You’ve probably heard this buzzword before but do you really know what it means? If you’re feeling heavy, tired and like screaming when you hear the word Monday then you may be on the verge of burnout. Here’s everything you need to know and how to avoid reaching breaking point.
How is it different to stress?
Stress is characterised by a single problem causing you tension. It is short-term and once you find a solution you can move on. Chronic stress is an ongoing stream of problems. It’s longer-term however you are still able to see a way out. Burnout is basically level 3 on this tensions pyramid; it is living a stressful existence to the point of exhaustion and lethargy. It is when you cannot see a way out of your problems and therefore find it easier to disengage with them totally.
The main difference between stress and burnout is the level of activity. Stress puts you into ‘fight or flight’ mode and relies on an overactive body and mind. Burnout is the opposite. It has reached the point where you are detached, unresponsive and out of energy to try any harder. This is why it can easily be mixed up with depression.
Burnout can feel similar to depression however they are considered different conditions. The main distinction is that burnout starts with work stresses and overworking whereas depression is a more general condition that can stem from friends, family and even recreation. The concern is when burnout continues it can form into more serious depressive episodes.
Common causes of burnout
Burnout is typically characterised by work-related stress. But, it’s not just for the high-flyers and CEOs. Feeling undervalued and overworked in any company or industry is going to set you on a dangerous path. So how can you tell if you’re at risk of burnout? Here’s a few of the common causes to be aware of:
– An overly demanding workload
– Monotonous and repetitive tasks
– Poor work-life balance
– Lack of supportive relationships or inability to accept help from others
– Feeling out of control of your work
– Bad working relationships e.g. a pushy manager or colleague
Symptoms to look out for
Sometimes you won’t be self-diagnosing burnout but looking for it in friends and family members. If you have reason to believe their workplace is causing excessive stress then these are the symptoms to keep an eye on:
– Dreading going to work every morning
– A reliance on food, alcohol and other addictive substances to fill the voids
– They no longer take pride in your work or feel satisfied by your achievements
– They’ve stopped caring for your health, fitness and hygiene
– They can’t stop thinking about work (even when they’re not there)
How to avoid burnout
Go on a holiday
It feels like the last thing you have time for but it’s the first thing you truly need. The best way to avoid burnout is to distance yourself from work at the first sign of lethargy. Look for spontaneous holiday packages that will save you money and time planning; it’s less about where you go and more about getting away ASAP.
Set aside proper relaxation time
If leaving your job unattended is really not an option then the next step is making sure you have a healthy work-life balance. Whether it’s taking up a new hobby that forces you out of the office or upgrading your home theatre setup for frequent movie nights; the key is finding a way to switch your mind from work to fun. A healthy working week should include 2 days off so check your schedule and slot in time to let go.
Unplug the tech
Being constantly available with phones and emails is making it harder to stick to a 40-hour work week. Log out of work at the end of the day both physically and mentally. Anything that comes up overnight is able to be dealt with in the morning. Working overtime should be an exception, not the rule.
Hang out with friends more
Maintaining supportive relationships and a strong work-life balance are two key factors in preventing burnout. It doesn’t have to be venturing out and about every night of the week either. So what if your house is a mess; friends won’t judge. Just tidy up the dining room and invite them over for a night of great food, wine and gossip. It’s less about them fixing your problems and more about having someone validate your feelings or tell you when you’re overreacting.
Know when to walk away
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you try to change, there’s an external factor keeping you down. If you’re unable to find ways to change the habits or workload that is stressing you then it might be time to look elsewhere. Money and careers are important but your health should remain top priority.