training to maintain competency
  4. Understand your value to the organization and contributions to the organization’s goals
  5. Physical activity throughout the workday
  6. Take breaks away from the work environment
  7. Minimize alcohol and caffeine
  8. Develop and follow a healthy eating plan
  9. Keep your environment organized and tidy
  10. Avoid toxic people and situations
  11. Drink more water
  12. Get more sleep
  13. Fulfill your needs: if you are extroverted, hang out with friends or family on a daily basis after work, if you are highly introverted, take some time alone to recharge.
  14. Spend time with positive people
  15. Vacation – time away from work gives you the distance you need to relax and de-stress.
  16. Find a Release. For some people, it’s CrossFit or martial arts. For others, it’s paintball battles, soccer, racquetball, or bowling. The way you release your aggression and frustration is not important, as long as it’s not harmful to yourself or others. What matters is that you find a way, any way, to let off some steam.
  17. Have different responsibilities. Burnout in can not only happen from overwork but from working on the same tasks for months at a time.
  18. Practice positive thinking
  19. Unplug, set boundaries by turning off smartphone during vacation, dinner time, etc.
  20. Use separate apps for work email and personal email, so you don’t see work emails on weekends.
  21. Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new.
  22. Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness.
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Also, good idea would be to attend to one of the workshops of Colorado-based motivational speaker Michael Wigge, with an adventure challenge background, presented on The Tonight Show, Today Show. You may find his schedule here: English website and German one

While burnout can cause issues at work, at home, and in life, it is always possible to take action and move towards. I really hope that burnout prevention strategies & treatments that are listed in this article will help you in your personal and professional life!

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