How to Deal with Feelings of Burnout at Work

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Have you ever faced this scenario? Work is not going well for you. Despite your best efforts over the last few months to complete all your tasks and hit your targets, you realize that you’re not only going to fail on both these counts — but you’ve burned yourself out in the process.

How does this make you feel?

Not great, I would guess.

However, I sympathize, as when I first started working as a software engineer at Red Hat, I thought the secret to success was to work as hard and as much as possible. But I was wrong. This approach simply led me to a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.

So how about you? Are you suffering from work burnout?

Here are a few warning signs that you might be:

  • Disillusionment about your job
  • Difficulty concentrating on the tasks at hand
  • Abusing food, drugs or alcohol to help you cope with work stress
  • Breakdown of your sleeping habits
  • Lack of motivation (do you have trouble getting started on projects?)
  • Cynical attitude towards your work
  • Irritability or impatience with co-workers and clients

If you're experiencing some or all of these symptoms, I recommend talking to a health professional about your concerns. This is important because, burnout — if not addressed — can lead to health issues such as: anxiety, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Why We Experience Burnout

According to Psychology Today, burnout is more than just the result of working long days and weeks. It’s also to do with how much control over their job a person feels they have.((Psychology Today: Burnout)) If they feel that they have little control, this can — over time — lead to fatigue, cynicism, depression, and eventually burnout.

Other factors that can lead to burnout include:

  • Working towards a goal that doesn’t resonate with the individual.
  • Lack of support, either in the home of office (or both).
  • Failure to take adequate breaks from work.
  • Unclear job expectations.
  • Extremes of activity (think monotonous or chaotic tasks).
  • Loss of work-life balance.

As I’ve already pointed out, if you allow yourself to burnout, you’ll be faced with a mountain of physical and mental health problems. Which is why it’s so important that you tackle this issue head on.

I’ve coached many people who have suffered from work burnout, and I’ve started to notice some typical risk factors:

  • They try to do everything and please everyone.
  • They have a huge workload.
  • They often work overtime.
  • They work in a helping profession, such as health care or teaching.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these?

If yes, don’t worry, as I’m about to share with you four techniques that will help you defeat the causes of work burnout.

How to Overcome Burnout

1. Pinpoint Your Purpose

To overcome burnout, having a sense of purpose is extremely important. Whether it's in a broad way, such as the nature of your career, or finding small purpose in tasks you perform day to day. 

So, do you know your purpose in life 

If not, I suggest you make it a goal to find it (this article will help you out).

Research shows that people who have meaning and purpose in life have higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being, as well as having superior physical and mental health.

2. Reassess Your Options at Work

If you’re experiencing burnout, there may be a specific reason for it.

For example, are you in a role that doesn’t suit your skills, talents and personality? And, how about the hours you work--are you doing too many?

If these factors (or similar ones) are pushing you to the edge, then it will definitely be worth your time talking to your boss or your HR representative about it. They may be able to offer you some solutions to help reduce the pressure and stress on you.

3. Engage in Self-Care

Here’s a favorite quote of mine by Richard Louv, a quote that I’m sure you’ll find thought-provoking:

“Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day.”

Richard hits the nail on the head in this quote, as there’s no doubt that sitting in front of a computer for 35+ hours a week is detrimental to our physical and mental health.

However, spending time in nature is just one way to fight work burnout. The following article lists a whole lot more: 30 Self Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

I recommend you read the article, adopt some of the ideas, and start moving your life away from burnout.

4. Get Support from a Professional

Whether you seek guidance from a mental health professional or a career counselor, oftentimes having a second (and reliable) opinion can be a key to overcoming and preventing burnout. 

These specialists can help you assess the root of your burnout, as well as giving you strategies and goals to enable you to overcome it.

Final Thoughts

Try not to let a demanding or unrewarding job undermine your health and your confidence. Instead, begin putting into action the tips I’ve shared with you today: 

Finding your life purpose, reassessing your options at work, taking better care of yourself, and seeking the support of a professional.

 Burnout is a serious thing — so start taking serious action to tackle it right now.