In this post I’m going to talk about burnout, specifically burnout associated with your job or career.
I know what burnout is like because I’ve been there myself quite a few times. It starts with me getting irritate or crabby easily then I start to view everything with a negative lens and soon I’m physically tired and start getting migraines more easily.
Keep reading to learn about burnout and 5 key ways to get out of the burnout cycle.
Ever find yourself feeling crabby or angry for no real reason? Everything around you annoys you or sets you off? Perhaps you snap at your loved ones for the simplest things? Maybe you’re turning inward and isolating yourself or you’re having thoughts that you’re a failure because you can’t handle everything. You could be experiencing physical pain like frequent headaches or pain, you sleep poorly. You might be either suffering from burnout or on your way to burnout.
Psychology Today defines burnout as: a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.
Burnout happens to a lot of us at some point. It may be different degrees of burnout or each of us may have a different threshold for when we get burned out. We may experience it for different reasons as well. Some of the common reasons for becoming burned out, particularly as it relates to our careers, are when we’re doing something that doesn’t fulfill us or isn’t aligned with our values. Other causes are related to feeling that what you do doesn’t have value whether it’s at work or at home.
However, you’re feeling and whatever the cause of the burnout it sucks. It’s a cycle that’s hard to get out of. You start to feel stressed because your job is unfulfilling and not how you want to spend your life which leads to a feeling of dread in going to work which leads to focusing on the negative aspects of your life which leads to only seeing negative in your world and developing a negative mindset. On and on it goes, you’re stuck.
So, what can you do to get out of the cycle of burnout?
Recognize when you’re starting to get burned out
First you need to recognize it and realize what’s going on. Remember all those feelings and actions I described at the beginning? Start to acknowledge when you’re exhibiting those things. I suggest journaling on a daily basis so that you can reflect on how you’re feeling and start to see the patterns of thoughts or behaviors that are leading to burnout. I know journaling isn’t for everyone, sometimes people think jounaling has to be some long, neatly/prettily written thing but it can be as simple as jotting down how you’re feeling or typing up a few quick notes to yourself. Whenever I’m cranky or stressed I like to do the 5 whys exercise. The exercise goes like this: write down how you’re feeling and then ask yourself why five times to help you really dig into what’s going on.
Once you’ve recognized that you’re either already burned out or headed in that direction, look at ways you can nurture both your mental and physical self.
Look at your values and how you’re aligning to them
If you’re feeling burned out because you’re unfulfilled or lost, consider how your job aligns with your values. Do you know what your values are when it comes to a career? Often my clients don’t know what their values are, they can only recognize that they’re not living them. Do you know how you’d answer the following question – What is most important to me in my work life or career? Brainstorm a list and then start to prioritize it (here’s a list that might spur some ideas). This will help you identify what’s important to you which in turn will help you start to move towards a job or career that aligns with those values.
Realize you’re not alone, leverage your relationships and networks
As you’ve started to experience burnout maybe you’ve started to isolate yourself, you don’t go out or visit with friends because you feel like you don’t even have the energy for it, or it could be causing some anxiety. Start small by reaching out to those closest to you and doing simple things that bring you joy-going out for coffee/tea, shopping or visiting a museum or art gallery. Consider finding new networks to join or volunteer for a cause you’re interested in. Helping others can bring a different perspective into your life.
Nurture your physical health
Our physical health has such an impact on our mental health and vice versa. You’ve probably heard this before but exercise releases endorphins into our brains which can trigger positive feelings. Try to introduce more physical movement and exercise into your daily routine even if it’s just starting to walk more. Try walking with a friend around your workplace. Get outside and walk in the woods, this is one of my favorite ways to combat burnout. Moving and breathing deeply the fresh outside air does wonders for my mood and outlook.
Also, under the topic of physical health is sleep and nutrition. Getting the right amount of sleep can be so helpful. If you’re burned out or headed in that direction you could either be getting too little or too much sleep or you might be getting poor sleep. When you feel burned out you may make poor food choices and go for the quick and unhealthy options (or neglect to eat) instead of choosing what might nourish or replenish your energy.
Block the negative energy
Avoid situations that keep you stuck in the cycle of burnout. Some of us can be really impacted by the emotions of those around us. We start to relate and then get sucked into the BMW mode-bitching, moaning and whining. Hanging out with people at work who are negative and maybe also burned out can start you down that negative path too or keep you there if you’re already caught in the cycle. I know I’ve had work friends who only seem to see things in a negative light and every conversation is about what’s wrong. I’ve found that limiting my interactions with those people can help to block the negative energy coming at me. Sometimes I’ll try to point out the positives but at some point, it’s best to simply distance yourself from it.
Small changes can lead to larger and larger shifts in how you’re feeling and help you break the burnout cycle. Eventually you’ll get to a place where you can quickly recognize the start of the cycle and just as quickly reverse yourself right back out of it.