Burnout resists simple definition because it affects so many aspects of life. In their book, Beyond Burnout, authors David Welch, Donald Medeiros and George Tate, describe burnout as a condition that affects us physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually.
One of the first physical symptoms of burnout is fatigue. Intellectually, there may be a loss of creativity and sharpness in problem solving; cynicism may replace enthusiasm. Emotionally, the loss of dreams and expectations can result in feelings of helplessness and depression. In the social realm, isolation overtakes feelings of involvement. Spiritually, the person experiencing burnout may feel a lack of meaning or struggle with finding a purpose in life.
According to a recent study, one in three Americans is expected to burn out on the job in the near future and, in the two years preceding the study, 14% of the work force quit or changed jobs due to job stress. But burnout can happen in all walks of life, not just on the job. How can you avoid becoming one of the burnout statistics?
- Feelings of frustration, overwhelm and never being caught up,
- A sense of losing control over how you live and what happens in your life,
- Emotional outbursts,
- Withdrawal and isolation,
- Dreading going to work,
- Frequent sickness, low energy or other health problems,
- Self-medicating through over consumption of alcohol, drugs or food, and/or
- A desire to quit or run away, along with a fear of doing so.
Taking a few days off or a vacation to Tahiti won’t contain the burnout. Neither will simply leaving one job or situation for another. Burnout has more to do with an individual’s attitudes and behavior than it does with his or her external situation. It is primarily an act of self-destruction.
1: Self-management. Set specific, realistic goals that are aligned with your values and communicate them clearly to others.
2: Stress management. Know your own responses to stress and develop a plan to manage them. Exercise, take breaks, eat healthy, leave work at work, make time for play and rest. Discover what works best for you and your body and practice consistent, nurturing self-care.
3: Support systems. Family, friends, co-workers, spiritual groups and other organizations can help in times of stress.
4: Skill building. Look for opportunities to leverage and further develop your natural skills, talents and abilities. Encourage your continued growth rather than stagnation.
5: Balance. Seek an intentionally balanced life. Feed your soul by infusing your life with relationships and activities that matter to you.
6: Think positive. Helpless thinking is a major contributor to burnout. Replace negativity with optimism. Everything’s an opportunity. Look for the silver lining in even the darkest cloud.
7: Be creative. Adopt a new perspective. Try a different approach to your unpleasant situation and perceived problems. Break free from your everyday routine. Let your workspace express your individuality.
8: Humor and playfulness. Humor reduces stress, promotes physical healing, is essential for mental health and can add years to your life. No wonder they say laughter is the best medicine. Make enjoying yourself and your life a priority. You matter!