Everyone faces burnout during certain points in their career. The demands of your job and your personal life may peak at consecutive times, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Psychologists and physicians have been studying the effects of burnout for decades as our increasingly fast-paced lives tend to contribute to raising stress and exhaustion levels. A first-of-its-kind stress study conducted between 1983 and 2009 by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh confirmed this to be true.
According to their research of data collected from over 6,300 individuals, stress has increased 18 percent for women and 24 percent for men during that twenty-five-year span. It’s easy to understand that as your stress goes up, burnout is a natural side effect of the pressures and demands in your life.
An article from Kissmetrics explains that burnout isn’t just stress alone, but rather a multi-dimensional and chronic condition. The three conditions that overlap to create burnout are:
Exhaustion comes when you don’t have the proper personal or professional tools at your disposal to deal with your current environment. This is when you begin to feel stressed.
Coupled with exhaustion and stress, as you start to feel overwhelmed, cynicism begins to rise and you begin to feel distant or disconnected from your work. You stop trying or try as little as possible.
These three factors start brewing up the perfect storm to trigger a Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire resignation moment if you don’t take care to resolve them now.
However, there is good news! As studies have been analyzing the rise in stress they’ve also been studying ways to combat the burnout of your increasingly busy life. There are a myriad of simple things that you can start doing today to recreate your excitement and enthusiasm for your work.
Here are three ways you can beat the burnout and fall back in love with your job.
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1. Take a Break
It turns out that taking periodic breaks are an essential part of restoring your sanity. These breaks can fall into several categories including breaks in activities during work, breaking from your work at night for personal time and mindfulness breaks as part of your regular lifestyle.
Kissmetrics lists taking breaks as one of the top five things managers should do to help beat burnout. Taking time away from your desk for lunch, getting up and taking a short walk, anything that allows you to step away from the office, move and have a momentary mental reset.
Harvard Business Review reports studies have shown breaks as short as ten minutes effectively replenish your energy, improve your mental state and fuel your productivity.
Workplace psychologist Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli said in an interview with CNN that scheduling a “real” lunch break, meaning a break from your desk, can be of the utmost value for beating burnout. A workplace survey by CNN claimed that less than 50 percent of employees actually take a lunch break, and most either skip lunch entirely or eat at their desk.
Dr. Civitelli urges that taking a real lunch break is important for digestion, natural replenishment of your brain and your overall body rhythm.
Beyond just a lunch break is the importance of disconnecting from work when you leave the office. Harrison Barnes reports that the importance of taking a break from work when you leave the office is emphasized by the German culture.
The typical workforce in Germany is a global model of efficiency in the workplace. The article reports: “When they are working, they are typically being more efficient, more detail-oriented, and more focused than the average worker in the U.S.”
However, the report notes that in Germany, when workers are not at work they are not working. They are culturally more inclined to leave work at the office and not drag work into their personal lives. If you’re facing burnout, try disconnecting after work and on weekends.
If you’re worried about repercussions of disconnecting outside the office, you may want to talk with someone in HR about your concerns and make an official notice of your plan to unplug at night.
2. Take Inventory
Sometimes burnout is indicative of your environment more than the workload itself. As the report from Kissmetrics points out, one of the three conditions for burnout is exhaustion and the lack of resources to emotionally cope with your environment.
Take a moment to really consider what conditions around you are causing the most stress.
- When did these circumstances or individuals come into play?
- Are any people or policies correlated with the rise in your feelings of burnout?
- How can you cull out certain coworkers to ease your day?
- How might you be able to remove yourself from meetings, projects or events at the office that are negatively impacting your mental health?
A great mindfulness practice that Deepak Chopra recommends when dealing with difficult people or situations is to ask yourself three questions:
- Can I change the situation?
- Do I have to put up with it?
- Should I just walk away?
By taking a mental inventory of these three options, you can improve your feelings of empowerment to change situations at work.
If after you take inventory you realize there are certain individuals that are adding to your stress, then learn ways to effectively deal with these coworkers before they drag you down. An article in Forbes points out some helpful solutions for distancing yourself and disengaging from difficult people at the office.
For instance, by setting a time limit on your exposure to them and their complaining, you can better protect yourself. It’s okay to simply say something non-confrontational and move on from your encounters. You aren’t required to agree with them or join in their misery, which often only leads to your own.
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3. Take Action
Often times one of the best solutions for beating burnout is to be able to take some kind of action. One of the characteristics of burnout feeling overwhelmed and a sense of cynicism that leave you unable to engage with your work like you used to.
By taking small actions, you begin to build back your engagement with your work and proactively create a better environment for yourself. You start to do something about your situation and that action can feel empowering.
Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D writes in an article for Psychology Today that by actively re-engaging with a personal passion, whether that be a new project at work or something outside the office, helps you regain your lust for life.
Forbes reports that you can regain much of your enthusiasm for work by switching up tasks or by actively asking for new, or varied, responsibilities at the office. Are there any new projects you could chair, development courses you could take or community projects you could get involved with? Often these little acts help to switch things up and get you re-engaged with your career.
Burnout isn’t forever, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s normal to go through lulls so take heart that this rut won’t last forever and that there are actions you can take to change your situation.