The following post is a guest contribution from Stewart Dunlop. I haven’t taken guest posts in a while but the topic of burnout has come up a lot lately and when Stewart asked if he could write something about for my blog, I jumped at the chance. Stewart is a content guy at Foundr with a passion for writing articles that you will want to read. In his free time, he likes to play football, and read Stephen King.
We live in a society that values hard work and superhuman performances over health and balance. Most companies love an employee who works hard and is dedicated to giving it all. At the same time, many people are taught that being a workaholic is a good thing.
Furthermore, the amount of work and stress increases if you’re an entrepreneur. After all, you are working on your business, so you must give 120%!
Don’t get me wrong. It is natural to want to be appreciated at your job (which usually comes with better pay) or your business to succeed. However, when you neglect your health and don’t have a solid work-life balance, you risk reaching the point of burnout.
What is Burnout?
It’s difficult to define it, and it’s lately become a bit of a buzzword, but burnout does happen. There are the extreme cases, where people literally work themselves to death, and the mild cases (so-to-speak) accompanied by depression, fatigue, illnesses, and more.
Burnout is now included in the International Classification of Diseases released by the World Health Organization, as a medical condition. WHO characterizes this state as a specifically work-related condition with symptoms such as:
- You feel exhausted or depleted
- A negative view towards the work you’re doing (even though you used to like it)
- Reduced work productivity
Are You on The Verge of Burnout?
Sadly, it’s difficult to know when you’re on the verge because everyone has tough days or weeks at work. So how do you recognize when you’re on the verge of a burnout?
First, if your loved ones tell you there’s a problem, you should listen. But the words of a worried spouse or friend are easy to dismiss and ignore when we don’t want to take a closer look in the mirror. So, here are some of the most common signs to be on the lookout for:
Exhaustion & Lack of Motivation
Exhaustion can be physical, mental, or emotional (or a combination of these), but to be a burnout, it needs to happen for an extended time. If you can’t remember the last time you felt rested, you should take a closer look at your habits.
Exhaustion is usually accompanied by a lack of motivation, where you don’t find joy in anything you do. While motivation is difficult to understand and muster at times (according to Foundr Magazine), if you are constantly negative towards your job or projects, this can be a sign of burnout.
A clear sign of burnout is a lack of quality in the work you deliver. This is especially worrisome if you used to be one of the best at your company and now, you’re struggling with deadlines for basic tasks. The vibe other get from you is that you’ve stopped caring about anything and you’re just trying to get by with the bare minimum.
So, if you start receiving criticism about the quality of your work, your appearance, and other aspects that used to matter to you, stop and analyze your situation.
People who are close to burning out are under a lot of stress, which usually translates into low quality of sleep, insomnia, stomach pain, low appetite, headache, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, and more.
There are also mental imbalances, but the most staggering one is depression.
Of course, there could be other reasons why you have these symptoms, but if you do have them, you need to visit your doctor. They will be able to tell you more about your current state of well-being.
How to Get Back on the Horse
A state of burnout makes you feel like there’s nowhere to go from that point moving forward. You’re so tired and sick of everything that you just want to stop and/or give up.
However, while taking a break is a good idea, it’s not the best way to deal with your situation. According to specialists who studied this problem, here are steps you need to implement:
Understand the Nature of your Burnout
There are two types of burnout: the clinical type and the environmental type. The latter manifests as a feeling of being stuck at a job you don’t like or in a life situation that doesn’t fit you anymore.
The good news is that, if your burnout is environmental, it can be solved by removing yourself from the environment. This means getting a new job or finding a new path in your professional life. If the burnout comes from a personal situation, find ways to change it.
Find Progress & Purpose
Burnout doesn’t happen just to those who hate their job or feel stuck in a situation. It can happen even if you are truly passionate about your work and life.
For instance, you’ve started an online business and, despite putting in long hours and a lot of dedication, you don’t see any progress. The level of stress is high, and it’s difficult to remember why you started in the first place.
Times like these are tough, and it can be incredibly difficult to move on, but it helps to try to find your purpose and motivation and work towards some progress. For this, you need to change your attitude and recognize negative thought patterns.
Start by setting small goals and work to increase them as your energy levels change. Also, learn to stop negative thoughts and stay far away from perfectionism. There is research that found a strong link between perfectionism and burnout.
Lighten your Workload
It’s difficult to refuse customers and/or projects, especially those who promise a big payday. However, mental and physical fatigue represents a direct path to burnout and other health-related problems.
So, before you accept a new project, analyze the current schedule, and see if you’ve created enough time to spend with yourself, the family, or friends. Check for some productivity applications or project management software that might help you organize your time in an efficient way. The work-life balance matters and the brain needs to unplug and refocus each day.
So, don’t bury yourself in deadlines and milestones. Respect personal time and learn to recognize when you are tired and need some time off.
It’s important to keep in mind that burnout doesn’t just go away with time. If it’s left unchecked, it can lead to bigger problems, and it can affect your life in a more permanent manner. So, learn to recognize the signs, listen to your loved ones, and take steps to improve your lifestyle.