I’m burned out. Why? Currently, I work four jobs. I manage my resume business, write for an online publication, freelance occasionally, and run this blog. So yes, I’m burned out. But not in the way I’m talking about on today’s post. I’m burned out — as in staring at this computer screen for hours on end has me going crazy. I need a nap and a walk around the block to clear my head.
However, the more dangerous kind of burnout is called a professional burnout. Professional burnout is when you feel relentless and consistent amounts of work stress that targets your mental wellness enough to affect your outlook on, well, everything. It’s much more serious, and something you should definitely not ignore. Those who are professionally burnt out allow their negative feelings about their jobs to creep into everyday life until they can’t see passed the permanent stress goggles at work.
But how can you tell the difference between professional burnout and just sheer tiredness? To help you decide, I’ve rounded up the four most common signs of burnout, and a few ways to combat such disinterest.
1. You’re lacking concentration
Are you making all kinds of slip-ups lately? Maybe you’re finding it hard to focus on the task at hand. A sudden lack of attention to detail is a tell-tale warning sign of burnout. When you catch yourself staring blankly at your computer screen, unable to spark enough brain power to get anything done, chances are you’re heading for a professional burnout at work.
2. You’re feeling disillusioned, cynical, and bitter
Basically, you can replace any negative feeling here and it will still make the same point. If work has you feeling disillusioned or cynical, your job could be to blame. Is that negativity spilling over into your home life? Have you been overly bitter about something you’d normally feel indifferent toward? Being a complete Debbie Downer is often a coping mechanism for stress — and one that affects everyone else around you, as well. A sporadic case of the “blahs” is normal, but to have regular feelings of negativity while working may mean you’re one step closer to feeling burnt out at work.
3. You're bored
It could be that you don’t have a hard time managing your tasks, but finding the motivation to plow through and complete them is like convincing yourself to head to the gym instead of your couch after work. You just can’t do it. This could be a sign that you have become jaded about the work you do. Boredom is real. If you find yourself struggling with even the main responsibilities of your job, you must determine how much of it is legitimate and how much of it is simply your disdain for adulting in general, and begin taking steps to correct it. (More on that below)
4. The work does nothing for you
When you start to hate what you previously loved (or just liked) doing, it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything at all. You must love what you do. Or at least feel some passion for it. If that same jazzy spunk you embodied during initial orientation is in permanent hiding, it could be time to find your next journey. It sounds cheesy, but liking your job is a huge factor in your overall happiness. Once you realize you’ve lost the that job-related spark, all other negative feelings begin to snowball. Suddenly, the fact that the break room’s out of K-cups makes you want to cry and a last-minute calendar invite sends you into a fit of rage – none of which are recommended actions for workplace wellness.
It’s official, I’m burned out. Now what?
It’s quite possible I just hit the nail on the head and described your current work situation to a T. Before your burnout morphs into a complete blaze, there are a few proactive measures you can take to modify the stress and overcome the weary feelings.
1. Reach out. Tell your team you’re struggling.
You’re likely facing burnout because you’re no slacker — and working overtime is simply engrained in your DNA. But putting in 120% all day, every day will get old quick. Does your boss know about your extra initiatives? Is your team aware of the workload ahead of you (and, thus, theirs as well?). If not, it’s time to let them know just how hard you’re working. Making sure your boss stays apprised of your innovation will weigh more in future evaluations (and may even land you an extra PTO day).
At the very least, your reach out will be the small reminder everyone in the company needs to take a break. Kind of like this CEO who praised his employee for using available sick days to work on her mental health.
2. Take the time away.
I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. But you’ve got to get away now and then. Force yourself if you have to. But I don’t just mean a 20-minute break or a walk around the block. Those are short term fixes. When you’re facing professional burnout, you need to get away for a few days. If the feeling persists upon your refreshed return to work, then you may be in the market for a new job. (In that case, read my post about job search tips here).
3. Reward Yourself
When you’re feeling irked, try rewarding yourself for everything you’ve accomplished recently. Some examples of this could be dinner out, buying a new pair of shoes, or grabbing concert tickets to your favorite show in town. Whatever it is, spend the money. Having something to look forward to outside of work can keep your momentum going strong, and will help ensure that even though you work that daily 9-5 (or, let’s get real, 8-7), you still get a little time to enjoy the life you’ve been given.
How do you combat work related stress? Have you ever made a life-altering decision after facing professional burnout? Let me know in the comments.