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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

Burnout from Work? 7 Research-Backed Strategies To Recover

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Burnout from Work? 7 Research-Backed Strategies To Recover

Are you exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically, probably due to long-term, unresolved stress? Have you lost your drive to become productive?

Have your experienced changes in your sleep habits? Do you find it hard to focus?

Perhaps you are losing meaning in your work, and you are becoming pessimistic about life.

What you are experiencing is called ‘burnout.’

What is Burnout?

Here is how Mayo Clinic defined it:[1]

“A state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also includes a loss of personal identity and a sense of reduced accomplishment.”

Mayo Clinic also reiterated that burnout is not a medical diagnosis. A lot of experts believe some underlying conditions such as depression are responsible for burnout.

In addition, a report by Gallop shows that about 44 percent of employees think they are suffering from burnout. Sixty-three percent of the surveyed employees will take sick leave due to Burnout.[2]

What Are Some Common Symptoms of Burnout?

  • Showing a pessimistic perspective to life or work
  • Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion
  • Lower immunity to diseases or sicknesses
  • De-motivation
  • Lower productivity
  • Depleted energy levels

If you are having any of these symptoms, you might need to read further as I will show you seven researched-backed strategies to recover when you are burnout from work.

But before that, is there a connection between stress and Burnout?

What Is the Difference Between Burnout and Stress?

Burnout may emanate from long-term, unrelenting stress, but it is not the same as stress.

Stress incorporates overbearing pressures that take a toll on you mentally and physically. People who are stressed can feel better if they can bring everything into balance.

Burnout, on the other hand, is a state of feeling empty, absence of motivation, and mental exhaustion. When you are suffering from burnout, you do not see any hope in your situation.

While excessive stress is being drowned in responsibilities, burnout is a state of complete depletion.

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Here is another side to it.

While you are mostly aware when you are going through a lot of stress, for burnout, you do not realize when it occurs.

So how do you know when you are experiencing burnout?

You can follow these five stages.

What Are the Five Stages of Burnout?

Anyone can suffer from Burnout at any point in life. However, research conducted by NCBI indicated that the symptoms of burnout varied according to different stages of life among working men and women. Young men and women between the age of 20 and 35 years, as well as 55 years and above, are prone to burnout.[3]

The symptoms of burnout, just like any illness, differ from person to person. Nevertheless, in general, these are the five stages of burnout.

1. Honeymoon Stages

What is the honeymoon stage like?

At this phase, you are very excited about your work, and you are not experiencing any stress-related symptoms.

Do you remember your first day at work? Or the beginning of your new start-up?

Your job satisfaction level was high, and you were super-committed, energetic, and highly creative.

While you may notice predictable stresses on the job, you may discard implementing coping strategies to help you achieve a full life. You are super enthusiastic about your work, and you are trading off other aspects of your life.

Here is the theory behind this stage.

If you can establish coping strategies and maintain a work-life balance, you can live all your life in this honeymoon stage without end.

Here are some common symptoms to track:

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  • Unconstrained energy levels
  • Job Satisfaction
  • High level of commitment to a task
  • A steady stream of creativity
  • High levels of productivity

2. The Awakening Stage

What is the Awakening Stage of Burnout?

The awakening stage is when you begin to lose steam on your optimism. It is that stage when reality finally sets in. Your high expectation about that business or job is crashing down.

Not only that, but your needs are not also met, and you start to feel disconnected from your teammates. Starting with this disappointment, you will begin to see other symptoms.

Here are some of them:

  • Lack of Focus
  • Dissatisfaction on the job
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Lower productivity
  • Insomnia or reduced sleep quality
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of memory
  • Headaches
  • Unusual heartbeats
  • Trading off of personal life
  • Change in appetite

You may also start feeling bored with your work or unusually tired.

3. Chronic Stress Stage

The third stage is the chronic stress stage. during this stage, you will experience a notable change in your stress levels – from losing motivation to frequent tiredness.

These are some common symptoms:

  • Continuous tiredness early in the morning.
  • Lack of hobbies
  • Anger
  • Transfer of aggression
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Social withdrawal
  • Escapist activities
  • Repeated lateness at work
  • Absenteeism
  • Apathy
  • Physical illness
  • Missed deadlines on project milestones
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Increased alcohol or sugar intake
  • Increased caffeine intake
  • Fear of being panicky
  • Feeling overburden or out of control

4. Burnout Stage

This stage is where all symptoms become severe. This is the exact stage people refer to when they talk about being burnout. At this stage, you will feel like it is just not possible to continue with your life.

