Putting forth your best effort at work mostly pays off, whether it means climbing the corporate ladder or getting a pay bump. But considering the fact that current culture can often put such an emphasis on your career, it can be tempting to give too much of yourself. And while it might seem like giving 120 percent is the only way to get where you're trying to go, you could end up sacrificing a lot in the process — namely your health, relationships with others, and your general mental state. Wondering if you're teetering too close to the edge? There are some clear signs of burnout at work that just might signal it's time to pull back.
The stress from your 9-5 (or your side hustle — whatever the case may be) can take a major toll — and it's no wonder so many people rely on taking a vacation, meditating, or indulging in other forms of self-care to counteract a consuming job's inherent effects. But what if you could actually recognize the signs before you're about to blow? It might be helpful to first examine what exactly is causing the issue in the first place. "Probably the most common reason for burnout is feeling out of control," says Sydney-based therapist Annie Gurton. "Either expectations on you are higher than you’re comfortable with, or demands are too many in a short time. It doesn't help if you don’t feel appreciated or don’t receive the recognition that you feel you deserve."
Similarly, you might find that the lack of a team setting leaves you feeling stranded. According to Gurton, a lack of community in your place of employment is another common cause of burnout. "If you are working alone, or if your team is dysfunctional, you will be experiencing more stress than someone working as part of a collective," she says.
And Tamara Loehr, wellness entrepreneur and author of Balance Is B.S.: How to Have a Work Life Blend, believes that the shift starts to occur once you begin to compromise some of the mandatory factors that keep your work and personal life well-blended — something she refers to as a "baseline." "For example, your work baseline may be working no more than 40 hours a week, the split of your work day, or your commuting time being under two hours per day," she explains. "If one of these is out than you may find you are not enjoying your work or worse, you're over it. You will also notice if you are burnt out at work, it effects the other areas of your life: self and family."
Loehr also notes that this can work in reverse as well. In other words, if your non-work life is not where you want it to be, this can affect your job — oftentimes, leading you to overcompensate there, which can quickly lead to burnout.
So how do you know if you've reached — or are approaching — your breaking point? According to Gurton, there are three categories of burnout: physical, emotional, and behavioral. And you may notice one or more of these categories directly connected to your work load or job-related stress.
As for the physical symptoms, Gurton explains that you might notice you've been feeling especially tired, tense, or susceptible to illness. Changes in your eating and sleeping habits might be another sign you've been hit with work burnout, as are more frequent headaches and stomach aches.
Some of the emotional signs that may show up, according to Gurton, are feeling consistently overwhelmed or stretched too thin, therefore unable to feel like you can ever catch up. And lastly, she claims some of the behavioral signs include irritability, or experiencing outbursts of anger and frustration. She also mentions some find themselves turning to alcohol or drugs in order to cope, or distancing themselves from friends and family.
Luckily, Gurton also has some tips for getting out of this slump if you have found yourself there. She credits "The Three R’s" for getting back on track: recognize, react, and resilience. After the initial recognition of the problem, she suggests reacting quickly with some self-care and life-balancing practices. "This often means getting more sleep, eating better, getting more and more regular exercise," she explains. "It also means reaching out to colleagues and friends for their support, whether or not they realize it."
And finally, resilience. "There should be no shame in saying you’re feeling overwhelmed," she explains. "However for many employees there is a feeling that to admit that burnout is happening or about to happen, is seen as a sign of weakness or failure. In fact the opposite is true: to say you’re feeling or afraid of feeling burned out is a mature and sensible thing to do."