Burnout is an issue that many associate with work, but it can actually occur in just about any area of life where you’re overdoing it. Knowing how to spot the signs of burnout is important in order to confront it before it destroys your energy and motivation.
If you’re having trouble focusing on your next task, have an immense urge to crash on the couch for a Netflix binge, or can’t seem to get yourself to wake up on time, even though you have a lot on your plate, you may be experiencing the symptoms of burnout.
According to Deloitte’s workplace burnout survey, “many companies may not be doing enough to minimize burnout.” This is to say that the responsibility is not only on the employee. According to that report, nearly 70 percent of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization, and they definitely should.
Too many companies don’t invest enough in creating a positive environment. About one out of five employees said that their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate job burnout. It is the culture, not the fancy well-being programs, that would probably do the best work.
This is a significant problem for individuals and companies, and it’s also an issue on a macro level. A Stanford University investigation found that more than 120,000 deaths per year, and approximately 5%–8% of annual healthcare costs, are associated with the way U.S. companies manage their workforces.
It is both the employee and the employer’s responsibility—and the latter can certainly do more than they have in recent years.
In this article, I’ll guide you on how to know if you suffering from the signs of burnout and, more importantly, what you can do about it.
Table of Contents
Who Is Prone to Burnout?
For starters, it is a good thing to know that you’re in good company. According to a Gallup poll, 23% (of 7,500 surveyed) expressed burnout more often than not. Nearly 50% of social entrepreneurs who attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018 reported having struggled with burnout and depression at some point.
According to Statista (2017), 13% of adults reported having problems unwinding in the evenings and weekends. According to a Deloitte survey (consisting of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees), 77% of respondents said that they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.
Burnout is not only an issue of the spoiled first-world. Rather, it is a serious matter that must be taken care of appropriately. It affects so many people, and its impacts are just too significant to be ignored.
Some occupations are more prone to burnout, such as people who deeply care about their jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Passion-driven and caregiving roles such as doctors and nurses are some of the most susceptible to burnout.”
The consequences can have life or death ramifications, as “suicide rates among caregivers are dramatically higher than that of the general public—40% higher for men and 130% higher for women.” It is also the case for teachers, non-profit workers, and leaders of all kinds.
Deloitte’s survey also found that 91% say that they have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration. 83% even say that it can negatively impact their relationships, and millennials, despite their seemingly carefree attitudes, are slightly more impacted by burnout (84% of Gen Y vs. 77% in other generations).
What Is Burnout Syndrome?
Burnout was officially included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and is an occupational phenomenon.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout includes three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or emotional and physical exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
The 5 Stages and Signs of Burnout
At this point, you must have a clue if you’re at risk of burnout and what the signs of burnout look like. There are different methods for understanding where you are on the burnout syndrome scale, and one of the most common ones is the “five stages method.”
1. Honeymoon Phase
In marriage, during this phase, you’re beyond happy and feel almost invincible. It’s the same when it comes to taking on a new job or role or starting a new business.
At first, you’re incredibly motivated. Although you might be able to notice signs of potential future burnout, in most cases, you might ignore them. You’re highly productive, super motivated, creative, and accept (and take on) responsibility.
The honeymoon phase is critical because if you plant the seeds of good mental health and coping strategies, you can stay at this phase for extended periods.
2. Onset of Stress
Let’s continue with the wedding metaphor. Now that you’re happily married for some time, you might start noticing certain issues with your spouse that you don’t like. You might have seen them before, but now they take up more space in your life.
You might be less optimistic and feel signs of stress or minor signs and symptoms of physical or emotional fatigue at work. Your productivity reduces, and you think that your motivation is lower.
3. Chronic Stress
At this stage, your stress level is consistently high, and the other symptoms of stage 2 persist.
At this point at work, you start missing deadlines, your sleep quality is low, and you’re resentful and cynical. Other signs of burnout at this point include higher caffeine consumption and feeling increasingly unsatisfied.
This is the point where you are feeling overwhelmed and can’t go on unless there is a significant change in your work environment. You have a strong desire to move to another place, and clinical intervention is sometimes required.You feel neglected, your physical symptoms are increasing, stress management has become impossible, and you may have issues with digestion. You are likely obsessing over problems in your life or work at this point.
5. Habitual Burnout
This is the phase in which stress and burnout are embedded in your life. You might experience chest pains or difficulty breathing, outbursts of anger or apathy, and physical symptoms of chronic fatigue. You also likely feel hopeless about your current situation.
