WHETHER YOU LOVE YOUR job or hate it, overdoing it at work has the potential to harm your health. Burnout can be defined as being so overwhelmed that physical and mental exhaustion sets in, as well as negativity and disengagement from your job.
A 2018 study from Yale revealed that one in five highly engaged employees were at risk of burnout. These enthusiastic but committed-to-a-fault workers have been referred to in Harvard Business Review as the "engaged-exhausted." They suffer from the ill-effects of high stress, including increased risk of a heart attack and the development of many other health problems, from high blood pressure to insomnia and chronic fatigue.
Burnout can occur among those who are less engaged at work too, when long hours and intense projects continue piling up well past the breaking point. Nearly a quarter of 7,500 full-time employees who responded to a 2018 Gallup survey feel work burnout very often or always, and another 44 percent feel burned out at work sometimes. Burned out workers are 23 percent more likely to end up visiting the emergency room than those who don't feel burned out, according to the study.
An important part of burnout prevention is being able to recognize the signs of job burnout so you can make changes before it's too late. See if any of the five burnout symptoms below sound familiar and start your journey to burnout recovery.
Burnout symptoms include:
- Loss of focus.
- Pessimism and cynicism.
- Loss of motivation.
You're losing focus.
It's hard to concentrate from a state of burnout. This burnout symptom may emerge when you find yourself trying to manage an unreasonable number of tasks or simply buried in expectations from your boss and even yourself. The more pressure you experience, the easier it is to become overwhelmed and lose focus on your larger goals and the big picture.
You're feeling critical of your company and colleagues.
Pessimism and cynicism are early warning signs of burnout. It's hard to feel positive about what you're doing when you're overwhelmed and unable to stem the tide of incoming projects – and it's easy then to misdirect your feelings of anger and disappointment about this toward the people you're working with or even the entire organization.
You're feeling irritable and ineffective.
When too much is heaped on your plate, it becomes seemingly impossible to reach your goals with any degree of competence or composure. As balls are dropped and commitments are missed, it can affect your sense of self-confidence and professionalism. This may cause you to feel annoyed at the situation and disillusioned with your position or career.
You lack motivation.
Multitasking is stressful and can make you feel frenetic. Too much time spent trying to do 10 things at once eventually takes its toll on your motivation. You may not even want to drill down on your projects and tasks, recognizing that you aren't able to give each item the attention that it deserves.
You experience dread on Sunday night and every morning before work.
Once you have entered the burnout zone, you'll feel visceral physical and mental resistance to continuing in the same vein. This isn't just the Sunday blues because you don't want the weekend to end; it's a strong feeling of fear, dread or panic about returning to the office.
Burnout Recovery and Burnout Prevention
No matter how busy you are, though, if you recognize some or all of the signs above, there's no need to accept burnout as a foregone conclusion. The most important step you can take is to go back to the basics – getting enough rest, eating right and exercising – that you may have neglected when on overdrive. Part of your burnout recovery may also include learning to say no to projects that you can't really handle on top of your current workload or asking for help accomplishing your goals. This can be uncomfortable at first but is necessary to maintain sanity.
Another important step is to unplug from the demands of your job for enough time to recalibrate your feelings toward work. Whether that means refusing to work through the weekend by setting expectations with your boss and team upfront, or using a few vacation days to get back to your center, taking proactive steps to stay balanced is a necessary reality of work in today's world. Don't neglect it for too long.