What Is Work Burnout?

After graduating, you finally got your dream job and you’ve been working hard to impress your manager. You embraced adult life and you get along with your colleagues. Everything was fine for a while but lately, you’ve been feeling drained most of the time. You feel helpless, and trapped and you have to drag yourself to work every day. If that’s the case, you might be experiencing burnout. Let’s try to understand what burning out really means and how to prevent it.

What is burnout?

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Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion which occurs when you experience long-term work-related stress. As well as reducing productivity, burnout might make you feel tired, cynical, and hopeless. It’s a gradual process that does not happen overnight, the signs can be very subtle and this makes it hard to identify burnout when it occurs. Here are some common signs of burnout that can lead to a major breakdown.

  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling helpless and trapped
  • Feeling detached and lonely
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Procrastination 

As well as affecting you mentally, burnout can also affect your physical health, watch out for these signs.

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Frequent headaches and muscle pain

What causes burnout?

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In order to prevent burnout, you must first understand the root of work-related stress. Let’s have a look at situations and working conditions that may lead to mental exhaustion.

  • Excessive workload. It’s a common source of fatigue and stress that can lead to lower performance or even accidents. There are numerous ways to deal with a heavy workload. You should start by determining your priorities and come up with a time management strategy. By effectively managing your time and scheduling tasks, you will find it easier to focus and get work done. It’s also very important to take breaks during the day to give your brain time to recharge.
  • Unclear expectations. Having too much to do is one thing, but not knowing what to do can be as stressful. You might believe you have to do much more than what’s actually expected from you, this can be extremely overwhelming and unproductive, since, instead of focusing on a particular set of tasks, you’ll be doing a bit of everything. Similarly, you might feel like you’re not doing well at your job and this could cause a feeling of job insecurity. Effective communication is crucial at the workplace, have a clear conversation with your manager and ask the right questions.
  • No work-life balance. I know you might think it’s a good idea to spend 12 hours in the office every day to impress your boss and get a promotion, but spending long hours at work does not necessarily improve productivity. It’s important to draw a line between work and social life. Make sure to allow yourself some time to rest and get your mind off work.

How to prevent burnout

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Although it might not be straightforward, there are multiple ways to prevent burnout from happening. It’s all about adapting your lifestyle and recognising certain situations or habits that could potentially lead to burnout. Here are useful ways to avoid it and have a healthy work-life.

  • Time management. Managing your time adequately is crucial. It will help you stay productive without overworking yourself. Work anxiety often comes from a lack of time management and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Exercise regularly. A healthy mind in a healthy body! Mental health and physical health are strongly correlated. Exercising is a good way to take your mind off work and relax. Going for runs or cycling to work can increase happiness and make you feel super energised.
  • Sleep. Getting enough sleep is extremely important. As well as mental breakdown, sleep deprivation is related to weight gain, diabetes, and anxiety. Make sure to rest and take breaks when needed.
  • Take time off. Don’t hesitate to take time off when you need it. It’s easy to get trapped and feel like you shouldn’t take a break. But you need to remember that health is more important and that you have to put yourself first. If your employer wants you to work 7 days a week, you need to let them know your priorities and put your mental health first. Remember that no one will ever be on their death bed wishing that they spent more time in the office.
  • Talk to your manager. You must let your employer know if you feel overwhelmed at work, make sure that they appreciate the situation and be honest about how you feel. Although your boss might want to prioritise the work to keep everything moving, you must put yourself first and listen to your body. Ultimately, burnout significantly affects performance, thus reducing work related-stress is beneficial to both parties.
  • Consider leaving your job. If things don’t seem to improve, you might have to quit. There’s no reason to stay at a job you don’t enjoy and that’s damaging your health. You can find a job that you like, where you feel like you’re contributing. For instance, you can start freelancing, take a break to totally unplug or focus on personal projects. Ultimately, you want to be happy and stress-free.
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