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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

How to Spot Job Burnout and Ways to Cope With It

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How to Spot Job Burnout and Ways to Cope With It

Job burnout has become an epidemic in the last 10 years, and this shouldn’t be taken lightly. In the modern era, the pressure to measure up and lead a busy, jet-set lifestyle comes with a hefty fine.

The aftermath of burnout is a costly one, and you don’t want to sweep it under the rug or mislabel it. I’ve been there—thinking I was managing well and slaying not one but two careers. I thought I had it all in the bag, not realizing it had tipped upside down and in little time.

I’ve witnessed entrepreneurs, corporate workers, and creative industry professionals run themselves into the ground. They overwork, over-commit, and pack on the pressure to perform at their highest level. Countless times, I’ve heard, “I love my career, it fulfills me, but I think I’m developing stomach ulcers.”

If you dug a little deeper, you’d recognize that though you may love your work environment and what you do, it could also be draining you and putting your health at risk. I know people who work themselves until they collapse into bed or pull all-nighters to catch up on deadlines.

Punishing yourself and powering through without as much as stopping for a break is just one subtle sign of job burnout.

You get into a groove and are accomplishing mounds of projects each day, unaware of the damage it’s doing to your health. Somewhere down the line, your sense of happiness, stability, and enjoyment slowly fades. It’s a tragic downward spiral, and burnout surely can strip the passion from your heart, leaving you drained and potentially ill.

Managing a career is stressful enough, and if you’re an entrepreneur, the chronic stress and emotional exhaustion can feel like a thousand-pound brick on your back if you’re constantly functioning on overdrive. Here’s how to spot job burnout and some healthy ways you can deal with it in the long term.

Earliest Signs of Job Burnout

Whether you work at a corporation or are an entrepreneur working from home, burnout can be difficult to identify. Here are some of the major red flags.

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Groundhog Day Syndrome

Groundhog Day syndrome is just one subtle sign that you’re overtaxing yourself. I call it Groundhog Day syndrome because every day starts to feel the same, despite all the jobs you may be doing. That sense of dread dictates how much or little you accomplish.

Your enjoyment and fulfillment begin to dwindle. You start to ask yourself if you’re doing what you love or doing your job for all the wrong reasons.

When I was actively pursuing fashion, I didn’t even notice early on that my enjoyment for creating transitioned to immense pressure to “make it big.” It landed me in a continuous state of exhaustion to the point where I couldn’t focus on one task. I started new projects before finishing others, engrossed in producing high quantities of garments.

Focusing on the Wrong Things

To spot the early signs of job burnout, you need to pay attention to your mindset:

Are you about quality or quantity? Are you about money and accomplishing your wildest dreams or do you believe your work is also your calling?

It’s easy to confuse your true goals with dreams or unrealistic wants. Burnout can arise from the mindset of strenuous mass quantities, thus slipping into that Groundhog routine to reach that goal.

The worst thing to do is ignore or deny this vicious cycle in your pursuit of success. I did ignore these early signs of burnout and the consequences for me were substantial. I stopped loving my hours spent sewing. I stopped loving the creative process of which I’d devoted my 10,000 hours to.

It’s all right to want to be successful, but it’s not all right to neglect your mental, emotional, and physical health.

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Unusual Fatigue and Lost of Motivation

Early signs of job burnout include unusual fatigue and gradually escalating exhaustion. This fatigue may then merge into a lack of motivation. The consequences of ignoring the subtle signs might lead to an inability to focus or work as efficiently as you used to, dozing off in meetings or outings with colleagues. Lost hours and nights of sleep are another burnout warning sign.

At first, you might label this onset of exhaustion as stress, a rough patch, or a creative block. You may be able to identify the extra effort and lack of endurance to complete your work. The daily hustle, over time, derails your motivation, divides your attention, and causes restlessness.

When this extra push and effort feels strenuous, your mental health will be the first to warn you. Facing and accepting the earliest signs of burnout will prevent a full-blown, potentially career-ending crash.

Job Burnout Symptoms

Herbert Freudenberger first coined the term burnout in 1974 and defined it as:[1]

“The extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Now though, burnout has a new definition. We live in an era when measuring up and being a high achiever are vital for happiness. At the stage of burnout, the symptoms will be undeniable and have an intense grip on all facets of your health and life[2].

signs of burnout

    The symptoms of burnout can lead to serious conditions after a period of 2 weeks. By the 2-week mark, the symptoms are chronic:[3]

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    • Hair loss or thinning
    • Suffering chronic skin rashes
    • Irregular heart beats and palpitations
    • Sinusitis or thickening of mucus
    • Decreasing function of the immune system

    Severe cases with sleep-deprivation will take their toll. Job burnout symptoms can be misread as stress. When your body has had enough, the symptoms become indicators that you’ve gone too far and are utterly burnt out.

    Other symptoms are cynicism and loss of motivation, therefore diminishing your job performance. You stop caring about how you perform in a professional environment, and it will show. Functioning in burnout mode depletes your ability to create or work at your level best.

