Whether it started as the dream job or not, every job will have its ups and downs. My own experience has taught me to look for the early signs of burnout and do something about it before it ends badly. By “badly” I mean the ugly break up, a firing or walking out. No one wins in the scorched earth separation scenario. The Mayo Clinic defines workplace burnout as “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” So here are the signs you need to course correct, followed by a few ways to get you back on track.
According to Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. of Phychology Today says the sign of burnout are:
- Physical and Emotional Exhaustion. This could include any of the following: chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention, physical symptoms, increased illness, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, anger. Catching any of these signs early makes it a whole lot easier to turn it around.
- Cynicism and Detachment. These signs could include: loss of enjoyment, pessimism, isolation, detachment (the general sense of not being connected to the people or the environment around you).
- Feelings of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment. Ya, I have felt this: apathy and hopelessness, increased irritability, lack of productivity and poor performance even if you are working long hours.
The key to successfully navigating these issues for me has been knowing the signs and getting ahead of the problem. Sometimes that has meant changing jobs or even careers, and it also has meant I need to step away and do some personal work.
Maybe it is them and not you. Some jobs just suck. Bad bosses are for real and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. So if it is possible, get out. And please do not wait until you have tortured your friends, family and neighbors, and/or wrecked your physical and mental health. Dust off the resume and get moving.
The other senecio is that it is you. Maybe you have just been going hard for too long. In this case if you changed jobs then you would just take all the problems with you. These are my favorite ways of treating burnout:
- Slow down. Consider taking care of your body. Get some sleep, eat your vegitables (moms have been right for millennia), and figure out how to exercise.
- Reconnect with nature. Did you know looking at trees is good for you? The Japanese have a whole philosophy about Forest Medicine or Shinrin-Yoku. Maybe you need to go to Japan to see these trees, see the next suggestion.
- Take a vacation. Lin-Manuel Miranda was ready to give up writing after a string of disappointments but he went on vacation and came back having written the Broadway hit Hamilton. Sometimes you need to get away to get some prospective and inspiration. Reconnecting with your family, friends and community are also benefits of vacation and known ways of helping you fight stress.
If these signs have been around for years then there is a chance you need some professional help from a licensed therapist. Take signs of depression seriously, you would not be the first and definitely not the last person to seek a mental health professional over job related stress. Oh and take a vacation.