Unless you’re pushing yourself to your limit every day for an extended period of time, most burnout occurs slowly and creeps up on us. Not taking appropriate actions to take the pressure off or cool down when faced with repetitive tasks, high levels of stress, or long periods or “sameness” can turn you into the frog on the stove in a pot of water. If you don’t jump out of it, you’ll get boiled (overheated and proverbially hardened and overcooked). Being literal, burnout can actually kill you. Stress or lifestyle factors associated with burnout can cause other problems – anxiety, depression, poor sleep, a higher level of cortisol, cardiovascular risks, etc.
Here are some signs that you or your colleague or employee has burnout:
- Normal routines start breaking down- Small inconveniences start becoming big aggravations (you feel your patience is dissolving or melting away).
- Your belief system changes from “I can handle this” to “I can’t believe I have to do this”.
- Getting out of bed gets a bit harder and so does falling asleep. You may stay up later as your mind wanders. Subconsciously, you might stay up later than normal to make the next day come more slowly. This creates a negative feedback loop.
- You begin to look for ways to miss meetings and want to contribute less
- You pull back from discussions with coworkers and even friends to avoid being found out because its hard to “fake it”
- You feel that things are happening “to you” instead of “for you”
How to fix it
Break the routine – Burnout is never a good thing. Being stuck in a rut and burnout can feel very similar. Both can build slowly over time but burnout has more consequences and is a more vulnerable state to be in.
Take a break – unplug and recharge. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, physically and mentally tired and unmotivated, those are bad emotions to feel while at work. Going to work this way can put your reputation and your job at risk.
Ask for help – whether its a friend, partner or a professional, the sooner you seek outside help and feedback. Feeling stuck or burnt out is a very normal phenomenon in the United States where we’ve made it a source of pride to say that we “live to work” instead of the other way around.
Exercise – Keeping yourself in shape physically – exercise, proper sleep, hydration and diet helps you develop a resistance to burnout.
Find a mindfulness practice – Your mental state is as or more important than your physical help. Whether you meditate, take a few moments to breathe or reflect, or taking frequent mental breaks are all examples of mindfulness in action.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.