Workplace stress can take its toll on your physical and mental health, and over time, this can leave you feeling exhausted, empty, or drained. While stress can be a normal component of any job, prolonged, chronic stress can lead to burnout. Although the term “burnout” is relatively new, trends show that many young adults are experiencing burnout more frequently, leaving many struggling with physical and mental symptoms that can negatively impact their happiness, relationships, and performance at work.
Signs of Burn Out
Burnout is most frequently attributed to workplace stress, but it can be caused by any number of experiences or events. In general, burnout causes a person to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained in response to unrelenting stress. Over time, this stress can spill over into everyday life, causing a person to feel unable to keep up with responsibilities, resulting in them losing interest and motivation in their work and other aspects of life. While it is completely normal to have bad days in which you feel undervalued or underappreciated, a prolonged sense of negativity and cynicism can indicate that a larger problem is developing. Burnout is, in general, a gradual process. The signs and symptoms of burnout may not be apparent initially, but over time, they may lead to a major breakdown. Knowing what signs and symptoms are related to burnout can help you address it before it becomes a significant issue. Some of the most common symptoms of burnout include:
- Exhaustion: Feeling tired or exhausted all of the time can be an indicator of burnout. This can include feeling physically, mentally, or emotionally exhausted.
- Negative emotions: Burnout can make you feel more pessimistic and more negative than normal. While experiencing negative emotions is normal, feeling as though what you do does not matter, having a bleak outlook, or feeling more cynical can indicate a bigger problem is developing.
- Decreased motivation: When dealing with burnout, it may feel harder to get out of bed in the morning or you may have less enthusiasm about many aspects of life. Burnout can make just the act of getting to work a difficult experience.
- Poor job performance: Some days will be better than others, but if you notice your work performance is consistently decreasing, it may indicate you are experiencing more than just a slump. Burnout can make it difficult to commit to getting things done and may make you less likely to put in more effort.
- Cognitive issues: Chronic stress can make it difficult to concentrate or pay attention to details. Over time, burnout can make it harder to solve problems or make important decisions. You may find that you are more forgetful and you struggle to remember things.
- Relationship problems: Burnout can cause changes in relationships at work and at home. In general, it can cause more conflicts to develop or it can cause you to withdraw more from others. Both scenarios can create strain on relationships that can lead to more stress.
- Poor coping mechanisms: Unhealthy coping mechanisms can easily develop when you experience burnout. Some people may eat a lot of junk food, not get enough quality sleep, or become more lethargic which can increase negative feelings. In some cases, a person may engage in more dangerous behaviors such as overconsumption of alcohol, smoking, and drug use to escape negative emotions. While self-medication may seem feasible initially, it generally worsens a person’s overall health and makes the situation worse.
- Inability to stop thinking about work: Even when not at work, you may find yourself mulling over your responsibilities. This inability to detach from work can cause you to spend a significant amount of mental and emotional energy focusing on tasks that increase stress levels.
- Decreased satisfaction: Feeling burned out can make you feel dissatisfied in multiple aspects of life. You may find yourself unhappy with your job, your living situation, or your relationships. Chronic stress can magnify feelings of unhappiness and cause it to spread throughout all areas of your life.
- Health problems: Chronic stress is linked to a number of physical, mental, and emotional health problems. Depression, digestive issues, heart problems, and other health concerns can be linked to increased levels of stress.
Overcoming Burn Out: Do You Need a Mental Health Day?
Burn out can be attributed to a number of life experiences or personality traits. While it often stems from work, how you view the world and what you do in your free time can also play a significant role. If you recognize signs of burnout in yourself, it is important to recognize the need for change and take steps to reverse its effects and find balance in your life. Some ways to address burnout include:
- Take time to relax: Setting aside time to truly relax is important in addressing burnout. Reading a book, listening to music, meditating, or taking a walk are just some of the many ways you can unwind. Regardless of what you choose to do with this time, you should actively disconnect from work and other obligations, allowing your mind and body a chance to recover from stressors.
- Find engagement outside of work: Similarly to finding relaxing activities, engaging in extracurricular activities that bring joy or a sense of fulfillment can help reduce feelings associated with burnout. Getting involved in the community, new hobbies, sports, and fitness activities can be great outlets for stress and can be incredibly rewarding as well.
- Unplug and disconnect: It can be difficult to disconnect, especially when so much of our lives and interactions are wrapped up in social media, but technology can actually be a significant source of stress. While it can be useful in increasing productivity and managing communications, it can be difficult to resist temptation to open emails or engage in work. Try to turn off your devices during specific events or allocate windows of time for working in order to reduce stress.
- Sleep more: Poor sleep can be a significant contributor to increased levels of stress and high rates of burnout. Without a quality night of sleep, many feel decreased motivation, impaired mental functioning, and greater difficulty managing difficult situations. Sleep can help improve all aspects of your health and can reverse the effects of burnout.
- Organize your time: Burnout can leave you feeling stressed, frazzled, and worried that something will be missed. In order to reduce these negative feelings, dedicate time towards getting organized by creating a list of priorities and working through them. This ensures you are aware of your responsibilities and it allows you to manage them in a way where it is productive and you do not need to worry about overlooking them.
- Reflect on the situation: Burnout can cause serious health issues when left unaddressed making it important to reflect on your situation and what your needs are. If you believe your symptoms are getting worse, it may be worthwhile to seek professional help. Additionally, it is important to take a step outside of yourself and assess the situation honestly. Determining if the source of your fatigue is internal or external can help you better understand your own needs and what steps you may need to take in order to recover.