"If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree." ~Jim Rohn
"If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging." ~Will Rogers
It’s going to happen to everyone multiple times in their careers, burn out. When you’re trying to get ahead and trying to accomplish as much as you possibly can, circumstance or your own ambition will occasionally tip you past the point of being able to juggle everything and keep some semblance of self. There isn’t anything wrong with getting burned out, the only thing wrong is if you don’t address it.
Since identifying a problem usually comes before actually addressing it, we will lead today with some of the indicators that you’re burned out. Because one of the symptoms is an impairment in mental faculties, it is likely that you may be unaware you’re burned out until well after the effects are felt in your productivity and by those around you.
So without further ado, the 10 most common signs of burnout are:
· Exhaustion – The most common sign of burnout is simply having no energy. No energy at work, no energy at home, and a tough time waking up every morning. Regardless of the amount of coffee or Red Bull’s you drink, you just can’t find the ability to rally some energy.
· Health issues – Beyond exhaustion, reaching the point of burnout can often result in headaches, high blood pressure, aches and pains, weight gain and an increased susceptibility to illness. Your body will let you know when something is wrong whether it is mental or physical.
· Inability to focus – The mental aspect of burnout typically comes with an inability to focus and see things through to completion. This could come about from too many things going on at once or the physical strain. One of the clearest indicators is a desire to multi-task, but an inability to do so with tasks and duties you usually were able to.
· Negativity – We all go through those days where we have “stinking thinking’” and find ourselves noticing everything that is going wrong. A day or two every once in a while is normal, days that stretch into weeks is indicative of a problem.
· Lack of patience – Because you have no energy and because you have so much you need to do, you are far more likely to show impatience when you’re burnt out as opposed to under normal circumstances. This can show up with peers, subordinates, your boss or your customers. You can clue into this when you catch yourself being impatient with someone whom you rarely, if ever, are impatient with usually.
· Cynicism – Since the burnt out person has lost some of the ability to control their own emotions and actions, it’s almost natural for that to manifest itself into feeling of helplessness, defeatism and assumed agendas. This is kicking negativity up another notch.
· No satisfaction – Those things that used to give you a great sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction may not hold the same luster when you are worn down. The truly bad part about this symptom is that the sense of accomplishment is what often counteracts a feeling of burnout. When you lose the ability to get that satisfaction from the job it can start a downward spiral.
· Lack of motivation – While you may have plenty on your plate, if you’re burned out you are likely not able to motivate yourself like you used to. Given all of the above factors it wouldn’t be surprising.
· Inability to stop thinking about work – One of the more curious signals of being burned out is when you simply can’t stop thinking about work when you are away from the office. Whether it is because you have too much on your plate, aren’t able to focus and come to a decision, or you know your productivity is slipping, this symptom just exacerbates the issue.
· Relationship strain – When you’re too busy, too negative and too obsessed you’ll likely take some of the attention away from your relationships. The big flashing warning sign is when you find yourself with a strain in your relationship with people you almost always get along with.
The fundamental issue with burnout is balance. You need a sense of balance between the personal and the professional, a balance between different projects at work, a balance between wins and losses, and a balance between the fun and mundane. When the scales tip too far to one side, that’s when the above symptoms start showing up. The below recommendations look to tackle that imbalance:
· Disconnect – The number one way to stop burnout is to completely disconnect from the job, because one of the biggest causes of burnout is being connected to work 24/7. You need to have the ability to “recharge your batteries” and that is tough when work is constantly draining them. It could be a vacation, it could be time in the evenings and weekends you don’t check e-mail, or it could be an activity that forces you to disconnect like hiking where there is no cell reception or a massage. This method of dealing with burnout is perfect for righting the scales of the work/life balance.
· Pay attention to your body – If you are finding yourself feeling exhausted, sick or experiencing any of the other maladies listed above there are three things you can do to help your body deal and recover from it. Sleep, exercise and focusing on your diet. Often we exacerbate burnout and exhaustion by doing the easy thing like picking up fast food, sitting on the couch and staying up to watch that next episode on Netflix. Take care of your body and it’ll help you stay sharp.
· Schedule fun – Many times when we are feeling burnt out we take the fun things off our calendar so that we have more time to deal with the work issues. This is actually the exact opposite thing that you need to do. That hour spent laughing with friends or engaging in an exciting activity can make you twice as productive the next day and more than make up for itself. Also, when you’re in a rut you need to do something different and dramatic to get yourself out of it. Might as well make it something fun.
· Schedule relaxation – And just as important as fun is relaxation. I used to go out to lunch every day, not because I never made myself lunch, but because it allowed me an hour away from the office to brainstorm, reset or just relax. Maybe it is a scheduled walk around the block, maybe it’s just stepping outside and getting some fresh air. Whatever it is that puts you at ease, leverage it regularly.
· Prioritize – If you have too much on your plate, the best thing to do is to prioritize it so that if something slips, it’s not the most important thing. And the priorities don’t have to be just work related, it’s important to prioritize both work and personal things together. This is one of those things that can directly bring back balance in your life.
· List of successes – One of the most motivating and empowering things is success. It’s a powerful force that can make everything seem better and easier. But when you are feeling the effects of burnout there are times when it will feel that nothing is going right. One of the ways to recharge your morale is to list out all of the successes you had over the last week. Now while it might be a bit difficult to start out with, it typically picks up speed as you get a few under your belt, and it is a great way to combat that “Stinking thinking.”
· Give – One of the most satisfying things you can do is to give of your time and expertise. It can be on the job helping someone learn something new or just lending a hand. Or it can be a charitable act in your personal life. Giving to something outside of ourselves instills a sense of gratitude and is one of the more powerful ways that you can break the routine and break out of burnout.
· Get organized – Feeling burnt out can make everything feel a little more chaotic. Sometimes the refreshment and reset that we need can come from reducing the clutter, both physically in the form of having an organized workspace and mentally in organizing what is on you plate. Even the simple act of writing down everything you need to do on a list is often extraordinarily valuable.
· Find support and vent – When you have a problem you need to seek out help. That can be a professional career counselor, a therapist, your spouse, or just a friend. Sometimes you just need to give voice to your concerns and frustrations to release the pressure valve. Other times you will rely on an outsider’s opinion on what you need to do. Either way, the help that someone else can offer you can give you the support to lift yourself back up out of your burnout.
· Re-evaluate goals – I intentionally put this down last to encourage you to start doing some of the other items on the list first. Burnout can be a terrible time to evaluate your goals because of the negativity most face. However, it is a powerful enough experience that it can expose some of our inner desires which does make it a good time to re-evaluate our goals. As you are coming out of your burnout, the thing that can often vault you forward is a fresh challenge. This is often the opportunity to turn the negative of burnout into a positive new direction.
You are going to get burned out at some point, it’s inevitable. Identifying it quickly and taking steps to address it can be a huge help in not only keeping your career and work on track, but helping you maintain a balance that keeps your personal life in order as well.
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