January 27, 2022

11 Signs That You’re Having Job Burnout, And Ways To Treat It

We are living amidst a global pandemic that has disrupted the livelihoods and well-being of many workers across the world. Not only were there high fatalities in many countries, but it also greatly affected salaries, most industries, and the world economy.

Moreover, the back-to-back lockdowns imposed in some countries also affected work-life balance. A survey study conducted among German and Swiss employees even found that COVID-19 had worsened most employees' work and private life.

Countless workers are becoming physically, mentally, and emotionally tired as they juggle between taking care of family members, changing workplace environments, managing work-from-home demands, and coping with the pandemic. 

While certain sectors and industries are starting to recover, there's still fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. We don't yet know how we'll be affected, how long it'll stay, or how severe things could become.

At the same time, the stress of dealing with work during the height of COVID-19 has increased the number of workers experiencing job burnout. As this can harm physical and emotional health, it's important to understand if you're suffering from this condition, and how to pull yourself through. 

What Exactly Is Job Burnout? 

Burnout can be very difficult to detect as people often mistake it for being tired or stressed. The meaning itself has been debated for decades since the term was introduced in the 1970s. 

Nonetheless, in 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

WHO did not classify burnout as a medical condition, but instead as an occupational phenomenon that is characterised by three dimensions: 

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism, or cynicism related to one's job.
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout can have a negative impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health. The symptoms usually appear when you're overworked and feel as though you can no longer keep up with the demands of your job.

However, don't confuse the feeling of burnout with work stress. People who are stressed out might be struggling to deal with pressures at work, but they can still believe that they would feel much better if their priorities are in order. 

Burnout, on the other hand, is about feeling empty, emotionally drained, and can no longer cope with the demands at work or even life. The table below highlights the main differences between work stress and burnout:

11 Signs That You’re Burning Out And The Possible Causes

Burnout can happen to anyone, at any stage of their working lives. If you’re still wondering whether or not you are experiencing burnout, these are the 11 red flags you should look out for:

1) Constant exhaustion

This is way beyond just feeling tired. It can be emotional, mental, or even physical exhaustion and the feeling just doesn’t go away. So, if you have to literally drag yourself out of bed and go to work, you could be on the verge of burnout.

2) Completely demotivated

You are no longer excited about the work you’re doing. Nothing could interest you anymore, not even the activities you used to enjoy. If you can no longer feel enthused and encouraged, you should not only worry about burnout but also depression.

3) Lack of attention

Losing the ability to focus and understand what is expected of you. You may notice that you’re getting forgetful, unsure of how to start your work, and having trouble concentrating.

4) Poor job performance

You may not be able to perform properly in your daily activities if you are overwhelmed and drained. Try comparing your current job performance to past years' performance to identify whether you have been suffering from burnout.

5) Pessimism and cynicism

No matter what you do or where you are, negative thoughts and emotions keep lingering around you. You might also find yourself being more negative than usual. It is crucial to realise when you’ve developed unusual pessimistic and cynical personalities.

6) Interpersonal conflict

This is when you find yourself always arguing with other people, or maybe stop talking less to family and co-workers. The conflict could have taken place both at work and at home. Pay attention to when you begin to lose interest in others, particularly those who are close to you.

7) Struggling with self-care

Some people who are burnt out will engage in harmful coping mechanisms such as binge drinking, smoking, being excessively sedentary, consuming more junk food, barely eating enough, or sleeping less.

8) Lack of work-life balance

Poor work-life balance is when you find yourself working longer hours, enduring more responsibilities at work, and having more obligations at home. This could lead to exhaustion, fatigue, and ultimately burnout.

9) Feeling stuck and dissatisfied

You are always unhappy and feeling dissatisfied with your job, and even personal life. At work, this could lead you to experience a lack of interest in your tasks and company. 

10) Physical health problems

You could be burning out if you are troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or digestive problems, or other physical ailments. Burnout has also been linked to several physical issues such as dyspnoea (shortness of breath), insomnia, chest pain, and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

11) Deeply disillusioned

You may believe that what you're doing no longer matters, and you may be disillusioned with just about everything. This means you are disappointed because the work you’re doing is not as good as you expected or hoped it would be.

Job burnout can be caused by a variety of factors, which vary from one person to another. However, there are several common factors that can be identified as causes of burnout, including:

  • A sense of powerlessness: Job burnout can occur when you are unable to make decisions regarding your schedule, assignments, or workload. A feeling of little control.
  • Uncertainty regarding employment expectations: You're more likely to be dissatisfied with your work if you don't know what your superior and others expect of you.
  • A negative work environment: Your job satisfaction is directly influenced by the attitude and morale of those around you. Job burnout can be caused by a micromanaging supervisor, office bully, or lack of friends at work.
  • Struggle to establish a work-life balance: If you invest a lot of your time and energy to work, your personal life could suffer. This may cause you to despise your workplace.
  • Lack of social support: Lack of support from family, friends, and co-workers can lead to isolation and loneliness. You may get more anxious if you feel isolated at work and in your personal life.

What Are The Stages Of Risk Factors Related To Burnout?

As the signs differ between individuals (as they do with any illness), it's vital to comprehend the stages of burnout before taking steps to prevent it. The following stages are the ones that are typically observed:

Stage 1: Honeymoon Phase

High job satisfaction and enthusiasm, even though you may have begun to experience predicted stresses.

Stage 2: Onset of Stress Phase

Some days are more challenging than others, and your optimism is slowly fading.

Stage 3: Chronic Stress Phase

A significant shift in your stress levels, from motivation to enduring stress on a regular basis.

Stage 4: Burnout Phase

Signs and symptoms become critical are you are burning out. It’s often impossible to carry on as normal at this stage. 

Stage 5: Habitual Burnout

The symptoms of burnout are so embedded in your life that you are more likely to have serious chronic mental, physical, and/or emotional problems.
Job burnout may be caused by the following factors:

  • You have trouble balancing work and life.
  • You have a lot on your plate and work extra hours.
  • You are in the helping profession, such as social work and public health.
  • You don't feel like you have much control over your work.

Here Are 7 Ways To Deal With Feeling Burnout

If left untreated, burnout can have significant implications such as chronic illnesses, extreme irritability, and excessive stress. The feeling of burnout certainly seems severe enough that you must be wondering if you'll ever be able to recover from it.

Before anything else, you must first acknowledge that you are experiencing burnout, and that you want to improve yourself to feel better. Only then you can try to recover yourself and start enjoying your job again. These are some of the best ways for you to bounce back from burnout:

  • Take good care of your physical health
  • Discuss with peers or seek help from a mental health professional to evaluate options and find a solution
  • Reach out for support
  • Engage in a relaxing activity like meditation
  • Perform regular physical activity
  • Get adequate and good sleep
  • Practice mindfulness

Even though it is common for many employees to experience workplace burnout, it doesn't always have to be that way. Ultimately, the solution boils down to one thing - YOU. Make your health a priority, recognise your involvement in burnout, and get help if you require it.

Your mental health is far more important, and you need to know when it is time to take a step back and re-energise yourself. It's crucial to keep in mind that you can always do your best to prevent or manage workplace burnout, while also having a satisfying and rewarding job.

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