The Causes of Burnout
So, now that we know how to identify the stages and signs of burnout, we can move on to tackling its leading causes. According to the Gallup survey, the top reasons people experience burnout are:
Unfair Treatment at Work
This is not always something that you can fully control. At the same time, you should remember that even if you’re not calling the shots, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept unfair treatment. The consequences mentioned above are just not worth it in most cases.
According to Statista, in 2017, 39% of workers said a heavy workload was their leading cause of stress. We live in a busy work environment, and we will share some tips on how to manage that.
Not Knowing Your Role
While not something you can fully control, you can, and probably should, take action to better define it with your boss so you know exactly what is expected of you.
Inadequate Communication and Support From Your Manager
If your superiors aren’t offering constructive feedback or support when you have various life issues popping up, you may begin to feel frustrated and under-appreciated, which can lead you to experience signs of burnout.
As mentioned, motivated, passionate workers are more in danger of experiencing burnout. One of the reasons is that they’re pressuring themselves to do more, sometimes at the expense of their mental health.
How to Overcome Burnout
While burnout is an issue that should always be taken seriously, there is a lot you can do to fight it head-on.
However, let’s start with what you should not do. Burnout cannot be fixed by going on a vacation. It should be a long-term solution, implemented daily.
According to Clockify (2019), these are the popular ways to avoid burnout:
- Focus on your family life: 60% of adults said that stable family life is key to avoiding burnout. Maintaining meaningful relationships in your life is proven to reduce stress (instead of having many unmeaningful relationships).
- Exercising comes in second, with 58% reporting that jogging, running, or doing any exercise significantly relieves stress. Even a relatively short walk might improve your body’s resilience to stress.
- Seek professional advice: 55% say they would turn to a professional. There are online websites where you can speak with professionals at reduced costs.
Aside from the three most popular ways of avoiding burnout, you can also try the following:
1. Improve Time Management
Try understanding how you can use your time better and leave more time for relaxation. That’s easy to say (or write) but more challenging to implement. It would help if you started by prioritizing yourself.
Understanding the connection between your values and your everyday tasks is a tremendous help. You can use proven methods to improve the relationship between your vision/goals and your daily to-do lists so that you know why you’re offering time to each piece of your day.
2. Use the PLEASE Method
The PLEASE method is a combination of things you should do to be at your best physically, especially when signs of burnout start to appear. It stands for: Physical Illness (P.L.) prevention, Eat healthy (E), Avoid mood-altering drugs (A), Sleep well (S), and Exercise (E).
You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way. You’d be surprised how easy it can become once you start saying no. Some might even describe it as exhilarating.
If you generally have a hard time saying no to others, check out this article to get better at it.
4. Let Your Brain Rest
Culturally, most of us are already wired to think that hard work is essential, and while that’s true in most cases, we sometimes forget that our brain needs to rest for it to recharge. Seven hours of sleep are essential (depending on your age). Meditation may also be helpful to overcome burnout.
5. Pay Attention to Positive Events
We tend to focus on the bad things in our lives. However, by focusing on positive things, we can change our mindset. One way to practice this daily is by writing three good things about your life every morning or evening. It’s been scientifically proven that doing so for a few months can help rewire your brain.
6. Take Some “Me” Time
A Netflix binge is not always good for you, but it might be if you’re noticing signs of burnout. The better the leisure time is, the better you’ll feel in the long term.
It’s usually better to read a book or start a new hobby that requires more cognitive skills than just lying on the couch. But as long as you feel good watching a movie, that might be a good start.
7. New Technologies Might Be Helpful
There are tons of self-help apps such as Fabulous, Headspace (meditation), Noom (diet and exercise), and others. They’re good to use, but you should also be careful not to run away from your problems only to watch social media for hours. You should also be aware not to be in an “always-on” mindset.
Bonus: Rebound From Burnout in 8 Hours
Watch what you can do to rebound from burnout quickly in this episode of The Lifehack Show:
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re at the first or the fifth stage with the signs of burnout, there are always ways to overcome burnout and get back to living the best version of your life. The first thing is self-awareness—knowing that there’s a problem. The second step is to decide what to do about it!
Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com
|||^||Deloitte: Workplace Burnout Survey|
|||^||Stanford: The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States|
|||^||World Economic Forum: Social entrepreneurs can change the world – but these 6 things are holding us back|
|||^||Deloitte: Workplace Burnout Survey|
|||^||Harvard Business Review: Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People|
|||^||ICD-11: Problems associated with employment or unemployment|
|||^||Gallup: Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes|