If you’re struggling to cope with the demands of work, you may be putting yourself at a high risk of burnout. This can lead to feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feeling negative towards one’s career and reduced professional productivity.
The World Health Organisation defines burnout as a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. In simpler terms, if you’re feeling exhausted all the time, dread the thought of working and struggling to cope with the demands of work and home life, it’s likely you’re suffering from burnout. There can be many causes of burnout such as demanding workloads, unfair treatment at work and lack of support from management which can eventually affect your health, happiness, relationships and career.
When we start a new task or job role, this is often known as the honeymoon phase, where we often feel high levels of job satisfaction, commitment and creativity with a tendency to thrive from the stress. This is followed by longer working hours to achieve targets and a struggle to cope with heavier workloads due to extreme levels of stress on a frequent basis, which eventually leads to burnout. It’s important to learn to recognise the signs when you start feeling burnt out and create good coping strategies to stay in the honeymoon phase before it affects you mentally, physically and emotionally in the long term.
Symptoms of burnout
If you constantly feel tired no matter how much sleep you’re getting, you may be emotionally fatigued. You might also have interrupted sleep from anxiety or not being able to unwind from your thoughts about work.
Lack of productivity
When you’re feeling demotivated and unproductive with your optimism for work waning. You might appear withdrawn, feel less confident in your skills and dread going to work.
You may have a pessimistic outlook about work and your personal life along with feelings of frustration and cynicism.
You may feel down and activities you normally enjoy now feel like a burden. As the struggle to cope intensifies you might start to avoid social interaction and struggle to get out of bed in the mornings.
Neglect of personal needs
When you’re feeling stressed, you might prioritise work over diet by eating convenience food and neglecting exercise in order to gain more time in your workday. You may also rely on coping tactics such as alcohol or sugar to get you through.
Chronic stress can lead to health problems such as headaches, ulcers, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, increased susceptibility to flu and cold, heart disease and depression.
The mental and physical effects of burnout can lead to feelings of helplessness and mood swings. You might experience feelings of irritation towards colleagues and even personal relationships and lash out or get upset about simple things.
How to prevent burnout
Most of us spend the majority of our time at work and often end up doing extra hours to manage heavy workloads. Start and finish work at a reasonable time, try to stick to regular hours and have regular breaks away from your desk.
Practice good sleep habits
Lack of good quality sleep can affect your mood, judgement and memory. Stress can unbalance sleep quality so try to avoid technology at least an hour before sleep and work on relaxation techniques such as meditation, a warm bath or reading a book.
Make time to relax
Whether it’s baking, doing a puzzle, listening to music or having a dance around the room, think about what really makes you relax and set yourself some time to have some you-time and stick to it as you would to an appointment.
Eat a balanced diet
While it’s tempting to reach for the processed foods and caffeine, your diet can heavily impact your mood and energy levels. Make sure your diet includes fresh healthy foods including vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and nuts and keep hydrated with plenty of water and herbal teas.
It doesn’t have to be a 10-mile run but doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, and produce more endorphins in the body.
Ask for help
Don’t overextend yourself as this will make you more susceptible to burning out and less productive than you’re capable of. Speak to management and ask for support or if you are really struggling, speak to your GP.
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