Here are some symptoms:

  • Feeling empty on the inside
  • Self-doubt
  • Behavioral changes
  • Social Isolation
  • Getting obsessed about issues at work or in your life
  • Chronic headaches
  • Social isolation
  • Pessimism
  • Total neglect of personal needs
  • Increase in physical symptoms
  • Development of escapist mindset
  • Urge to disconnect from society
  • Desire to isolate from family and friends.

5. Habitual Burnout

This is the final stage. At this stage, the symptoms of burnout have become ingrained in your life to the extent that you may start experiencing physical or mental issues.

Here are some symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Chronic sadness
  • Chronic physical fatigue
  • Chronic mental fatigue
  • Burnout syndrome

So is there any hope if you find yourself in any of the stages?

While Burnout is curable, it demands that you accept your present reality and make a decision to change your lifestyle and mentality. You need to see your darkest moment as that phase that will enable you to discover your purpose in life.

If you are experiencing Burnout from work, here are ten research-backed strategies to help you regain your focus and productivity:

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7 Strategies to Help You Recover After Experiencing Burnout From Work

1. List Everything That Overwhelms You

It will amaze you that making a list is very therapeutic. The act of listing enables you to capture every negative thought and organize them in a form that you can better assess and understand.

Take an inventory of what you need to do daily, and then write those to-dos to avoid stressing yourself when you want to recall them. Highlight possible ways in which you can make each item less burdensome.

For instance, if you are writing a book, you can collaborate with other content writers to help prepare the table of content and proofread and edit the book so you do not overload yourself with excessive work.

Moreover, listing helps you maximize your resources by delegating tasks to the best hands.

2. Learn to Take a Break

What you do not take a break from will eventually break you.

According to Len Robinson:[4]

“Burnout does not happen all of a sudden. It usually develops over months or years. Therefore, you will need considerable time to develop coping strategies to recover from Burnout. If you can have fun as you make progress towards your goals, you will experience a happy-work life.”

So, as much as possible, have fun while you work.

3. Focus on Your Capabilities

You will always get tired when you work on tasks that do not match your skills.

Dr. Jim Harter, Ph.D. of Gallup, says that “workers with the highest level of engagement spend an average of four times as much hours performing tasks they excel at in comparison to what they don’t have skills for.”[5]

You enhance your capabilities when you spend time on activities that align with your skills. On the other hand, you will eventually get burned out from tasks that are beyond your strength.

4. Accept Your Weaknesses

It is not enough to focus on what you can do; you also need to accept that there are things you cannot do. You can lose your self-esteem and have your energy depleted when you undertake tasks that you are less qualified or trained for.

So do you have some tasks that you are less qualified for? Outsource them instead.

5. Establish a Formidable Support System

How do you outsource your weaknesses when you do not have a formidable support system? A strong support system such as your friends and colleagues at work can advise and encourage you when you are at your low ebbs.

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BJCEAP recommends six steps to establish a strong support system:[6]

  • Review your network and identify who can help
  • Attempt new activities to meet new people
  • Enroll in a book club
  • Appreciate important people in your life and let them know
  • Join a local association or work-related group.
  • Be willing to request for support.

Also, it is not enough to simply seek support. You should also strive to become your own best friend.

6. Learn to Say No

When you start to feel the symptoms of burnout from work, do not be timid in rejecting new commitments.

If you have established a strong support system, your team members will most likely understand when you are not capable of taking more jobs.

7. Control Your Usage of Devices and Internet

This is another factor that can make you experience burnout from work. You do not have to reply to all notifications on Facebook.

Is your smart device causing you to get burned out?

Find the time to unplug from the digital world and focus on more critical activities. You cannot get adequate sleep when you are too addicted to your smart devices. Sometimes, you need a rest from your gadgets so you can get back your life.

There is this story of a man who visited the Doctor to get tested for COVID-19 because he was showing symptoms.

Guess what the outcome of the test was?

The Doctor said, ‘Your test did not come out positive to Coronavirus, but you tested positive to Corona bad news.’

What you expose yourself to can impact your mental health. You need to prioritize your mental health as you engage your digital devices and the internet.

Conclusion

Do not say that you cannot. Do not say that it is not possible.

Now is the time to regain your focus and productivity if you are experiencing burnout from work.

More Tips for Dealing with Burnout

Featured photo credit: Shane via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life The Careful Art of Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively How the Flow State Helps You Stay Productive and Concentrate What Is A Flow State And How To Achieve It For Productivity

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Last Updated on September 16, 2021

The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

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The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

I love my sleep. I always make sure to get at least eight hours each night. I’ll even leave parties early so I can get to bed at my usual time Yet, there are still mornings when I wake up feeling exhausted, even after a great night’s sleep. Whenever that happens, I run through a mental checklist, grasping at straws to explain to myself why I feel so groggy: why do I feel exhausted? Did I drink too much last night? Did I stay up past my usual bedtime? Did I hit snooze on my alarm twelve times? Eight hours of sleep a night shouldn’t result in chronic exhaustion, right?