    In more serious cases, burnout has caused conditions such as depression and an inability to cope with stress or laborious tasks effectively. It’s not your job that’s to blame; it’s how you navigate and juggle your workload and how you respond to overwhelm (when everything hits the fan or gets chaotic).

    There is a balance, mentally and emotionally, you must master to avoid burnout in the future.

    Tips for Coping With Burnout

    Job burnout is not inevitable and can be avoided. Anybody is at risk and should make avoiding and coping with burnout a priority.

    One lesson I learned when burnout reared its ugly head was the rule of quantity. By that, I mean, if you’re expected to take on a certain workload or tackle a ridiculous number of tasks in an hour, a day, or a week and it’s not truly feasible, it’s time to press pause or step back.

    Granted, we pursue careers and put nearly impossible pressure on our shoulders to reach a destination of some kind—whether it be more money, a bigger promotion, writing more articles, etc.

    People pleasing and the desire to stay ahead of the game doesn’t have to mean piling on more than you’re able to legitimately handle. No matter how consumed with my work life I was, I didn’t realize how difficult I was making my own life by not saying no when necessary.

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    To avoid burnout in the future, consider asking yourself these questions (before your workload swallows you whole):

    • Do I need to say yes to this, and if so, what will it cost me?
    • Is this opportunity worth my time and effort?
    • How will my overall well-being be positively or negatively affected if I say yes to this offer or opportunity?
    • What’s more important: working in overdrive or strengthening relationships with family, friends and loved ones?

    Final Thoughts

    Once I devoted myself to self-care and finding passion in the work I was doing, the enjoyment returned without the added stress and pressure I afflicted upon myself. Engaging in activities such as yoga, swimming, bike riding, meditation, and mindfulness gradually brought me back to loving my work again.

    Job burnout zaps motivation and inspiration, which are imperative in helping you connect with your work on a deeper level.

    Spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exude goodness to others instead of bottling up and overworking. Burnout stems from all kinds of stressors, so it’s important to keep your mindset in the right place, especially in chaotic times.

    If you’re not happy with your job, reflect and see what you could change to better cope with the stress and prevent burnout in the future.

    More on Dealing With Burnout

    Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Tessa Koller

    Author, Motivational Public Speaker and Artist

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    Last Updated on October 20, 2021

    7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

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    7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

    If you’re trying to be as productive as possible, stress will always be your biggest obstacle—and it’s not an easy one to overcome. To do it, you’ll need to develop a plan to make stress management a core component of your daily routine, but doing that takes commitment. The good news is that if you succeed in learning how to manage stress, you’ll unlock your potential and be well on your way to peak performance. But first, you need to learn how to make it happen.

    The best way to do that is to learn about and integrate some stress management rituals into your daily routine. To help you get started, here are seven tips on how to manage stress and improve your productivity.

    1. Give Yourself an Extra Hour in the Morning

    If you were to do some research on some of the world’s most successful—and productive—people, you’d notice that many of them have one thing in common: they tend to be early risers. Apple’s Tim Cook gets out of bed before 4 AM each day.[1] Michelle Obama is already getting in her daily workout at 4:30 AM.[2] Richard Branson gets up at 5:45 AM each day, even when he’s vacationing on his private island.

    There’s a good reason why they all do it—once you reach the point in your day that your work schedule kicks in, you no longer have control of your time. That means you have a limited opportunity every morning to reduce your stress by taking care of the things you need to do without anyone making other demands on your time.

    What’s important about this isn’t the time you get up. The important part is getting up early enough to start your day without feeling rushed. For most people, getting up an hour earlier than you normally would is sufficient. This should give you ample time to complete your morning tasks without having to hurry or fall behind.

    But when you implement this ritual, be careful. Don’t do it at the cost of getting the right amount of sleep each night. If you do, you might increase your stress instead of relieving it. Sticking to a proper sleep schedule and getting enough sleep is, in itself, a critical part of stress management.[3]

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    2. Determine and Review Your Most Important Tasks Each Day

    If there’s one productivity tip that almost all experts agree on, it’s that you should spend some time before bed each night to write down your three most important tasks for the following day. But if you want to maximize that practice and turn it into a stress-buster, you should turn that notion on its head.

    Instead, you should do this as a part of your morning routine. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s that our always-on, always-connected business world means your priorities can change overnight, literally. You may list your top priorities, go to sleep, and wake up to find them woefully out of date. That means the best time to set your priorities for the day is in the morning. This will keep those priorities up to date and let you think about them before the distractions of the day begin. But don’t stop there. You should take some time before bed each night to review that day’s priorities.

    Ideally, you’ll be able to check them off as accomplished. If not, though, think about what prevented you from getting to them. This is your chance to figure out some of the common daily interruptions that get in your way. Chances are, these also cause some of your stress. So, spend the time before bed game-planning how to remove those interruptions and stressors from your day. If you make this a habit, you’ll be more productive and far less stressed out in no time.

