Welcome to Work Burnout 101.
When you finish reading, you will know if you are:
- Burned out, OR
- On the path to burning out
What is Burnout?
You won’t know if you are burned out if you don’t know what work burnout is.
The textbook definition of burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is caused by chronic stress – typically in a workplace setting. It occurs when you feel:
- Emotionally drained
- Unable to meet constant demands
People who are genuinely burned out often describe:
- Extreme exhaustion and depletion of energy
- A cynical and irritable attitude toward work
- Feelings of helplessness, an inability to do and focus on work, and low morale
- An inability to make decisions – simple or complicated
My definition of burnout is similar to the textbook definition, but I add in continued feelings of fear, related to work or not completing work.
Are You At Risk of Experiencing Burnout?
Work burnout can occur in any type of person, in any industry.
If you feel a lack of control of your environment or circumstances, experience chronic work-related stress, and/or have a job with high demand and expectations with low resources – you are at risk of burning out.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It develops slowly and gradually – which is why a lot of people fail to recognize they are burning out. The burnout process can linger for long periods of time, especially if it is ignored. The longer you allow it to go on, the harder it is to recover.
What makes burnout particularly hard to notice is that we often reward unhealthy and unrealistic workplace and social expectations.
What does that mean? When your co-workers or friends are bragging about working long hours, taking on extra work even though they are “so busy,” and sacrificing personal time to be at the office or do work – know that these behaviors are red flags for burnout. That behavior – that bragging often gets rewarded with compliments for their “hard” work ethic.
Did You Know Burnout Can Affect Your Body and Health For Years to Come?
Over time, the behaviors that lead to burnout can take a toll on your health and well-being, as well as, your ability to be productive and effective. That’s why when you are burned out, you feel like the least productive and effective person on earth.
It’s that chronic stress that harms your health.
When you’re under chronic stress, your body and mind go into overdrive trying to protect you. That means that your heart works harder, your flight or fight processes fire relentlessly, you may begin to suffer memory loss and weight gain – all of this wear and tear can eventually cause permanent damage.
I’m not here to scare you, but as someone who has recovered from a 2 + year burnout sentence: getting over the psychological aspects of burnout seemed to be the easier part. The damage I did to my own body by keeping it under constant stress has been a far more extensive process to recover from.
What Do I Know For Sure?
One thing I can tell you for sure about burnout is that it doesn’t go away on its own. You can’t ignore your way out of it – which is something many of us try to do. You can’t wish it away or sleep it off because burnout has a way of creeping from your mind, throughout your body, and then shows itself through the way you say and do everything.
Here is where my tough love comes in: it is going to take some introspection about your behavior and your habits in order to recover from burnout. You are going to have to change your mind and your attitude – instead of making excuses or saying “I can’t…”
Is There A Cure?
I would love to tell you that ice cream or pizza or binging your favorite TV show cures your burnout, but it takes a combination of solutions. Can the ice cream and pizza be part of the solution? Sure.
When I burned out, I tried everything to recover. What I discovered is that everyone’s burnout is unique and it will take a unique combination of solutions to heal. ( Check out my video on Effective Burnout Solutions for more information. )
With one exception: figuring out the root cause of what burns you out.
If you don’t know or don’t find the root cause of your burnout, the rest of the things you do will be band-aids. Not that band-aids aren’t helpful, but they don’t actually heal the pain point that keeps you in burnout. This is what I meant a few minutes ago about recovery requiring some introspection.
I discovered the root cause of my burnout through the CliftonStrengths assessment.
Using the knowledge of my strengths, I was able to accurately identify and get rid of the things that were causing me stress, feel confident in new decisions regarding my business and my future, and I could sleep at night because my gut knew it was moving in the right direction.
CliftonStrengths isn’t the way to find the root cause of your burnout, but it is one of the most effective.
Burnout Does Not Equal Failure
It’s really important to me to make this point: burnout does not equal failure. While it may feel as though you have failed yourself or others, burnout does not signal failure on your part for any reason.
Sometimes, I prefer to think of work burnout as caring too much. As over-simplified as that may sound, almost every person I have coached through burnout, has cared far too much about their business, their job, or pleasing someone else. For the record, I include myself in that statement.
How Do You Know If You’re Burned Out?
One option is to take my Burnout Quiz. It’s non-scientific, but it will help you determine if burnout is something to consider.
Common signs/symptoms include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Irritable/impatient with coworkers, employees, and customers
- Lack the energy to be consistently productive
- Lack of satisfaction from acheivements
- Poor sleep habits
- Cynical or critical at or about work
- Poor diet
- Removed from social life, family, and friends
If you are suffering from work burnout or working to prevent it, be sure to subscribe to my email list at JenniferBassman.com or subscribe to my YouTube channel. I consistently update with blog posts and videos that discuss burnout and ideas directly related to it.