Are You Burning Out?

Sara had been at her job for 4 years. Although she was using her skills and liked the company for which she worked, she had lost her motivation and enthusiasm and was feeling emotionally exhausted most of the time. She wanted to do a good job, but certain tasks felt arduous; she was missing details and felt drained at the end of each day. She regularly felt sick with a headache, flu, or backache. Sara tried to ignore these feelings, thinking they would pass, but instead they continued to get worse.

This story is not unusual. Although we don't often hear the term burnout, it is a reality for many workers. Burnout begins with small warning signs, and if not addressed appropriately, can progress rapidly to the point where you dread getting up in the morning. It can seriously affect your state of mind and health, and spread to other areas of your life.

Burnout happens to many people for a variety of reasons including overwork, boredom, repetition, or lack of stimulation. Burnout can happen sooner, later, or never depending upon your personality, whether you are in a career which supports your interests, and the amount of repetition in your job. Since each of us is unique, one person may work in a position for two years and burn out, while another may work in the same position his or her entire career and continue to enjoy it.

It is far easier to cope with burnout when you understand the signs and make changes in the early stages. When you are not aware that you are burning out, you may begin creating other reasons to leave your job without taking the appropriate, positive steps to solve the problem. You may also leave the position for the wrong reasons. Anger or negative feelings about your job or a coworker, a sense that your work is meaningless, or an illness can become reasons to leave a position you once enjoyed.

It is not always essential to change your job or the company for which you work to solve the problem. With a trend toward keeping good employees, managers will often work with you to address the issue. Prior to meeting with your manager, it is best to have an idea of what may make a difference for you. State your action plan, include the benefits to you and the company, and ask for any support you may need. It is important to discuss your loyalty and concern for the company, and make them an integral part of taking these steps.

Sometimes making one or more of the following changes can make a difference:

  • Take a vacation
  • Add new responsibilities — about which you are excited — to your current position
  • Help others in your team reach their goals - help your team feel enthusiastic about a project
  • Change the order in which you handle tasks daily
  • Acquire new skills and learn how you can apply them in your current position
  • Manage your emotions; set goals and reward yourself for meeting them
  • Get plenty of rest and take care of your personal needs
  • Exercise regularly; try taking a brisk walk at lunch

On the other hand, changing jobs or even careers may be indicated. If you find that changing careers is appropriate — make sure that you find the right career. Assessing yourself and your interests, personality, values, and skills will be important to ensure that your next career provides optimum job satisfaction. Regardless of which steps you take to address burnout, be sure to take charge of it and do it as early as possible!

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