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What Is Burnout, and Why Is It Important?

image Ashley Neal image imageMarch 31, 2022 image image3 min. to read
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What Is Burnout, and Why Is It Important?

In the past two years, innovation has skyrocketed, governance has been updated, revenue streams have changed and productivity has increased for organizations all over the world. However, for many, these changes have also brought about an increase in responsibility both professionally and personally. 

While most would consider advancing at work to be a good thing, in an already precarious time where stress, fear and worry were at an all-time high, the increase was detrimental to the long-term sustainability and mental wellbeing of the working class.

If you feel like you’re losing steam due to long hours, unrealistic expectations and tight budgets, it may be time to recognize that like a large portion of the world, you could be experiencing a phenomenon known as burnout.

What is burnout?

“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress,” shared HelpGuide. “It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”

It manifests itself in physical, emotional and mental symptoms that include chronic fatigue, low energy levels, frequent head and body aches, feeling emotionally depleted and drained, becoming short-tempered with those around you, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and a lack of motivation or interest in things you used to enjoy.

The external and internalized pressure to perform at high levels throughout the pandemic – and sustain it afterward – has put unneeded stress and exhaustion onto many.

And they’re not alone.

In fact, Google Trends reports that the search keyword “burnout” has steadily increased in interest over the past two years, with it now resting at the highest recorded interest level since the pandemic began.

How to recognize it

Have you been feeling like you're working harder and harder, but getting less done? Are the things you once enjoyed doing that now feel like a burden or a waste of time? Are you mentally and physically exhausted throughout the week, with seemingly no improvement? 

These are all signs of burnout.

In addition, Jennifer Alsever wrote about the 5 most common warning signs you and your colleagues need to be looking out for.

  1. You feel disconnected from your job and other interests.
  2. You stopped your routines.
  3. You’ve become far more cynical and hopeless.
  4. You’ve got brain fog.
  5. You’re physically and emotionally exhausted.

Keep an eye on your productivity too. Many times when someone is experiencing burnout it manifests in their quality of work. Are deadlines being missed? Have simple errors been overlooked?

The 9-to-5 workday has long been a relic of the past. And now, the workday has become a 24/7 affair because we're always connected – and for most – always working. When you know all your responsibilities are just a click away, how can you really shut down and just relax?

5 Strategies to combat burnout

While burnout continues to be a rampant issue for many professionals and organizations out there, there are lots of ways to turn things around and find balance. 

1. Identify the source of stress

First, identify what has been causing the stress in your life; this could be your demanding boss or co-workers who aren't pulling their weight on projects. It could be that you haven’t taken a break in months, or that your plate has been overflowing with projects not easily completed by one person.

2. Structure your days

If you can't remove the source of stress from your life (for example, if the issue is your boss), then find ways to make it easier for yourself – such as organizing your workday so that you can work more efficiently or turning down extra projects if possible.

3. Take breaks

Breaks aren’t a luxury – they’re a necessity. That doesn't mean stop working entirely (although it could!). It just means take some time off – Go on a vacation or take a long weekend! 

You could set up office hours so people have to make an appointment to meet with you. This helps limit any unnecessary meetings and ensures you’re finding space and time for your own work. 

This could also apply to your email inbox or Slack messages. Create “Do Not Disturb” hours on your phone, that way when you are done for the day you are actually done.

Related: 8 Ways to Prioritize Employee Work-Life Balance
Learn More >

4. Make life outside of work better

Try taking up a new hobby or taking a class. You might find something that gives your life meaning again (or maybe just helps make things feel more manageable). You should always be looking to set aside time to do something for yourself every day. Whether it's reading a book, painting or even organizing your sock drawer – whatever makes you feel good!

5. Be open and communicate

Finally, and most importantly, be open and communicate how you’re feeling. Your organization, boss or coworkers won’t know you're feeling burned out unless you let them know. Reach out for help if you need it – and that includes asking for help with work tasks! Also, by you opening those lines of communication, you can help to create a safe space in your association for others to do the same. 

Don’t ignore your burnout 

If you are struggling with burnout don’t overlook it. Recognize it, acknowledge it and make a plan to minimize its effect on your life. In a time where the whole world and its problems are at your fingertips, make yours a priority. Taking care of your responsibilities effectively means taking care of yourself first.

Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A soon-to-be graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work and education with her love of dogs. Taking her three dogs — Scooby, Pipsqueak and Moose — to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.

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