Most demanding careers practically guarantee stress, but if you’re feeling completely exhausted, unable to concentrate, or as though you’re neglecting your own well-being, you may be suffering from burnout. It’s a very real condition that’s easy to ignore, but you can detect and fix the problem if you know what to do. Here’s how.
We often use the term “burnout” as a vague label for an exhausting day or week of hard work, but actual burnout is quite a bit more serious. I experienced serious burnout at my first job out of university. I always knew something was wrong because of the long hours and high levels of stress, but I didn’t realise what it was doing to me until my parents came to visit, saw the disastrous state of my apartment and made me aware of what I’d been trying to ignore. (I’m usually a very tidy person, so even a small mess indicates a problem.)
After leaving that job, I learnt more about burnout, how my life was a perfect (and extreme) example, and what I needed to do to change it. Burnout can be bad, but it isn’t insurmountable. You simply need to recognise the symptoms, identify the causes and take action — both in the short and long term — to remedy the issues you uncover. In this post, we’re going to look at how to do those three things.
How to Identify Burnout and Its Cause
- A generally negative attitude, often paired with the feeling that nothing is going to work out.
- Inability to concentrate.
- General apathy towards your work, chores and other tasks.
- Feelings of stagnation.
- A lack of interest in social activities and being with others.
- Difficulty with healthy habits like exercise, diet and regular sleep.
- Feeling like you’re never doing enough.
- Neglecting your own needs (and putting the needs of others ahead of your own).
- Personal values and beliefs lose their importance.
- Short temper.
- Constant exhaustion.
- Feelings of inefficacy.
- Feelings of detachment from people and things you care about.
- Frequent boredom.
- Psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches, lingering colds and other issues with a cause that’s difficult to identify.
- The denial of these feelings.
How to Undo the Effects of Burnout
Once you’ve identified and accepted that you’re truly burnt out, you need to change it. It takes a while for burnout to manifest, and so it can take a while to undo as well. You’ll need to be ready to make serious changes and stick with them for a while. The good news is that once you start making these changes, you should start to feel more motivated again. Often times change is the necessary catalyst to make you feel like things are going to get better. By taking these changes slowly and rolling them out over a long period of time (e.g. a year or more), you can keep yourself on track.
Cut Off the Source of the Burnout
Not every source of burnout can be swapped for something better. If for whatever reason there is no way for you to cut off the source of burnout entirely, you need to get as much help as possible to lighten your load. Ask your friends and family to assist where they can so you have more personal time to figure out a long-term solution to your problem.
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