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Published on April 2, 2019

Why You’ve Reached the Point of Burn out at Work & How to Deal with It

Why You’ve Reached the Point of Burn out at Work & How to Deal with It

You’ve finally hit a wall and enough is enough. You’re not just stressed—you’re feeling physically, mentally, and maybe even emotionally burnt out.

When serious exhaustion sets in and you either feel completely indifferent or totally repulsed by your job, you have to start taking action toward restoring balance not only in your professional life, but in your personal life too. Sources of stress can’t always be eliminated, but their negative effects can certainly be minimized.

What if you could walk into work and actually feel enthusiastic about taking on your tasks for the day? Believe it or not, it’s possible to go from dreading those tasks and suffering through them to embracing them and enjoying the challenge.

Burnout doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong job. It might just mean that your approach to your work life isn’t currently working for you.

Once you identify and understand what has led you to burn out, you can examine your experiences under a mindful microscope to expand your level of self-awareness. Only then can you work to counteract the effects of burn out with specific lifestyle changes, habits, and mental practices.

By implementing some of the strategies shared in this article, you might save yourself weeks, months, and even years of prolonged suffering. Because when it comes to burnout, you can’t really make a full recovery by simply waiting for it to go away.

Read on to discover what some of the leading causes of burnout are and what you can do to get back to a place of happiness and harmony.

1. You Sacrifice Your Own Self-Care for Your Job, Your Family, and Others Who Need You

If you’re a people pleaser, then you probably have trouble saying “no” to anyone who asks anything from you.

When you think you have no choice but to say “yes” to your boss, your coworkers, your partner, your kids, your friends, and your relatives, you’re left with little time and energy to devote to doing the things that keep you healthy and happy—like sleeping enough, eating well, and enjoying activities you love. You’re essentially allowing others to dictate how you spend your life.

According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people who said “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” had more success in avoiding things they didn’t want to do.[1] In other words, it led to a greater sense of self-empowerment.

By remaining aware of the fact that you have a choice in how you decide to spend your time, you can learn to say “no” to others confidently and respectively.

2. You’re Putting Too Many Hours Into Your Work

Working 12 to 16 hours a day or 60 to 80 hours a week doesn’t mean you’re being productive during all or even most of those hours.

A UK study found t hat the average office employee is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes out of the entire workday.[2] As if that weren’t bad enough, research has shown that jobs with overtime schedules are associated with a 61% increase in risk of injury;[3] and long periods of sitting in office chairs are as potentially detrimental to workers’ health as smoking.[4]

Working longer hours means you have less downtime to recharge properly, so you might want to rethink staying late at the office, clocking a double shift every so often, or giving up your weekends to try to get more done.

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Examine where you can cut back on your time spent at work—particularly during your most unproductive hours. If your workplace won’t allow it, you might need to consider working somewhere that will.

3. You’re Constantly Connected to Your Work Via Your Devices

Many professionals check their work email first thing when they get up and continue checking after work hours, meaning they never truly get a chance to disconnect and relax a little.

Remaining available to answer emails or take calls during non-work hours has been linked to higher levels of stress and anxiety in workers.[5] Even just the anticipation of receiving emails or calls during non-work hours can cause negative effects.

You might need to have a chat with your boss, coworkers, or clients about your electronic availability during non-work hours if there’s an expectation to answer emails and calls at all times of the day and night. Once you’ve clarified this, you can turn off notifications, put your devices on Do Not Disturb or turn them off altogether when you’re not at work.

4. You Work in a Toxic Environment

Working with patronizing authoritative figures and coworkers can be downright degrading and humiliating, leading to feelings of isolation and resentment.

When there’s a breakdown of workplace community, your sense of belonging is compromised. One study showed that the number of people who’ve admitted to feeling like they have nobody to talk to about relevant topics has nearly tripped between 1985 and 2004—suggesting that despite people spending so much time at work, the relationships they have with their colleagues are not necessarily high-quality ones.[6]

Practice separating yourself from negative energy at work so that even when you do have to engage with colleagues, you have mental and emotional boundaries in place.