Regardless of how much quality sleep you’re getting, you can still feel mentally exhausted, burnt out, run-down, worn through—whatever you want to call it. Most of the time, you’re so exhausted you don’t even have the time or the sense to see it clearly.

The answer is right in front of your face, but you haven’t had a chance to step back and analyze your situation. Maybe you hate your job, or you’re worried about paying rent, but you’re not actively thinking about it. How could you with all that’s going on? It’s planted in your subconscious, lurking there and eating away at your morale.

That worn-down feeling is a cumulative combination of unconsidered stressful circumstances—an amalgamation of past worries and future anxieties. We aren’t talking about your regular physical exhaustion from a long day’s work standing on your feet. This is purely in between your ears. You’re overstimulated, and it’s dragging you down. But what’s the real reason behind this brain fog? Why do you feel exhausted?

The first place to look at is stress,[1] which is the body’s natural response to a new challenge or demand. Where are you currently experiencing stress in your life?

Most pain, exhaustion, or emotional fatigue is the direct result of stress. Daily life is filled with tiny stressors—running to catch the morning bus, praying you’ll find a parking spot, or worrying about the leak in your ceiling at home. As these small stressors pile on uncontrollably, you realize you’re white-knuckling through the day.

Mental exhaustion,[2] simply put, is long-term stress. It’s having a day like the above over and over again for months on end until it weighs so much it finally drags you to the ground. You can’t keep living like this.

You may have experienced this in the form of a “mid-life crisis,” or even a quarter-life crisis where you stop and realize you never pursued the things you once hoped and dreamed of. Life passed you by in the blink of an eye. What happened to the “purpose” you once wanted to get out of life? Maybe you wanted to be an artist and all of a sudden, you look down and you’re forty-three years old sitting in a conference room surrounded by suits and boring charts.

You’re faking your way through life and you’re tired of putting on an act.

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Why Do You Feel Exhausted?

“Depression, anxiety, phobias… so many things can be disguised in a way that gives a facade of normalcy over a person’s internal struggles.” —Morgan Housel

There are many reasons why you may be feeling exhausted. There may be times when you had complete hours of sleep yet ask yourself after waking up: why do I still feel exhausted?

Why? It’s because there are other possible reasons for this exhaustion other than improper or lack of sleep. Here are some reasons why you feel exhausted.

1. High-Pressure Occupation (emergency responders and teachers)

Working in a highly stressful scene like an ER or police department is an obvious input for stress. Long hours on the job and making high-level decisions in crisis mode need to be followed by a period of rest, relaxation, and debriefing.

2. Working Long Hours

Consistently clocking in 12-14 hour days for weeks on end can drag you down. Many occupations require this type of work seasonally, like accountants during tax season. But when you’re spending that much time at week year-round and there is no end in sight, mental exhaustion can become chronic.

3. Financial Stress

For obvious reasons, being in troubled circumstances with your finances can cause long-term stress and constant worries, which lead to feeling exhausted. How can you enjoy life if you can’t afford to do the things you enjoy? No matter how much you sleep, you will still feel exhausted if something is troubling you at the back of your mind like financial problems.

4. Dissatisfied With Your Job

When you ask yourself, “why do I feel exhausted?” Try also asking, “Am I satisfied with my job?”

Many people slog through life in a job they hate. Whether it’s your unruly boss, the team that you work with, or the customers who you’re sick of hearing complaining, being stuck in a dissatisfying job can cause feelings of resentment in work and your personal life.

5. Clutter

Whether you’re naturally a messy person or life has become so frantic that you haven’t even had a chance to clean or organize, clutter plays a massive part in mental exhaustion. Having a clear workspace and a calm environment to walk into makes a difference in mental clarity. This can also affect your productivity and your attitude towards your job.

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6. Avoidance and Procrastination

When you feel exhausted, it may be because something at the back of your head is troubling you. You may have some responsibilities that you should be doing or have done but still have not. Putting things off too long will cause hidden stress to climb on top of you like a monkey on your back. Avoiding your responsibilities and procrastinating are some of the possible causes as to why you feel exhausted.

7. Living With Chronic Pain or an Illness

Going through life with stress is hard enough. Add on top of that something like chronic back pain or a congenital condition and it’s like taking care of two separate people for yourself. This can also cause feelings of resentment, bitterness, and irritation around people you love, even those who support and take care of you.

