Keep Calm and Don’t Stress: Recognizing and Preventing Job Burnout
Working hard, craving for success, achieving more and more – just to realize one day that you are tired and drained of energy, mechanically doing your job and counting hours and minutes until the end of your workday. This is a common scenario for employees in many sectors, but mostly in banking, insurance, and financial services. Job burnout is now ranked a “syndrome” – a medical concept next to melancholia and depression.
Is it as black as it is painted?
Burnout is known by its negative effects on productivity. However, its most severe consequences affect mental, emotional and even physical health. Sebastian Beck from Suddeutsche Zeitung tells a story of a once successful manager, now a patient of a neurological rehabilitation center: after working 60 hours a week for years and even going to the office with his leg broken, he ended up scheduling made-up meetings and fleeing from the office through a balcony. Among physical effects of burnout, atony, hypertension, and gastrointestinal problems are the most frequent ones.
Sebastian Beck from Suddeutsche Zeitung tells a story of a once successful manager, now a patient of a neurological rehabilitation center. After working 60 hours a week for years and even going to the office with his leg broken, he ended up scheduling made-up meetings and fleeing from the office through a balcony. Among physical effects of burnout, atony, hypertension, and gastrointestinal problems are the most frequent ones.
Social effects are an important part as well. Constant stress and fatigue make you easily irritable, and who would blame you for being not nice enough to people if you are totally worn down?
Another reason for cynicism and irritation is depersonalization. It manifests itself in alienation from people with whom you need to interact, and in bitterness towards them. People who experience it report that they feel like they are watching themselves act in a play. They remember what they should do and say, but they just don’t care anymore.
A depression’s noble cousin
A product of high pressure and too much responsibility, burnout is nowadays a valid excuse for low mood, irritability, and short temper. Anna K. Schaffner in her Exhaustion: A History explains how the concept of exhaustion has been changing over centuries.
According to her, today it actually hints at success: if you are exhausted, it means that you are in demand, everyone needs you. So, there’s no shame in being frustrated and apathetic because it is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, exhaustion now tends to be understood as a badge of honor.
While depression is rooted in the mental and emotional state of a person, burnout phenomena are presumably related to constantly high productivity and stressful workplace conditions; something that is typical for hard-working and irreplaceable employees, mostly in management positions. As such, job burnout has become a status thing. “Only losers become depressive. Burnout is a diagnosis for winners, or, more specifically: for former winners” – concludes Sebastian Beck.
What about me?
Burned out or just tired? We often cross this line without noticing it. Sometimes our weariness and apathy are inspired by a common trend to be busy and tired.
So how do you know if your fatigue has turned into something that already requires urgent actions? Take a simple test to understand your degree of exhaustion.
Ignoring it won’t make it go away
As we now see it, job burnout can have serious physical, emotional and social effects, such as lack of energy, decreased productivity, anxiety, sense of futility, and family conflicts. And it will not go away by itself. If you do nothing about it, the consequences will grow like a snowball.
Here are some simple tips to help you avoid the severe burnout effects.
1. Replenish your personal resources.
Take care of yourself. Don’t let your work take too much time of your life.
Good sleeping habits, hobbies, and connecting with people you like helps a lot in preventing and overcoming burnout consequences. Stress-relieving activities and practices, such as yoga, meditation, walking,and listening to music can also help you relax and find your emotional balance.
2. Analyze your current activities and figure out which of them make you feel weary and frustrated.
It is also useful to know how much time you spend on frustrating activities every day. A simple timesheet software can be useful here as it helps you structure your daily activities and calculate the time spent on them.
3. Re-prioritize your tasks and revise your workload. Limit the time you spend on tasks and communications that exhaust you. Consider reducing your working hours. Delegate some tasks to others when possible.
Hardly any job is worth your health, peace of mind, and emotional stability. If you are not happy with your workload, your duties or work environment, perhaps it is time to pause and take on activities that relieve your stress so that you don’t end up drained of your inner resources.