Most people are working harder than ever to make ends meet. Unfortunately, overworking has become such an issue that a research study conducted by Gallup discovered that nearly three in every four people are dealing with a serious health problem called burnout.
Burnout can lead to serious health complications or even death. Yet, most people don’t even know what burnout is, let alone how to avoid it. If you want to live your best life and enjoy every moment, then you’ll want to learn what burnout is, recognize the early warning signs of burnout, and take proactive steps to avoid burnout before it even starts.
What Is Burnout?
By definition, burnout is the physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion we experience when we push ourselves beyond our limits for too long. The exhaustion often comes with other symptoms, like decreased motivation, lower-than-average performance at work, and negative attitudes about oneself.
Burnout is not a physical health condition. However, it can impact a person’s physical and mental health over time. It also isn’t something we experience suddenly, but rather something that slowly builds over time.
Because of this, it’s hard to identify burnout if you don’t know the warning signs or symptoms to look for.
Burnout Warning Signs and Symptoms
Some common warning signs of burnout include:
- An increasingly negative outlook towards work or life in general
- Increased irritability
- Insomnia or sleeping difficulties
- Depression or anxiety
- Trouble concentrating
Although burnout isn’t an official health condition, it can cause a lot of physical and psychological issues for people. In extreme cases, burnout can even lead to other health complications that require medical intervention. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout early on.
Psychological symptoms of burnout include:
- Detachment from work or life in general
- Dramatic decreases in productivity or work performance
- Cynicism and frustration towards coworkers
- Emotional numbness
- Outbursts of anger
- Increased absenteeism
Physical burnout symptoms include:
- Aches and muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sleeping difficulties
- Increase in colds or other illnesses
6 Tips To Help You Avoid Burnout
As you can see, burnout can really wreak havoc in your life. Unfortunately, burnout often snowballs once it starts, which makes it even harder to deal with. Iinstead of trying to slap a bandaid on the problem once it’s already started, you should try to avoid burnout altogether with these six tips.
1. Maintain a Proper Sleep Schedule
Sleep is important for maintaining physical and mental wellness. Without a proper sleep schedule, our stress levels increase and we become more susceptible to illnesses like colds or the flu. Therefore, sleep is one of the best things you can do to take care of yourself and avoid burnout.
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine that you follow each night can help promote healthy, consistent sleep. Also, taking steps to avoid screens and stressful situations one hour before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster when you place your head on your pillow.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
Many of us rely on caffeinated beverages and take-out to help us get through stressful days. Unfortunately, these choices actually make burnout symptoms worse, not better.
To avoid burnout, try to eat three meals each day and at least two snacks. Plan meals and snacks that include fiber-filled fruits and vegetables and plenty of protein. Also, don’t cut out carbohydrates and fats completely – your body needs those things too.
If you have a hard time thinking of recipes. consider meal subscription services that send you all of the ingredients along with recipe cards. These services often save you time as well since you don’t have to do as much grocery shopping.
3. Leave Work at Work
Many people experience burnout when their work-life balance is off-kilter. This often happens because people take work home or keep their “work brain” going even after they’ve left the office. Of course, the solution to this is obvious: just leave work at work.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy as it seems. It requires establishing firm boundaries with your coworkers and yourself so you maintain clear working hours and after hours. You may find that it also helps to take a few minutes at the end of each day to outline where you are on tasks or projects so you can “dump” everything that’s in your mind before you clock out.
Also, make sure you “unplug” once you’ve left the office or clocked out. You can do this by removing your work email or related applications from your phone or muting notifications during certain hours. If you work remotely, try to also keep all of your work things in a dedicated workspace that isn’t in your bedroom.
4. Engage in Self-Care
When we feel overwhelmed or stressed, we usually try to push ourselves even harder in hopes of reducing the stress we feel. However, this merely compounds the situation and eventually leads to burnout. So, even if you are behind on deadlines at work or have a whole pile of laundry to wash, you should still prioritize self-care.
Self-care looks a bit different for everyone. In general, though, self-care activities should help you feel relaxed or rejuvenated. For some people, self-care involves bubble baths and facials. For others, self-care looks more like going out to dinner with friends or taking a vacation.
Regardless of what activities you pick, just make sure you select things that relax or re-energize you.
5. Make Time for Exercise
Studies show a clear connection between exercise and stress reduction, yet most of us don’t make it a point to exercise daily. If you’re trying to avoid burnout, though, adding some movement into your daily routine definitely won’t hurt!
Experts recommend 30 minutes of physical activity per day for optimal physical and mental health. You can do this all at once, or break it up into two or three shorter workouts. Also, these activities don’t have to cause pain – even yoga or walks around your neighborhood can help reduce burnout symptoms.
6. Expand Your Mind
Monotony often contributes to burnout. Our bodies and minds get tired of doing the same thing every single day, and we crave novelty.
Although you obviously can’t switch jobs or relocate every time life becomes mundane, you can look for ways to expand your mind to help mix things up. You can read books and do puzzles or other brain teasers daily. Or, if you want to expand your mind with others, you can take up games like chess.
Also, eLearning platforms like Skillshare are a great place to find professional development courses. This gives you the opportunity to learn new skills while also adding to your resume, which makes it a win-win.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes burnout?
Lots of things can cause burnout, but common burnout triggers include taking on too much work, poor self-care, and lack of adequate support from colleagues or loved ones.
What are the five stages of burnout?
Experts have developed a list of five stages to burnout, and most people experience them in order. These stages are: the honeymoon phase, onset of stress, chronic stress, burnout onset, and habitual burnout.
Whats the difference between burnout and depression?
Burnout can mimic symptoms of depression, but usually has a clear cause tied to work or other stressors in life. On the other hand, depression usually occurs without any specific cause, and will linger even when burnout triggers are removed.
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