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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

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

More by this author

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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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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