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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

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

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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.

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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 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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