Stress and pressure are a part of everyday life. Our jobs often bring a fast pace; we may have to meet deadlines, complete projects in a certain timeframe, or put up with stressful environments. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s a certain amount of stress that just “comes with the job”.
However, there are times when the pressure gets to be too much. You may have been dealing with days, weeks, months, or even years of too much work and not enough downtime. The stresses of the job may be piling up with the stresses at home. Eventually, you run the risk of what is known as “burnout syndrome”.
Burnout syndrome, also known as occupational or job burnout, is defined as “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” The symptoms of burnout include:
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Frustration and negative emotions
- Lack of motivation
- Attention and concentration difficulties
- Reduced performance on the job
- Lack of personal care, unhealthy coping mechanisms (eating, smoking, drinking, etc.)
- Interpersonal difficulties, both on the job and at home
- Preoccupation with work, even when you’re not working
- Chronic health problems
- Illness (the result of chronic stress)
- Decreased satisfaction with the quality of your life
If you’re noticing these symptoms in your life, you may be suffering from or getting close to burnout.
But what causes burnout syndrome? How does it get from “I’m having a bad day at work” to the feeling of being overwhelmed, overburdened, and emotionally drained? There are a lot of things that can contribute to the feelings of burnout.
- Interpersonal relationship problems at work, with coworkers, employees, or employers.
- A lack of control in your life, feeling like you have no say in anything that goes on at work or home.
- A lack of clarity in your job description or burden of responsibilities.
- Monotony or chaos in your job—both can require a lot of energy to remain focused.
- Company ethics, values, or methods of handling feedback, grievances, or complaints that are not aligned with yours.
- A job that doesn’t fit with your skills or interest.
- Isolation at work or home; you may feel like your social support is lacking.
- An imbalance in your work-life routine, usually too much time spent at work and not enough at home.
All of these factors can add to your feelings of stress and anxiety. Over time, they simply INCREASE until you feel like the burden of your job is too much to bear.
The truth is that occupational burnout is incredibly common, especially among human service professions. ER physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, police officers, and customer service reps are all at a very high risk of burnout. The high-pressure environment and occupation add to the emotional demands of the job. Eventually, everything becomes too much to bear and you suffer from burnout.
So what can you do if you’re feeling burned out? How can you cope with the mounting stress and pressure that may eventually become too much to bear?
Engage socially. Social interaction and connection is one of the most effective antidotes to depression, anxiety, and stress. Spending time with family, friends, and coworkers can help you to feel better. Making friends at work can change the environment positively, making work seem less stressful because of you have a social support framework in place. Open up to people and share your feelings. It can release some of the pressure building inside you and encourage better connection with others.
Reframe your perspective. Instead of seeing work as a bore, a chore, or a stressor, try to find value in what you do. Your job benefits someone, so look at what you do as providing an invaluable service.
Evaluate your priorities. What’s more important to you: work or home life? If your career is important, find ways to focus on it without adding to your stress. Work on a better work-life balance. Take more time off work, even if it means someone else gets the promotion you wanted. Set boundaries on your time and availability. Set aside time to relax and unwind, both in the middle of and at the end of the day. Stop rushing around so much—from home to work and back home again. Focus on what matters: your health and happiness!
Change your lifestyle. Get more sleep. Eat better. Exercise more. Drink less coffee and alcohol. Read more books. Walk in the park more. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Move around more. Quit smoking. Improve your lifestyle, and you’ll find your body and mind better able to cope with the feelings of stress that could lead to burnout.
In the end, YOU are the one in control of your life. Make the decisions that will reduce stress, not add to it. Take care of your body, mind, and emotions, and you’ll avoid those feelings of burnout!
Lucy Boyle (@BoyleLucy2), is a full-time mother, blogger and freelance business consultant, interested in finance, business, home gardening and mental health.