If you’re feeling worn down, tired, or exhausted due to work-related stress, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s a term to describe how you’re feeling – career burnout.
The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as a special type of job-related stress – a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competency at work.
While burnout can materialize in different ways, the symptoms tend to be similar no matter what you’re going through.
Do you have career burnout? Ask yourself how often you’ve experienced the following feelings regarding your work:
- Work-related cynicism or pessimism
- Lack of energy for new tasks
- Irritability with co-workers, feelings of isolation
- Decreased sense of accomplishment
While it’s natural to have any of these feelings occasionally, burnout tends to last longer and have a greater impact on your mental health. In other words, burnout is more than a bad day; it’s a negative state of being that could last for weeks, months, or even years.
Not only is burnout bad for your psyche and possibly your health, but it can hurt your career as well. If you’re burnt out long enough, your boss and co-workers might notice and distance themselves. If your burnout is bad enough, it could even cause you to lose your job. After all, no one wants to work with someone who is constantly negative and irritable.
Escaping or Avoiding Career Burnout
If you don’t take steps to curb your burnout, you might be tempted to retire early, or “throw in the towel.” That’s great if early retirement was your intention along, but not so great if you quit because you’ve lost passion for your career. Obviously, retiring early without the funds to do so can be an absolute disaster, too. In short, you shouldn’t consider retirement until you are feeling fulfilled and financially prepared enough to do so.
On a personal note, I want you to enter retirement feeling confident that you set out to accomplish each of your career goals – and that you left your profession better than you found it.
So, how can you avoid career burnout?
Whether you’re currently in the throes of burnout or susceptible to enduring burnout-like feelings, the best thing you can do is identify the cause of your discontent. Once you find out the exact reason burnout has become a problem, you can work toward a solution.
If you’re working far too many hours at work, for example, visit with your employer about changing shifts or negotiating a better work schedule.
Maybe you’re just tired of working for someone else. You’re tired of not having freedom, and you want more flexibility and control over your work and your life. In that case, you could consider becoming a consultant in your chosen career field.
Or maybe you just need a sabbatical to recharge. By taking an extended vacation, you can refocus and take a much-needed break from work-related responsibilities. Believe it or not, some companies including General Mills, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, have mandatory sabbatical programs. Why? Because these firms know sabbaticals help their employees perform better and avoid burnout over the long-term.
In addition to these work-related issues, don’t underestimate the power of altering your lifestyle with a new workout routine, diet, or improved sleeping habits. If work isn’t the problem, your burnout could be the cause of an unhealthy or less than optimal lifestyle.
If you’re not exercising, for example, you can try implementing a workout routine to see if physical exertion improves your state of mind. For many people, exercising regularly is more than the key to a healthy body; it’s the key to a long-lasting mental health.
Remember to think outside the box as you search for the cause of your burnout woes and potential solutions. The whole idea of this exercise is trying to find and rekindle your life’s passion and create a life you don’t want to retire from.
No matter which life factors are burning you out, it’s up to you to find ways to cope. Whether your solution is working less, finding ways to improve your work day, or boosting your health so you’re better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs, only you can take positive steps to curb your burnout before it’s too late.
On the flip side, it’s important to know you’re not alone – and that help is available if you need it. If you’re worried your burnout is creating long-term problems in your career or home life, it might be worth speaking with a professional.
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This story was originally the subject for Benjamin’s recurring Money Monday segment on Bismarck’s local CBS affiliate. Watch the clip here.
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