A common condition caused by our hectic modern lives is workplace burnout. Burnout is what we call mental, physical and emotional exhaustion caused by intense and prolonged stress. The longer the stress continues, you lose motivation, focus and interest for you role and workplace. Burnout also reduces your productivity and energy which can cause feelings of helplessness, hoplessness, cynicism and resentfulness.
Burnout doesn't just affect your work life; it also has a negative effect on your home and social life and can have disastrous consequences on your health including high blood pressure- which can lead to heart attacks, weight gain- leading to many issues including diabetes, and insomnia. Excessive and extended burnout has even led to suicide.
Recently, I experienced burnout. It came after an emotionally taxing six months. My Mum was fighting cancer, I was working 40 hours a week- on top of an extra 3 hours a day commuting, trying to work my way through a university degree, volunteering and attempting build a business. At first, I began to feel extremely tired. I was falling asleep on the bus and train to and from work, during work meetings and even in client's homes. I found it hard to focus on small and tedious tasks; I was doing the absolute minimum amount of work before my brain literally stopped working. Finally I found myself not wanting to go to work and looking for other options. My lacklustre performance had been noticed by management and I was subject to a performance improvement plan.
I finally explained to my supervisor that I was feeling burnt-out and I was supported to get back on track and re-evaluate my goals. Combined with two weeks leave and plenty of time to catch up on extra sleep I returned refreshed and revitalised and was soon back giving 100% to my work.
The most important aspect in overcoming my burnout was recognising it in the first place. Recognising burnout as early as possible is important as you can eliminate burnout before it's too late. The following are the top 5 signs that you're burning out:
Loss of motivation.
I loved the job I was doing. I was working with a great team, the clients were wonderful, and the managers we're really supportive. I was excited going to work every day. When I began to burnout, I didn't feel like going to work. I was frustrated by the clients, disengaged from my co-workers and avoided my supervisors.
Feeling tired and drained most of the time.
I was exhausted. I would fall asleep on the bus, on the train, during meetings and training. I wasn't able to do many physical activities because I had no energy and I'd crash as soon as I got home. At no point during the day did my energy levels peak.
Skipping work or coming in late/leaving early.
The year before I burnt-out I took 0 sick days. I'd arrive to work 15 minutes early and stay late until I had finished all my work. When I started burning out I'd often leave 15 minutes early regardless of whether my work was finished or not and I took sick days without being sick. This is the most common sign of burnout and is often one of the earlier ones.
Change in appetite or sleep habits.
I never used to have difficulty sleeping right through the night. While burning out, I woke several times during the night. Instead of one constant sleep, I was having several half sleeps. When it was time to wake up, it was hard dragging myself out of bed. I would often sneak in an extra 15 minutes sleep then head off to work without breakfast.
Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope.
This is another very common sign. Many people increase their drinking after work, and in extreme cases, during work. Also the use of illegal and prescribed drugs is very common. For me, I found myself trying to cope with food. I found myself eating more of the "wrong" foods. I put on weight which helped to decrease my self-esteem.
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn't happen overnight but it slowly creeps up on you and often people don't realise it until it's too late. By recognising some of the most common signs, hopefully you'll recognise burnout in time.