Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Spot Job Burnout and Cope with It

How to Spot Job Burnout and 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, in fact, 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 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.

Remember those college days when you had to complete eighteen or twenty credits and do so with flying colors while trying to balance a personal and social life? People with demanding careers are on the same boat—pulling all-nighters to add extra hours to their day to finish time-consuming projects and believing they can live like a twenty-something. Creative individuals are like 24/7 manufacturers cranking out whatever they’re making but, are neglecting self-care to an extreme degree.

I kid you not, I am guilty of doing the same thing: working myself to near death and not stopping to even use the washroom. On one occasion, I wound up sewing for 7 hours straight because a client changed the due date for her dress last minute. I had to do that for 2 clients in the same wedding party.

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 down 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 stress can feel like a thousand-pound brick on your back if you’re constantly functioning on overdrive.

Advertising

Earliest Signs of Burnout

Whether you work at a corporation or are an entrepreneur working from home, burnout can be difficult to identify.

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 for all the wrong reasons. It’s a rough place to be.

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 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.

Advertising

People were liking and seeing value in what I was creating and pushing me to achieve New York status in the fashion industry. I found myself pulling all-nighters to build inventory while simultaneously running a tailoring and alterations business. Even if you’re in a career you love, the demands may eventually spread you too thin.

Unusual Fatigue and Lost of Motivation

Early signs of burnout include unusual fatigue and gradually escalating exhaustion. This fatigue may then merge into 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, overtime, derails your motivation, divides your attention, and causes restlessness.

If you are doing something for the wrong reasons, it will catch up to you. Burnout made me question why I had such a hot pursuit for fashion. And after much soul searching, I discovered it wasn’t my real passion.

When this extra push and effort feels strenuous and like you’re overexerting yourself, 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 or jeopardizing, crash.

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.

The symptoms, which are not widely talked about enough, lead to serious conditions after a period of 2 weeks. By the 2-week mark, the symptoms are chronic:[2]

Advertising

  • 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. 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, most identifiable, 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 significant depressions and 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 learn to master to avoid burnout in the future.

Tips for Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is not inevitable and can be avoided. Anybody is at risk and should make avoiding burnout a priority as opposed to the opposite.

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, more books, and being the ‘yes’ girl, or guy.

I’ll be honest and say that I was once the ‘yes’ girl, despite my full notebook of to-dos. People pleasing and the desire to stay ahead of the game doesn’t have to mean piling on more than you’re willing to legitimately handle. No matter how consumed with work I’d be, I didn’t realize how difficult I was making my own life by not saying no when necessary.

I was juggling a tailoring and alterations business whilst trying to establish myself as a designer. Additionally, I was managing a writing career and found myself operating in overdrive. Taking on too much has its consequences and it’s different for everyone, how burnout may impact others.

Advertising

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

  • 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 affected if I say yes to this offer or opportunity?
  • What’s more important: working from morning until I collapse or strengthening relationships with family, friends and loved ones?

Final Thoughts

I’ll be honest again and tell you that when my burnout happened, I knew it was approaching and ignored the early warning signs and symptoms. The devastating truth of this was I had stopped enjoying a career I could immerse myself in for hours on end. It was once a hobby, something I didn’t feel the need to post all over social media.

Once I devoted to self-care and finding love 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.

Burnout zaps motivation and inspiration, which for me, are major fuel injectors—what keeps me creating and connecting with my work on a deeper level of appreciation.

Mentally, try to look outside of yourself and work. Nothing is wrong with doing your best job, but it’s about how you perform and paying attention to your needs.

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.

Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Tessa Koller

Author, Motivational Public Speaker and Artist

How to Tell the Social Anxiety Symptoms from Signs of Introversion  How to Get over Your Self-Defeating Thoughts and Behaviors How to Spot Job Burnout and Cope with It 9 Happy Habits That Will Change Your Outlook and Your Life Make These 17 Health Goals Into Daily Habits for Better Overall Wellness

Trending in Restore Energy

1 Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Fatigue Symptom (& How to Boost Energy) 2 7 Signs You’re Burnt Out and How to Bounce Back 3 How to Relieve Stress: 9 Quick Relaxation Techniques 4 How to Get the Best Deep Sleep (And Why It’s Important) 5 How to Power Nap for Maximum Benefits

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

Advertising

To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

Advertising

The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

Advertising

After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

Advertising

8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next