Between heavy workloads and tight deadlines, it’s no surprise that people tend to feel overwhelmed or stretched thin sometimes. When work stress gets to be too much, it can cause a serious problem called burnout. Burnout not only affects your performance, but your well-being and that of those around you.
So, What is Burnout?
Burnout is more than every day, run-of-the-mill stress. It is a combination of exhaustion, stress, and eventually disillusionment that builds when your stressors get out of hand. Anyone can be stressed or exhausted, but it is people who are especially committed to their work that are most often struck with burnout. After all, you can only “burn out” if you were already lit up to begin with.
Burnout doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate your job. On the contrary, frequently people who love what they do get overwhelmed trying to do it all and this leads to an eventual burnout.
What’s the Difference Between Stress and Burnout?
Although stress and burnout share several characteristics, there are a few distinct differences. Stress is generally a short-term situation, often caused by a feeling that work is out of control. You might experience stress for a few days, especially when working on a big project.
Burnout, on the other hand, takes place over a longer period of time and is a response to chronic stressors at work. For instance, if that big project you’re stressed out leads right into another bigger and more stressful project, and that project into another, with no pause for breath between, burnout could be a major possibility.
The Symptoms of Burnout
- Dreading going into work and wanting to leave once you’re there.
- Being absent frequently.
- Feeling easily irritated by team members, managers, or clients.
- Having low energy and little interest in your work.
- Experiencing headaches, backaches, or an upset stomach regularly.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Having a negative attitude at work.
- Thinking about quitting or changing roles.
What Can I Do?
Thankfully, burnout is not an unbeatable monster. By focusing on strategies to create lasting change in your work habits and mood, you can beat or avoid the dreaded burnout.
Self-Care. It is essential to replenish your energy, both physical and emotional, by making good sleep habits, nutrition, and social connections a priority. Take the time to do the things that make you happy or that promote well-being, such as meditation, journaling, or taking walks. If you feel as though you don’t have the time to work on your wellness, try to assess what you are doing with your time. It is important to make space for yourself, even in a busy schedule.
Shift Perspectives. A little sleep and a short hike probably won’t fix all your burnout-related problems. Even if you fully address your self-care, chances are that this won’t change the way things are at work. You may still face the huge workload, conflicts, or low resources that were stressing you out in the first place. However, altering your perspective can help buffer the negative impact of these things. Ask yourself what you can do to ease the load on yourself, such as delegating tasks, focusing more on the positive relationships in your workspace, or asking for assistance or professional development.
Manage Stress. One of the best ways to prevent burnout is to manage your stress before it ever begins to morph into that beast. Take control of your circumstances – perhaps by creating to-do lists or an action program. Focus on managing your time effectively and prioritizing tasks. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take a step back to catch your bearings before returning to your project. It is okay to take a few moments to focus on your own well-being.
Burnout can feel like an insurmountable behemoth. However, the sense of being overwhelmed is a signal, not a long-term sentence. By recognizing the symptoms and causes of burnout and implementing strategies to handle your stress, you can recover or even prevent it altogether.