Look toward the most positive and trustworthy people at your workplace and work toward building relationships with them. Even if you don’t work directly with them, having them there can help increase your sense of connection and belonging.

Finally, avoid taking work issues home with you. Instead of venting to your partner about a problem going on at work, focus on letting it go by engaging in activities that take your mind off of it, lift you up, and remind you of what you’re grateful for in life.

5. Your Workload Is Too Heavy

There’s only one of you and there are only so many hours in a day to get your work done.

When there are too many tasks, projects that are overly complex, or requests that are unrealistically urgent piled onto your plate, the stress and overwhelm of it all can be too much to bear. Research has shown that employees with heavy workloads have difficulty balancing work and family life and are at a higher risk of emotional exhaustion.[7]

The only way to combat work overload is by offloading less urgent tasks, getting help and support from other colleagues, and postponing deadlines. Figuring out how to balance work and life comes down to prioritization, which requires getting real about your own energy expenditure and time limitations.

6. You Never Take a Vacation

If you’re a workaholic, you might not even realize that you’re hopelessly addicted to your work and haven’t taken any time off in what might seem like forever.

Maybe you’re worried about all the work that will pile up when you’re gone or you want to keep working as proof of your dedication to what you do. But the costs of not taking any real time off include decreased productivity and creativity.[8] It can even exasperate office tension, workplace accidents, work-related mistakes, stress, fatigue, and illnesses.

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If you feel unwilling to go away for as long as a week, try something shorter—like a weekend. You can even make it a staycation to start.

Eventually, if you spend your time off going places and doing things you love, you’ll start to become aware of the restorative benefits of taking your vacation time, and you might even inspire colleagues do the same.

7. You See Your Job As Your Identity

It’s important to feel passionate about and connected to what you do, but when all or most of your accomplishment, pleasure, and self-worth comes from your work performance, it can be hard to deal with things when they don’t go your way.

You’re far more likely to burn out if you place little value on other areas of your life like relationships and hobbies. The people in your life and the activities you enjoy can serve as effective pick-me-ups when work life gets rough.

Try making a list of all the relationships and hobbies or activities you have in your life that you love. Then rank them in order of importance and brainstorm ideas for how you can start devoting more time and energy toward them.

8. You Feel Like You Don’t Have Any Control

When you don’t have enough freedom to have a say in how decisions at work are made, or what your schedule looks like, or what the most important goals should be, you might find yourself feeling more cynical and less motivated.

A study found that people with high-stress jobs and little control over their workflow live shorter lives or are less healthy overall compared to people who have more of a say in how they handle their schedules and work.[9] Control is important for maintaining your sense of autonomy at work.

Depending on your position, you might be able to go ahead and take control of your schedule and workflow the way you see fit—as long as you complete the work needed and hit your goals.

If not, you might have to have a discussion with your manager or boss and come to an agreeable decision about how to make your workflow more flexible in a way that benefits both you and your boss’s expectations.

9. Your Efforts Are Not Recognized or Rewarded

There’s nothing more demeaning than having your work go unnoticed or taken for granted by your colleagues and superiors.

It turns out that when it comes to work, recognition matters more than pay. 70% of respondents to a survey admitted that they could not place a dollar value on their most meaningful experiences of recognition.[10]

You can’t exactly walk into your boss’s office and start demanding more recognition for what you do, but you can make an effort to keep your boss updated on your accomplishments, build a better relationship with them and take initiative with additional tasks or issues that they bring up.

When sharing your accomplishments, make sure you emphasize the benefit it had on the organization as a whole.

To get more recognition from other colleagues, start by recognizing theirs. Those who appreciate your recognition will take notice and likely return the favor.

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10. You’re Being Treated Unfairly

It’s hard seeing colleagues get promoted when you think they didn’t serve it, or witnessing hiring or compensation decisions that seem to be based on biased opinion or favoritsm.

According to a workplace survey by workforce management software company Kronos, unfair compensation was the top contributor to employee burnout at 41%, followed by unreasonable workload and overtime work at 32%.[11] Unfair treatment at work can suck the drive to achieve right out of you, leaving you feeling disheartened and disengaged.

To feel as if you’re being treated fairly, you must get clear on what you need to do to be rewarded, compensated appropriately, or promoted. Ask your manager or boss what you need to do, and then do it.

If you still don’t receive the compensation or promotion that you think you deserve even after doing everything you were told you should do to get it, consider working somewhere else where your efforts are actually valued and save yourself from exasperating the effects of burnout.

11. You Don’t See Any Clear Way to Advance Your Position

You’ve stopped learning, you’re stuck doing the same thing day in day out, and you feel trapped in a dead-end job.

The human brain is hardwired for novelty and gains pleasure from taking on tasks that are just challenging enough to tackle, so a workflow that’s too routine or too drudgerous will slowly drain the sprit right out of you.

When there’s no way up and nothing different to do, you’ll start to care less and less about your work at all.

Even if there’s no higher position to work toward, you can still find new and meaningful ways to learn and challenge yourself. If you’re not sure how, talk to your boss or colleagues about shaking up your workflow.

If a significant shake-up at work just can’t happen, consider doing the best you can with what you have to do while focusing your efforts on learning and being challenged outside of work. Get back to an old hobby, start a new side hustle, or join a club to help balance those boring workdays or shifts.

12. Your Personal Core Values Conflict With the Values of Your Workplace.

When what you have to do at work violates something that you believe in and stand for, your sense of integrity suffers.

In order to keep working at an organization where its values are out of alignment with your own, you basically have to kill those parts of yourself that have always helped define who you are.

This is very difficult to do, given that your core values are typically ingrained in early childhood and remain in your subconscious mind throughout your adult life without you even being aware of them.

The first step you should take is identify what you truly stand for. Next, you have to consider what’s meaningful about your work versus what could slowly kill you inside, and then weigh them against each other.

If you find that there’s not enough to fulfill you by staying, you’ll likely need to prepare to find another job that’s more closely aligned with your values since your subconscious will lead you down the road anyway.

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13. You’re a Perfectionist About Your Work

You might have extremely high personal standards about your work performance, leaving no room for error.

Perfectionists are known to be extremely self-critical—even when things go right (but worse when things go wrong). It’s no surprise that research links perfectionism to burnout, suggesting that it’s more of a self-destructive trait rather than a sign of virtue.[12]

As a perfectionist, you have to learn how to adopt a growth mindset (as opposed t o a fixed mindset) by seeing mistakes and failures as an opportunity to improve.

You also have to learn to practice self-compassion when work goes less than perfectly if you want to become a more resilient worker.

14. You’re Really Only in It for the Money.

Work is work, but if every component of it feels completely meaningless and unfulfilling, then something is seriously wrong.

A whopping 87% of employees worldwide feel disengaged with their work.[13] If you’re one of them, your disengagement could lead to your downfall (by demotion, layoff, or firing).

Finding something fulfilling about your work takes a change in perspective. One way to do this is by putting yourself in the end user’s shoes—the customer or the client. Another way to do this is by looking at the bigger picture and thinking about your organization’s overall mission or goal.

Next, identify the connections between your work and the end user and/or the organization’s mission. This should help you become aware of how your contribution is helping to make a real difference—even if it seems small.

15. Your Genetics Might Make You More Susceptible to Burnout

If you think you’re simply more prone to stress and anxiety than your fellow colleagues, you could be right.

Research has shown that there’s a potential molecular pathway for stress-related traits, suggesting that some people might be naturally more susceptible to burnout than others.[14]

People who were raised by stressed and anxious parents or guardians might also be more susceptible, although this might be more of an environmental factor rather than a genetic one.

