How to Prevent and Deal With Professional Burnout

Burnout is a term we’ve been hearing a lot during this pandemic. This unprecedented situation we’re experiencing has taken a toll on many of us, with first responders and doctors taking the full brunt. But despite the fact that it’s become very common, burnout is still misunderstood, and unfortunately often underestimated. The truth is that burnout is more than just job-related stress; it’s something more extreme that can lead to serious consequences, including depression. In what follows, we’ll go over what burnout really means, how it manifests, how to overcome it, and how to prevent it from recurring in the future. 

What is burnout, exactly, and who can be affected?

Burnout was first coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger back in the 1970s. It was a term used to describe a state of extreme chronic stress that eventually leads to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. The term is also known as occupational burnout, because it describes an affection directly related to job-related stress. However, burnout doesn’t always relate entirely to one’s work; trying to balance a stressful job with a busy personal life can also lead to burnout. 

Basically, burnout is what happens when we take on too much. It’s no coincidence that burnout is very common among those working in high-stress conditions, such as doctors, firefighters, law enforcement officers, but also managers and C-level executives. Burnout is more common in people who have others depending on them. The pressure and implications are much higher in such high-stake fields of work, and that leads to increased levels of stress. 

Burnout is also very common among Type A personalities, or what we might call ‘overachievers’ and ‘perfectionists.’ It’s perfectly normal and healthy to push yourself to be successful at your job, but there is such a thing as pushing too hard. People who have a hard time delegating and saying no, as well as those who are always striving for perfection, are more prone to experiencing occupational burnout. 

Burnout versus stress

Many people wrongly believe that burnout is just job-related stress, when in fact, it’s much more than that. Stress is a natural part of life, and we all experience it in one form or another. It’s perfectly commonplace to have a stressful day, week, or even month at work at some point, but usually it’s something temporary. Burnout, on the other hand, is constant and extreme stress that affects our emotional and mental wellbeing in a much deeper way. It’s not just about feeling stressed at work; it manifests in a lack of joy, excitement, interest, or satisfaction with one’s job. Each and every task becomes something to be dreaded, and the result is a decrease in work productivity and performance, as well as a feeling of constant dissatisfaction. It basically can make you hate your job.  

Unfortunately, in this fast-paced world where being constantly busy is considered a virtue, it’s easy to miss the warning signs of burnout. Overwork, overtime, overachieving, these are terms that we’ve come to accept as the norm, and unfortunately they are still glorified in many workspaces around the world. Unfortunately, burnout is a real issue that more and more people are suffering from, and this is leading them to leave their jobs in troves. According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, close to 4 million people left their jobs in June 2021, another 4 million left in July, and an additional 4.3 million in August – a record high. What’s causing all these resignations? Burnout. 

How to spot the early signs of burnout

A lot of times, we tend to ignore the warning signs of burnout, and keep pushing ourselves to complete every task and perform impeccably at work. If we’re perfectionists, then we’re even more prone to taking on too much and overwhelming ourselves with tasks and deadlines. That’s why it’s important to always be aware of how we feel, and to listen to what our bodies are telling us. Here are some signs that you might be headed for, or already experiencing, burnout:

  • Extreme and constant stress at work
  • Dreading each day, each task, each meeting
  • Getting no satisfaction or enjoyment from your work
  • A state of tiredness or exhaustion that spills over into your personal life
  • Irritability and mood swings at work and at home
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and other activities
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia, back pain, digestive issues
  • No motivation to exercise 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Pessimistic feelings about work and life in general 
  • Fantasizing about quitting and getting away from it all, wanting to escape
  • More frequent illnesses as stress affects the immune system (colds, the flu)
  • Depression and anxiety

If the early warning signs of burnout are identified, there are several things you can do to recover and get back on track. But if burnout is left untreated and unresolved, it can lead to serious things like depression. In fact, burnout can often mirror the symptoms of depression, so it’s important to find the root cause of these feelings and get help. 

How to prevent and deal with burnout

So, let’s say you’re dealing with burnout or have identified the early warning signs and want to avoid spiraling further. What can you do to deal with burnout and how can you prevent it from recurring in the future? Here are a few things that can make a huge difference:

  • Get enough sleep and rest
  • Eat a healthy diet 
  • Take regular breaks from work
  • Leave work at work
  • Delegate tasks
  • Learn to say no
  • Make good use of your vacation days
  • Speak to your employer openly
  • Find hobbies and activities that bring you joy
  • Ask for help
  • Talk to a therapist or a counselor 

If you’ve tried all the things on the list above, and you still don’t find any joy or satisfaction from your work, then perhaps it’s time for a change. You might want to start looking at opportunities to find a job that brings you satisfaction. But you don’t want to make a rash decision while you are going through burnout. What you’re experiencing might not be related to the job itself, and you might find you have renewed interest in your work after you overcome a burnout episode. 

Before you go

Stress is a natural part of life, and each and every one of us experiences stressful days every once in a while. Burnout is a lot more severe, and it can be hard to overcome it on your own. That’s why it’s important to pay attention and listen to your body, and try to be connected with yourself and aware of what you’re feeling and why. There’s also no reason to feel ashamed of these feelings; burnout is a real issue, and it’s becoming more and more common, especially if you’re highly driven. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you feel like you need it; talk to your employer, your friends, your family, but most importantly, get advice from a professional. 

If you feel like you’re heading for burnout, or are already experiencing the signs and symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to Miracle Activation Center. Our certified counselors have plenty of experience dealing with these issues, and they can help you deal with burnout and prevent it in the future, by becoming more self-aware and practicing self-care. 

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