Avoiding burnout starts with recognising the signs and taking practical steps to reduce your stressors.
When you’re ‘burned out’, you tend to feel as if you’ve just about had enough, are at the end of your tether, and have pushed yourself too far for too long.
Burnout can also be the result of exerting all your effort into one aspect of your life. For example, your career. You may find yourself neglecting other important areas of your life– namely your family, friends and social life.
Specifically, burnout is a psychological term referring to long-term exhaustion and a diminished interest in work, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
Burnout ‘syndrome’ is commonly associated with work-related stress, though there’s no clear definition of what it really is. It can apply to stressful lifestyles of all types – whether the stress is due to career, family life, financial circumstances or something else.
While some of the signs of burnout are similar to those of depression, it’s important to realise burnout and depression are two distinctly different scenarios.
While depression is characterised by long-term low mood and sadness, often without one distinct cause, burnout is often thought of as a form of stress. It’s associated with working too much, or being under extreme pressure because of something that’s taking over your daily life.
Recognising the signs of burnout
We all get a bit fed up with work and life from time to time. So, how do you know if you’re just a little bit ‘over it’ or are completely burned out?
Burnout is often associated with some or all of the following:
- Feeling exhausted emotionally
- Feeling drained, tired and low in energy
- Possible physical symptoms like stomach pains and digestive issues
- Alienating yourself from your work and work-related activities
- Disengaging from your work
- Feeling cynical about your work and your colleagues
- Performing below standard
- Feeling negative about your job in general
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Lacking in creativity
These signs can be associated with a range of other diseases and conditions, so it’s important to visit your healthcare professional if you feel you or someone you know may be at risk. If left unaddressed, burnout may lead to chronic stress and ongoing fatigue.
How can you avoid burnout in the long term?
Here are some strategies for coping with burnout and getting your spark back:
- De-clutter your life – focus on the ‘must-dos’ and delegate all non-essential tasks
- Make time for yourself – book a massage, take a yoga class, and give yourself permission to take time out
- Switch off from screens as much as possible – phones, computers and tablets with work emails and tasks can make it harder to forget about work during non-work times
- Leave work at work – make a clearer distinction between work time and home time, and don’t feel guilty for doing so
- Reframe your thinking – instead of focusing on your results, focus on your processes and the effort you put into them
- Spend more time with your friends and family – laugh, play, have fun and make your life about more things than work
- Exercise regularly – exercise is great for physical and mental health, and gets you moving away from screens
- Get enough sleep – aim for 8 hours every night, and go to bed at the same time every night
- Reduce stimulants – alcohol and coffee can create feelings of stress, so cut down where possible
- Eat a healthy diet – a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean dairy will help to make you feel better and give you more energy