You can’t fight genetics, so your best bet is to work with how you’re built. Double down on your self-care by taking time to recharge, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that restore your energy—like meditation, exercise, reading, or listening to music.

The Bottom Line

Burnout is no joke, and it doesn’t just go away by ignoring it. If you want to save yourself from having to spend a longer than necessary amount of time trying to recover, you have to start taking action sooner rather than later.

It’s important to view the solution to burnout as a lifestyle balancing act. You’re going to have to identify the contributing factors to your burnout and connect them to all the other parts of your life—including health, relationships, hobbies, core values, and so on—if you want to neutralize it as quickly and as effectively as possible.

More Resources to Help Tackle Burn out

Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

Reference

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Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Last Updated on August 5, 2019

Having Trouble Sleeping? 9 Quick Fixes to Help You Sleep Tonight

Having Trouble Sleeping? 9 Quick Fixes to Help You Sleep Tonight

According to surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of people living in the United States don’t get enough sleep.[1] Americans are also the least happy they’ve ever been, based on a recent U.N. report — they’ve dropped in happiness rankings for the past three years running.[2] It’s difficult to say whether poor sleeping habits and sleepless nights are causally related to unhappiness, but there is very little doubt that when you have trouble sleeping, it negatively affects your overall health and well-being.

Whether you want to fall asleep faster or get higher-quality rest overall, improving your sleep isn’t necessarily difficult. Here are 9 easy things you can do to get better sleep right away:

1. Write Before Bed

The difficulty in getting to sleep for many people lies in an inability to shut off their thoughts. As you wind down, you’re often not only thinking about events of the day, but also on the next day’s challenges. These thoughts aren’t aimless chatter, either — they represent feelings, observations, or intentions that your subconscious has deemed important, and doesn’t want you to forget during the night.

One solution is to write as many of those thoughts down as you can. Whether it’s a journal, a diary, or just a stack of post-it notes, writing down your thoughts and feelings before bed will move them temporarily out of your mind. You’ll often find this makes it easier for you to relax.

2. Make Your Bed

Making your bed might seem like too simple of a chore to carry with it the power to change your sleep quality. Interestingly, however, there is a correlation between making your bed and your quality of sleep.

That’s right: the National Sleep Foundation compiled data from a “Bedroom Poll” and found that people who said they made their beds in the morning also reported better sleep overall.[3]

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Why this correlation exists is still a mystery, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploiting it. After all, it only takes a few minutes to make your bed each morning, and chances are that if you’re reading this article, you’re probably lying awake in bed for longer than that every night anyway.

3. Drink More Water

You might think drinking more water would harm your sleep quality by causing you to get up at night and use the bathroom. That can happen, which is why a good hydration practice involves not waiting until bedtime to guzzle water.

If you’re surprised that hydration affects sleep patterns in the first place, you shouldn’t be. Even mild dehydration dries out your mouth and nasal passages, making you more likely to snore or wake up during the night. It can even lead to nocturnal leg cramps.

Whenever possible, drink plenty of fluids (non-caffeinated, if you’re having trouble sleeping) at regular intervals throughout the day. About 90 ounces of fluid a day is appropriate for most women, while most men should be getting closer to 125.[4]

4. Take a Shower Before Bed

During the day, your core body temperature naturally fluctuates in accordance with your circadian rhythm, which, as you may know, controls your sleep-wake cycle.

Body temperature is one of the factors your body relies on to know whether it’s time to sleep or stay awake. A lowered core temperature prompts melatonin release, and the body progressively cools overnight before warming again around “wake-up” time.

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This is called thermoregulation, and you can manipulate it with a warm bath or shower. The warm water heats up your body, and when you get out, your skin dries and cools quickly — triggering melatonin and other “sleep cues” in the brain.

5. Take a Night Drive (In Your Imagination)

This is a visualization technique similar to what many therapists recommend to treat stress and anxiety, and one of many such techniques put forth by the National Sleep Foundation.[5]

Think of a drive or ride you take often (your daily commute to work, for example). Now picture yourself getting in your vehicle, pulling out of your parking space, and commencing the trip. Try your best to focus on the road and imagine each stop, turn, curve, and landmark. Chances are, you’ll be asleep before you reach the second mile marker.

6. Quit Coffee

Of all the ideas on this list, you might be most opposed to trying this one. After all, if you’re already groggy and tired in the mornings from not sleeping well, coffee might be the one thing that seems to help you get going.

Unfortunately (especially for those who drink coffee for the taste), the same caffeine that is your best friend in the morning becomes your enemy at night, disrupting your circadian rhythm and promoting an unhealthy cycle of wakefulness.

You might think, “Sure, but I don’t drink caffeine at night.” What you might not know is that the quarter-life of caffeine is a full 12 hours — meaning if you drink a cup of coffee at noon, a quarter of the caffeine from it is still in your system at midnight.

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Ditching caffeinated stuff for decaf or hot tea might be difficult in the short run, but it will make it easier to relax and wind down later in the day. If you find that you just can’t give it up, try to drink your caffeine as early as possible in the day to help minimize its late-night effects.

7. Try Dinner for Breakfast

While nutritional science is still in its infancy in many ways, its research has already made waves in demonstrating how what we eat affects us. Potassium, for instance, benefits the body in many ways — including acting as a mild muscle relaxant.[6]

Protein, meanwhile, may be billed as the muscle-building nutrient, but did you know it also aids in sleep?[7] Another key to getting quality rest is making sure the body’s blood sugar level stays regulated — something a good source of light carbohydrates can help immensely with.

Put all that together and what do you get? A prescription for breakfast at dinnertime. A banana for the potassium, some eggs for the protein, and some carbs, like a piece of toast or bowl of oats, will prime your body for a relaxing night of high-quality sleep. (Just leave out the coffee.)

8. Try the ARMY’s 2-Minute Technique

If there’s one organization that absolutely can’t afford groggy employees, it’s the military. To guard against mistakes committed by sleep-deprived soldiers, the U.S. Army trains its members in a technique to fall asleep within 2 minutes.[8] Here’s how it works:

  1. After getting ready for sleep (teeth brushed, alarm set, etc.), lie down in a comfortable position (you can also do this in your car, in which case just lean your seat back)
  2. Tighten all the muscles in your face, then let them relax as much as possible
  3. Let your shoulders and arms relax as well
  4. Clear your mind for 10 seconds, trying to think of nothing at all
  5. Picture one of the following: you’re lying in a canoe, in a calm lake with clear blue skies above; or you’re in a velvet hammock, gently swaying in a pitch-black room

If this doesn’t work right away, it may be worth trying again. The best results are reported after several weeks of consistent practice.

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9. Get More Exercise

When it comes to packing everything into your schedule, do you prioritize extra sleep or extra exercise? The truth is you need both to maintain your health. The solution might be to focus on exercises that have been documented to actually benefit your sleep quality.

For example, doing 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise after waking up in the morning has been shown to improve sleep quality in adults. According to at least one survey, those who exercise are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report getting good sleep each night.[9]

The Bottom Line

While these tips can be highly effective, it’s important to remember that poor sleep can also be caused by underlying medical conditions. That said, in many cases, lifestyle changes have been shown to be more effective than medication at improving sleep in the long term. Either way, it’s a good idea to discuss these kinds of issues with your physician or healthcare provider.

Whatever you decide, trouble sleeping isn’t something you should ignore. Lack of sleep can contribute to a number of serious health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

You spend up to a third of your life asleep, so if you want to improve your quality of life and overall well-being, it stands to reason that your sleep habits are a good place to start!

More About Getting Better Sleep

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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