They say every sport has its injuries. It can’t be more true than the injuries we suffer trying to stay ahead of the rat race. We’ve built lives where we put in the maximum hours for maximum achievement. But what do you do when you just run out of energy, when there’s no oomph left in you, when everything seems mundane and grey, and you just can’t keep up?
You aren’t the only person in the world who feels like this. Google reports that there has been a 221% spike in searches for burnout in the last three months.
What is burnout?
We are like engines; what you put in is what you get out. When output exceeds input, the engine will eventually stop working. It’s as simple as that.
What causes burnout?
People suffering from burnout at work say that their responsibilities have increased dramatically. They have to produce more in the same amount of time they had before. With the onset of lockdowns during 2020 and 2021, many people had to work from home. Although it might sound peachy, it resulted in the boundaries between private and work lives disappearing. Work is everywhere and you’re always on duty. As a result, people have been working longer hours with less rest.
People also feel burnt out when they do not have control over things. They feel their work is thrown into a dark abyss where there is no feedback, just demands for more. Mundane, purposeless tasks are other reasons people burn out quickly. We need to feel as if we are contributing something to the world. If tasks become meaningless, very few people will enjoy doing them.
If you do not know what is expected of you it’s very difficult to perform at your best. Vague expectations and goals can lead to burnout. It is extremely important that employees have clear job descriptions and that they know exactly what is expected of them. They should get regular feedback about their performance, be it negative or positive.
Chaos can lead people to feel burnt out. If they feel that there is chaos around them that is beyond their control (toxic work environment, volatile leadership, etc.), people feel less motivated because they think their efforts to improve things will not make a difference.
Symptoms of burnout
Depending on its severity, burnout can affect you both mentally and physically. While depression and burnout share some traits (exhaustion, hopelessness), depression is a classified mental condition and burnout is more of a physical response to extreme overwork.
Symptoms include lack of appetite or increased appetite and weight gain or loss. People suffering from burnout often eat excessive amounts of fast food, contributing to a general decline in health. They suffer from disrupted sleeping patterns. If you want to sleep all the time or battle to sleep a full eight hours a night, it is an indication that you might be suffering from burnout. Increased blood pressure, diabetes, lack of motivation, and feeling deflated or constantly tired are all indications that you are burnt out.
Like all engines, our bodies need maintenance to keep going. You cannot manage burnout and continue working at the same pace at the same time. The only cure is rest and setting (and sticking to) boundaries. Specialists recommend three weeks off work, minimum. During this time, you should switch everything off. Don’t check emails, take calls, or answer requests to do something quickly. Turn off all your notifications while you’re at it. Just… switch… off!
Take long walks in nature, read a book, get some sun or work in the garden. We don’t realise how much stress we create by being glued to our digital devices. Take a digital break and switch everything off.
How to avoid burnout
You can avoid burning out by maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Ensure that your input is greater than your output; make sure you’re doing things that fill your tank as a person too, not just a worker. Maintain a healthy diet of natural foods. Get regular light exercise. It’s such a cliché, but taking a walk every day will do you the world of good. Stop to watch the sunset or a beautiful tree. Play or dance a bit. Find your joy. Be light. Laugh. And make sure you get enough sleep.
If you’ve nodded your head and said to yourself, “This is me,” more than three times while reading this article, speak to your manager or an HR person to arrange time off immediately, even if your leave is not due. After three weeks of intentional rest and recuperation, you’ll return with renewed energy and motivation ready to work at a sustainable pace.
These are just guidelines to get you started. As you work your way through identifying, managing and overcoming burnout, you’ll figure out new and personal things that draw the best out of you. Better yet, do you have your own burnout hacks that should be on this list? Let us know!
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