Tips for Handling Burnout
Let’s face it– we live in a society that pushes having a strong work ethic, which includes working long hours and trying to max out your productivity. Because we overwork ourselves so much, we’re prone to experiencing burnout. According to helpguide.org, burnout is “a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” They also say “it occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”
So what do we do about burnout? How can we handle it? Is there any way to prevent it? Let’s explore some tips for handling burnout.
How can I know when I’m experiencing burnout?
One key way to identify burnout in yourself is consider the symptoms of burnout. For example, exhaustion and demotivation may start to creep up on you. It’s important to remember that burnout is something that happens over time, not all at once.
Some of the things you should keep a look-out for:
- Constant exhaustion
- Feeling as if the things you do aren’t appreciated or important
- Becoming overwhelmed or bored by the tasks you do
- Feeling like everyday is a bad day
- Feeling as if there’s no point caring about your work/home life
Since burnout is a gradual process, Winona State University has actually observed that there are 5 stages of burnout in a study conducted in 1981.
The 5 Stages of Burnout
Stage 1 – The Honeymoon Phase
This phase is ideally how we all wish to feel during projects: motivated, inspired, and committed. This is the phase where it’s important to monitor your stress levels. In theory, we could be in the honeymoon phase forever, but this is only accomplished with good coping skills.
It’s important to keep track of your work situation so you can notice the risks of burnout. Some of the factors that could put you at risk of burnout include:
- Unreasonable time pressures
- Lack of communication/support from coworkers and managers
- Unclear tasks and expectations
- Unmanageable workloads
- Poor time management skills (can you manage your own day?)
- Inability to disconnect from work (give yourself time to relax and unwind!)
Stage 2 – Onset of Stress:
In the model created by Winona State University, this is also referred to as the “Balancing Act.”
During this phase, your optimism is fading and you begin to notice that some days are more stressful than others. Early symptoms of burnout may begin manifesting. These stages include job dissatisfaction, inefficiency at work, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and so on. You can read a full list of symptoms throughout every stage on this post about the 5 stages of burnout.
Since your stress levels are just beginning in this phase, there is still a chance to implement healthy boundaries and coping skills to help you go back to Stage 1.
Stage 3 – Chronic Stress:
This third stage of burnout is essentially the more extreme version of the previous stage. You would notice that your stress is more frequent, hence why this is called the “chronic” stage.
Since high stress levels can leave you prone to illnesses, you may notice yourself falling ill more often than normal. Chronic exhaustion, cynicism, and even increased caffeine consumption are signs of this stage.
Stage 4 – Burnout:
Take note that in Winona State University’s model, this is known as the “Crisis” stage. This is the most critical stage of burnout because it’s very difficult to continue as normal from here. All the symptoms from the previous stages intensify even further. Your mental health will take a huge blow; you’re obsessing over work and withdrawing from everyone around you.
During this stage it’s crucial that you reach out to others and try to help yourself as much as possible.
Stage 5 – Habitual Burnout:
In this final stage, burnout symptoms are just a part of your life. In fact, it’s more likely that a physical or emotional issue fits your current state more than just simply feeling burnt out. During this stage, you’ll experience burnout syndrome, chronic sadness, and even depression.
So now that we know how burnout manifests itself, let’s take a look at how to take care of burnout.
What can I do to handle my burnout?
The biggest way you can keep yourself from burning out is to maintain a healthy work-life balance. While that’s easier said than done, there are ways to accomplish this.
Breaks: Taking a break can do wonders for your physical, emotional, and mental health. It doesn’t need to be a full-blown vacation; it can be as simple as reading a book or taking your dog for a walk. While it may feel like we can’t afford to take a break, we’re actually better off doing so. It helps us recharge, which can give us more motivation or inspiration.
Minimizing your to-do-lists: While many people recommend writing out to-do-lists and setting goals, we can end up making our lists too overwhelming. Lists and goals are most definitely helpful, but it’s important to keep them reasonable and realistic.
Reach out: This is a big one. Socializing is one of the best ways to help cope with most issues. Try discussing your stressors with your loved ones. Whether you need a shoulder to cry on or actually turn to them for advice, you might be shocked to see how much turning to others can actually help.
Take care of yourself: Self-care as a solution to burn-out can cover a lot of bases. But for starters, what are your sleeping habits like? Are you eating? If you’ve neglected your basic needs, you should try to prioritize that above all else. Once you’ve got that covered, set aside some time for treat-yourself-moments. Take a bubble bath. Get into yoga. Pick up some old hobbies. Basically, just do anything that makes you feel good and calm.
Learn to say no: It can be very easy to feel pressured to accomplish any task or favor that anyone asks of you. But sometimes that’s just not realistic. It can be hard saying no sometimes, but setting boundaries for yourself is extremely helpful in ensuring you’re not burnt out.
So now that we’ve learned some ways to treat burnout, let’s look at the possibility of preventing burnout.
How do I prevent burnout?
One huge way to prevent burnout is getting in touch with yourself and know what your breaking point is. Once you know how much you can handle, it’s easier for you to set boundaries. Everyone is different. Some people can handle a giant to-do-list just fine. Others can only focus on a few tasks at a time. Know what you can handle and work from there.
Another solution which may seem kind of obvious is stress management. You can manage your stress by practicing mindfulness, practice positive thinking, do some gratitude exercises, and more.
Many of the ways to cope with burnout are also the same ways to prevent it. The key difference here is trying to get ahead of your stress. If you keep your boundaries, time management, and stress levels in mind, you should be able to avoid and manage burnout.
Unfortunately, burnout is unavoidable. It’s just simply human nature to feel stressed or overwhelmed sometimes. If you have been working from home because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have some tips for you in a recent blog post we’ve made.
Here at JCDM we heavily value a work-life balance, so we encourage everyone to find that balance that works for them. Take breaks and take care of yourself! You deserve it.