Are you suffering from burnout? Find out here

Back in 2005 I landed a job that I was pretty excited about. The salary was low and the role was pretty basic, but it was my big break!

However, several years on my enthusiasm had waned and I was really tired. I worked long days, long evenings and long weekends. I worked every birthday and took my laptop with me on holiday.

I felt I should be able to cope with the mounting workload. The problem was, I couldn’t. I was constantly ill or on the verge of illness. I had no time to see friends and family. I was miserable.

I thought that my strong work ethic would impress my colleagues, but it actually just led to more work and more unreasonable expectations. I was suffering from burnout and it was time to leave!

Identifying burnout

If you think you might be suffering from burnout, here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Constant tiredness. We all have down days, but if you’re constantly exhausted – physically, mentally or emotionally – you could be suffering from burnout. This may start to affect your ability to concentrate and make good decisions, so keep an eye out.
  • Lack of motivation. That enthusiasm you once had for your job has evaporated and you frequently find yourself procrastinating. If you can hardly drag yourself out of bed in the morning you are probably at risk.
  • Negative emotions. Perhaps you are feeling more frustrated or cynical than you used to or have a general sense of disillusionment. If these ‘symptoms’ persist you may be experiencing burnout.
  • Relational problems. If you’re arguing more with colleagues or loved ones, or find yourself withdrawing from everyone, this could be related to work-related stress.
  • Thinking about work during leisure hours. Everyone needs time to rest, but if you’re thinking about work when you’ve clocked off you’re not giving yourself time to recover.
  • Health problems. If you’re constantly coming down with coughs and colds or more serious ailments, it may be that you are worn out and run down. Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, depression and obesity, so take care.
  • Bad habits. If you find that you’re drinking more alcohol, binging on junk food, smoking more, popping  pills or burning the candle at both ends this could be related to burnout as these are common (though ineffective) coping strategies.  

How to deal with burnout

If this checklist reads like the story of your life, it’s time to take action. Here are some top tips to counteracting burnout:

  1. Make time to relax. This could involve hanging out with friends, going to the gym, reading a book, praying or listening to music. Or perhaps you could take up a new hobby or do some volunteering. Whatever it is, do it without guilt and build it into your schedule.
  2. Switch off. Pick a suitable time to stop work for the day and stick to it. Perhaps dinner time is the best time to get the laptop shut down and to stop checking emails. This will help you relax more and wind down before bedtime.
  3. Get enough sleep. If you’re not getting six hours of sleep a night you are at serious risk of burnout. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue, make you more sensitive, decrease your motivation, harm your cognitive functioning, affect your memory and generally make it harder to get the job done.
  4. Be more organised. The more organised you are the less likely you are to forget things or to worry about forgetting things. Use a to-do list and set reminders so that important tasks and memos are impossible to miss.
  5. Pay attention. Don’t ignore symptoms such as headaches, depression, sore muscles and digestive problems. Stress can cause a broad range of physical symptoms and this is your body’s way of telling you that something needs to change. Talk to a GP or counsellor if you have any concerns.

If you’re still struggling and you cannot foresee any imminent improvement, it may be time to look for a new job.

If so, check out our latest job vacancies here

Click here for more careers tips and advice

Joy Tibbs is a freelance writer and editor regularly who contributes to Premier. Find out more at joyofediting.co.uk and find her on Twitter @joyous25

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