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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

How to Spot Job Burnout and Ways to Cope With It

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 January 22, 2021

    5 Simple Stretches to Boost Your Energy at Your Office Desk

    5 Simple Stretches to Boost Your Energy at Your Office Desk

    Everyone knows that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your body and your mind. Getting the blood flowing helps you stay fresh with creativity, boosts energy, and helps your body work more efficiently. Many of us don’t have the opportunity to get up and move around as often as we should, but simple stretches added in during the day can help.

    Studies have found that prolonged sitting can lead to increased risk in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, deep-vein thrombosis, and metabolic syndrome. Sitting is also known to increase pain by tightening the hip flexor and hamstring muscle, as well as stiffening the joints. This can cause problems with balance and gait in addition to the obvious discomfort.[1]

    One study found that “greater total sedentary time” and “longer sedentary bout duration” were both associated with a higher risk of death. Basically, those who moved around less were more likely to die from any cause[2].

    While many of us have busy schedules that limit the amount of time we can exercise each day, doing simple stretches throughout the day at your desk can be a great option to encourage movement, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

    Here are 5 simple stretches you can do while sitting to improve your mind and body.

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    1. Seated Twist

    12 Chair Yoga Poses for Stress and Posture - PureWow

      Sitting in your chair while keeping a long, tall spine, place your right hand on the outside of your left knee. Use that hand as leverage to twist to your left, and place your left hand as far to the right as possible to have something to hang onto while you twist. Now join it with your breath.

      Exhale as you move into your twist, and inhale as you ease off. Repeat on the other side. Repeat for each side 2-3 times.

      This simple stretch is great to offer a release for your back, neck, and shoulders. The twist will also help rinse out your internal organs, giving you a little boost of energy.

      2. Chest/Shoulder Opener

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      Blog: Simple Yoga Techniques to Increase Effectiveness at Work

        Sitting on the edge of your chair, clasp your hands behind your back, opening up your chest and shoulders. Inhale/exhale several times, noticing that when you inhale your stretch increases. Release and repeat 2-3 times.

        This stretch, while aimed at the chest muscles, can also alleviate some upper back pain, as we often feel pain in this area when our chest muscles are tight. This will also open up your lungs, allowing you to take some deep breaths, which can help reduce stress.

        3. Seated Pigeon

        Yoga In The Office: 6 Chair Poses To Improve Your Posture

          I call this one Seated Pigeon as it is a cousin to the yoga pose called Pigeon, which is performed lying on the floor. Clearly this isn’t an option at work. This Seated Pigeon version might not work if you are wearing a short skirt or dress unless you have an office to yourself!

          Sit on the edge of your chair and place your right ankle over your left knee. Be sure that your left foot is directly under your left knee and flat on the floor. Sit nice and tall, imagining a string is pulling the crown of your head up towards the ceiling.

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          This one is great for releasing your gluteus medius and minimus muscles, as well as your piriformis muscles. These are your hip abductors. These are usually what aches when you sit so much! Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, and repeat on each side 2-3 times.

          This will offer a great release in the hips, as well as create stability in the knee joint. Both of these will help you avoid pain once you get up to leave work for the day.

          4. Hip Flexor Stretch

          Self-Care | Stretching exercises, Hip flexor stretch, Exercise

            Sitting truly shortens and tightens your little hip flexor. This sits at the front in the crease of your hip. It runs through your pelvis to your back, so when it is tight, it often presents with an achy back.

            To lengthen this muscle while at your desk, sit at the edge of your chair, but shift to face to your left. Take your right leg and extend it behind you with as straight a knee as you can. Sit tall, and lift your sternum while trying to tuck your tailbone under, as this will deepen the stretch.

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            Repeat on the other side. Repeat for both sides 2-3 times.

            5. Hamstring Stretch

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              This is an easy one to do either just before you sit down or just after getting up. While standing, soften your right knee and extend your left leg in front of you with your heel on the floor. On your left leg, draw your toes upwards, keep your knee slightly bent so you don’t strain your ligaments behind your knee.

              You want to feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle (that is, your mid-thigh, at the back of your leg) rather than behind the knee. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and switch to the other side. Repeat each side 2-3 times.

              Stretching out your hamstring can help relieve knee and lower back pain. It can also help increase your balance and range of motion. If you like to spend your free time running or jogging, your hamstrings will be grateful you took a moment to stretch them out at work as these muscles are notorious for tightening up quickly.

              The Bottom Line

              It isn’t necessary to do all of the stretches all at once. Take a stretch break every 45 minutes or so and choose a couple of different stretches. Next time, choose a different set of simple stretches. Ultimately, your brain and body will thank you for it!

              More Stretches for Your Day

              Featured photo credit: Keren Levand via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Harvard Health Publishing: The dangers of sitting
              [2] Annals of Internal Medicine: Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults

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