In an interesting report from the RTS last night which explored burnout in Switzerland, psychologists and victims of workplace burnout explored the burnout experience.
I see this in my practice very often. Many of my clients are either on the path to, in the middle of, or are recovering from burnout. Some have even recovered once before but are again facing the same challenge.
Burnout is becoming all too common. Usually linked to the workplace, burnout is “a chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment” (Psychology Today).
People experiencing burnout can have physical symptoms which are often be the first signs of distress. These can include tiredness, insomnia, loss of appetite, chest pains, stomach pain or nausea, headaches, dizziness, and many others. This can be your body signalling to you that something in wrong.
Further, emotions and behaviors can include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotions which seems to “come out of nowhere”. Work also suffers with the inability to meet deadlines and finish tasks not only because of the feelings you’re experiencing, but also because of unrealistic expectations placed on you.
So what can you do if you’re experiencing burnout?
First, take care of your physical symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what you can do. Next, decide if you want to continue in your current job and in what capacity. Will setting boundaries at work help things, could you work part-time, or do you need to change jobs altogether?
Next, take care of your emotional health. Get help from a professional and get support from friends and family. You will often see your physical symptoms improve after gaining control over your emotions.
Once you’re in a better place physically and mentally, try and figure out what contributed to the burnout. Oftentimes a lack of clear boundaries at work can cause issues. Are you often working more than your 40 hours a week and into the weekends? Answering emails and phone calls at all hours of the day and night? Have you been taking on more tasks than your colleagues and realizing only after that you don’t have enough time to finish them? Although setting boundaries can be scary and difficult, it is necessary and will provide you with a better working environment. To learn more about boundaries, check out this book or research them online. Through the help of a professional, you can also learn more about boundaries, what holds you back from setting them, and how to set meaningful boundaries in your personal and professional life.
Lastly, realize that burnout is not the sign of a weak person. Very often, people experiencing burnout are highly competent professionals who work hard and get results. They often strive for perfection and high standards at work, but at some point lose control over their work and personal lives without realizing it.
My advice would be to know the signs and get help early. Recovery is possible.