Burnout isn’t a new concept. The term was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. According to Merriam-Webster, burnout is the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually due to prolonged stress or frustration. For years, we’ve known the causes and symptoms of burnout and how we can overcome it. But, what has never happened during that time was a year (we’re being generous, it’s going on 14 months) like this past one.
The list of factors that can lead to burnout, such as: lack of control, work-life imbalance, monotony, and an unmanageable workload, now read like a list that is all too familiar. Many aspects of our personal lives and work lives have been out of our control. Shifting to remote work has blurred the line between work and home. Childcare and virtual schooling have created a constant pull throughout the day, and the pressure to keep up and excel at our jobs is stronger than ever.
Many are indeed experiencing one or more of these factors, but not everyone is experiencing burnout. How do you know if you’re feelin’ the burn(out)? It’s more than just feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- A significant shift in your mood towards your work and/or coworkers: You may notice your stress level is high and constant. You may become irritable or impatient with coworkers. Or, you may even feel numb and completely disconnected from the work you are doing.
- You are physically feeling it: You may feel unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. You may also experience insomnia or abnormal fatigue.
- Reduced performance: You may find it challenging to get started on your work, stay focused, or complete tasks. The quality and quantity of your work may suffer.
- Finding unhealthy ways to cope: When you stop to think about it, you may realize you’ve been using unhealthy eating habits, alcohol, drugs, or destructive self-talk to feel better or to feel nothing at all.
Can you relate to these symptoms? If so, you are not alone. Indeed conducted a survey to compare current burnout rates to those in 2020, before Covid. Every generation has seen an increase in burnout rates. 80% of respondents believe Covid-19 has impacted workplace burnout somehow, and 67% say burnout has worsened during the pandemic.
The good news is that burnout is preventable and reversible! Here are our top tips to take back control of your emotions, wellbeing, and mental health:
- Reset your boundaries: We had to quickly transition to remote work without having the proper time to reset our boundaries. It’s not too late! Set aside 15 minutes and write down what you need for your day to well-balanced. It could mean spending the afternoon in one area of the home and the evening in a different one after work. It could be setting asides days, or times of day, for task work or deep work. Maybe you turn off notifications during your deep work time. Ensure your plan includes protecting enough time for sleep!
- Do it together: The chances are great that your friends, family, coworkers, and even managers are feeling some of the same burnout symptoms you are. Share what you’re going through with those close to you. Have an honest conversation with your manager and ask for support in resetting your boundaries.
- Get moving: Whether it’s sitting outside on a sunny day, going for a walk, or enjoying a full-on workout, movement and fresh air the best free medicines!
- Feed your soul: If your job is the most important thing in your life and you tie your identity to it, burnout is a higher possibility. Remember, you are more than your job. Ensure you are continuing to enjoy hobbies and learn new skills outside of work.
- Use your PTO: Last, but certainly not least. Just because you may not be able to spend the day with a big group of friends, or travel to your favorite vacation spots, doesn’t mean you don’t need time off. Schedule days that are true PTO for you to unwind and have fun!
Don’t put pressure on yourself that you have to flip the script and fix everything in a day. Small steps each day will ensure you’re working towards reversing or preventing burnout.