Are You Burning Up or Burning Out This Summer?

  • Savannah Higgins
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In the corporate world, burnout seems to be a phrase used all too often…but what exactly is “burnout?” Burnout is caused by having a lifestyle that brings continued stress that can put people under pressure to the point of feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, burnout is defined as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.”

I am familiar with the feeling of burnout, and I know I am not alone, because it is said that more than half of U.S. workers have experienced burnout at least once in their lives. According to psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD., we’re living in an incredibly stressful time, and burnout is incredibly prevalent. People are very physically and emotionally tired. If you are anything like me, you have tried telling yourself for months, maybe even years, that it will get better, and I just need to make it through this period….but what if that period never ends? It might be time to think about what is going on and what needs to change.

Now that we know what burnout is, how do we differentiate between simply a tough week or something more serious? I want to point out some telling signs that may indicate a breaking point is near. Signals may be work-related and/or physical. When it’s related to work, burnout comes with reduced performance due to looking negatively at tasks and being dissatisfied with the work outcome. People may find it hard to concentrate and be less enthused. They will also begin to distance themselves from their colleagues as they feel numb about their work. Physical indicators include changes in diet and sleep patterns. These changes may be accompanied by getting more headaches or experiencing contracted or worsened gastrointestinal problems.

Symptoms of burnout can also be confused with depression, so it is important to note that a quick self-diagnosis could lead to the wrong treatment. An example might be advising someone with depression to take a long vacation or time off work. People who are “only” exhausted because of work can recover if they follow that advice. However, people with depression might need very different treatment and/or medication. A good way to differentiate between the two is to think about where your negative thoughts are directed. Are they directed only to work-related tasks? That’s most likely burnout. Or, are they about all areas of life? This may be more indicative of symptoms of depression. If you believe you have depression, please prioritize your mental health, and reach out to a mental health counselor or therapist as soon as you can!

Okay, so you have concluded you have burnout.  What now? Do you need to find a new job? Changing your job is an option, but it’s not the only option. There are things you can do in your current work life that could be helpful. Try establishing a routine, creating and enforcing work-life boundaries, building breaks into your schedule, and scheduling check-ins to see how you are doing. If you have already hit the point where you feel you cannot function any further, maybe it’s time to evaluate your options. Do some research or ask a trusted coworker if they know of any short-term or sick leave your company may provide so you can give yourself the necessary time to recover and come back to work better than ever! That way, you will have clarity of mind to make an informed decision about your next career move.

Burnout definitely effects your work life, but it’s also very important to make some changes in your personal life as well. The first, and arguably most important thing, is to care for your mental health and see a therapist. In my opinion, each and every person could use a little therapy and something like burnout could be the perfect excuse to take the opportunity to talk to someone. Make sure you are sleeping well because sleep restores your well-being and helps protect your health. Ensure you are getting regular physical activity because it can help you better deal with stress. If you are not someone who enjoys physical activity, try finding a hobby that you look forward to in order to get yourself up and moving. A final change, and the one I am currently working on myself, is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment.

If you’re still unsure if what you really need is a few adjustments or an entirely new career shift, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you have answered yes to the above questions and adjustments don’t seem to be doing the trick, it might be time to seek a new career path, so reach out to one of our recruiters at Taylor White and AccountAbility.  We would be happy to talk with you about your wants in your work-life balance and what positions we have open that would help achieve that.

At the end of the day everything comes down to balance. There are days that you will be better in one area of your life than others. Don’t forget to give yourself grace!




Written by: Courtney Carson