    3. Save Your Emails for Later in the Morning

    Another tip on how to manage stress is to save your emails for later. One of the key causes of stress comes from our inability to cope with the unexpected. If you stop to think about it, what is your most prominent source of near-constant unexpected information every day? You guessed it—it’s your email.

    Now, you can’t simply ignore your email. The only thing you can do about your email is to learn how to manage it most effectively. But no matter what you do, it’s going to remain a source of daily stress and distraction. That’s why you should make a habit out of giving yourself an email-free hour or two at the beginning of each day’s schedule.

    In that time, try to tackle one of your daily priorities and get it taken care of. Your email will still be there when you’re done. And when you do get to it, you’ll do so in a much better frame of mind knowing that you’ve already gotten some real work done before having to deal with anything unexpected. That alone will improve your mood and reduce the amount of stress you’ll feel—no matter what’s waiting for you in your inbox.

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    4. Take a Walk After Email Time

    Since you’ll have to deal with your email sooner or later, there’s no way to completely avoid the stress that will come with it. Although you’ll be in a better frame of mind after putting off your email to get some real work done, you’ll still feel some stress when you get to it. That’s why you should make a post-email walk a part of your daily routine.

    Taking a walk is one of the best ways you can relieve stress. It’s a form of meditation that will put you back into the right condition to be productive, and there’s no better time to do it each day than after taking care of your emails.

    Ideally, you’ll want to take a walk outdoors, and preferably in the most natural setting possible. If you’re in an urban environment, a nearby park will suffice. Studies have demonstrated that walking in such environments for as little as 20 minutes per day leads to an overall reduction in the body’s cortisol level.[4]

    Cortisol, if you’re not aware, is your body’s main stress hormone. It helps regulate your blood pressure, energy levels, and even your sleep cycle. Every time your stress goes up, cortisol production also increases, throwing your body into chaos. So, taking a walk right after dealing with your email will help you to relax, reset, and get ready to be productive for the rest of the day.

    5. Reserve Time to Research and Plan a Vacation

    By now, everybody knows that taking vacations every now and then can improve your productivity and lower your stress level. But did you know that even thinking about a vacation can help you to reduce your stress? It may sound strange, but it’s true.

    A Cornell University study in 2012 found that the anticipation of a positive experience—like a vacation—can reduce stress and make you measurably happier. It logically follows, then, that adding to that anticipation each day can maximize the stress-relieving effects of a vacation.[5]

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    To do it, set aside at least a half-hour each day to research or plan an upcoming vacation. You can read about destinations. You can research airfares. You can even look at places to stay in locations you’re interested in visiting. And if you’ve already got a vacation booked, use the time to take a deep dive into what your destination has to offer.

    This is an especially important daily ritual to observe right now, while the COVID-19 pandemic may be limiting your vacation options. If it’s been a while since you’ve been able to take a trip, the act of planning your next vacation will have a therapeutic effect. With vacation rental bookings still hovering below 50% in most major markets, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of people are in desperate need of their next stress-relieving vacation.[6]

    6. Create a Shutdown Ritual to End Your Day

    Another simple yet effective way to manage stress is to create a shutdown ritual. Just as it’s important to get your day off to a stress-free, unhurried start, you’ll want to do the same when the day is through. It’s because after spending each day in a reactive mode—dealing with the unexpected—you need to get back into a proactive mode to relax.

    Studies have shown that having the perception of control over what you’re going through acts as a buffer against negative stress.[7] In other words, feeling like you can manage even a small chunk of your own time counteracts the stress from the parts of your day when you can’t.

    This also means that your shutdown ritual can be whatever you want it to be. You might write in a journal, get in a quick light workout, or prepare your outfit for the following day. As long as you’re the one in complete control over what you’re doing, anything goes. Just make sure that you include the aforementioned review of your daily priorities somewhere in your routine!

    7. Set a No-Screens Rule to End Your Day

    Even though your shutdown routine is important, there’s one more ritual to include before bedtime that will help you manage stress. Spend the last 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to go to sleep observing a strict no-screens rule. Not only will this give you time to disconnect from the stresses of your day, but it will also allow your body to make a transition into a proper sleep mode.

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    The screens we use—smartphones, tablets, laptops—all emit a wavelength of blue light that disrupts our sleep patterns. It’s the same type of light that our bodies recognize as daytime, so seeing it is like telling your brain that it’s the wrong time to be asleep.[8]

    By eliminating all sources of this type of light before bedtime, you’ll increase your odds of getting restful, deep sleep. And since getting proper sleep is one of the best ways to manage your stress, this is the perfect way for you to end each day.

    Final Thoughts

    Although a totally stress-free lifestyle would lend itself to achieving maximum productivity, not many people will ever manage to live that way. So, the next best thing is to work some or all of these daily stress-busting rituals into your day to minimize the inevitable stress instead. Doing so will put you in the best possible position to succeed. And there’s no better antidote for stress than to make the most out of every day no matter what it has to throw at you.

    More Tips on How to Manage Stress

    Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

    Reference

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