8. Death of a Loved One

Losing a close friend or family member is something everyone has experienced, and it never gets easier. Many people try to play tough and portray to their loved ones that they are okay and dealing with it just fine. But the reality is that it’s weighing them down.

Be honest with yourself about it, and have someone you can talk to. Experiencing your grief alone and not sharing it with anyone may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

9. Lack of Purpose

Life needs to have a purpose. Every individual has a purpose that is entirely unique to their circumstance. It can be guided by religion, occupation, or an ultimate life goal to strive towards, such as writing a book or owning a business. Without an ultimate purpose, it’s easy to let yourself slip into a depression that leads to mental exhaustion.

What Should You Do When You Feel Exhausted?

“When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.” —Nicholas Sparks

1. Talk About It

It may sound obvious, but talking through these struggles with someone is a form of therapy in itself. Chances are, someone has been through the same type of thing that you’re going through right now. Don’t hide it. Open up and learn how others dealt with it. It’s more common than you think.

2. Find an Outlet or a Hobby

One way to help find joy out of a life of exhaustion is to come home to a hobby. Unwind from the workday by doing something you love that’s also a bit challenging. Learn how to play guitar, play video games with your kids, read a book, or learn new recipes to cook for your family. Take your mind away from whatever it is you’re worried about. Focus entirely on the process and get out of your anxiety.

3. Be Realistic

You can’t do everything. Look at your schedule, and be honest with yourself and the people around you about what’s possible for one person to do in a day. You can’t change the world alone. Enlist the help of others and don’t be too proud to ask. Putting the weight of the world on your shoulders may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

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4. Arrive Early

It took me years in life to realize how much being early can relieve stress. Waking up five minutes earlier gives me five minutes to relax and think if I’m forgetting anything before I head out the door. Leaving five minutes before I normally would for an event gives me five minutes to arrive and get a good seat, scope out the scene, or talk to someone and learn something about the place.

Being early allows you to be relaxed and completely comfortable as opposed to running through life in a hurry. Settle in before anyone else and have the mental edge that you’re prepared for anything.

5. Exercise More, Try Healthier Habits

Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. But have you ever regretted a workout? One hundred percent of the time it makes you feel better and gives you the momentum to have a great day.

Try healthier habits. Go for a walk right when you get out of bed. Try a new vegetable once a week. Drink more water. Stand more. Replace dessert with fruit. If you drink ten cups of coffee a day, try to go one day a month without coffee. Healthier habits ultimately lead to a happier life in more ways than you think.

6. Journal

Similar to talking about your problems, journaling is an excellent outlet for not only getting the thoughts out of your head but also to clarify your feelings. As you write, you’ll realize you actually didn’t understand what you were thinking. Writing helps that. Do it often.

7. Take Care of Something

Get a pet. If you’re not ready for a dog, then buy a few plants to take care of. This takes the attention off yourself and on to something that relies on you for livelihood. It will help put everything in perspective and relieve stress and exhaustion.

8. Meditate

This is such an overly-used cure-all, but meditation really does help with clarity of thinking and developing a sense of calm in your life. Researchers found that meditation “decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.[3]

It doesn’t have to be sitting with your legs cross, fingers in a circle, and saying “Oooommmmmm.” Meditating can take on whatever form you’re comfortable with. It can be taking a few deep breaths before you step out of your car, or it can be closing your eyes and thinking of your loved ones when you’re having a hard time.

Sometimes before bed, I’ll just close my eyes and envision a future I want for myself. I picture the people I love hugging me and saying “Congratulations.” For what? I don’t know, but I’m putting myself in the mindset to succeed.

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Final Thoughts

Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit:[4]

“The more you work on systems for reducing stress and excess decision-making, the more mental energy you’ll have.”

This is true in so many areas. Work on habits and routines that will eliminate the number of decisions you make. The more disciplined you are in these areas, the more freedom you will have to do the things you truly want and need. But also, understand how you are getting in your own way.

Author Tim Ferriss likes to ask himself, “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” or “What are the stories I tell myself that interfere with self-love?”

Take a look at the actions and routines you structure your life around. Are there small tweaks you can make to get out of your own way? What would this look like if it were easy? Sometimes, asking yourself questions like these can lead to surprisingly simple solutions and answer the question of “why do I feel exhausted?”

As I said, everyone is struggling in their own way. How you manage your stress may differ completely from someone else. By being vulnerable and understanding that you have the ability to overcome this exhaustion, you can begin to find meaning. Exercise consistent positive habits and the momentum will attract more positive momentum. Oh, and get good sleep!

More Tips to Help You When You Feel Exhausted

Featured photo credit: Hernan Sanchez via unsplash.com

Reference

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