How to Avoid Burnout in Your Career

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Understanding Burnout: Definition, Causes, and Symptoms

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that one experiences due to excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when individuals feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet the constant demands of their work or other aspects of their life.

In recent years, burnout has become an increasingly common workplace issue, affecting employees of all ages and industries. According to a study by the Mental Health Foundation, over 40% of employees reported feeling burnt out, with younger workers being more likely to experience it.

Burnout in tech

Causes of Burnout

Burnout is caused by several factors, including work-related stress, poor work-life balance, lack of support, and poor job fit. Other factors that contribute to the onset of burnout include financial pressures, relationship problems, and personal life challenges.

Some specific work-related factors that contribute to burnout include:

Excessive workload

Employees who are given more tasks than they can handle in a reasonable time frame are more likely to experience burnout.

Lack of control

Employees who feel like they have little or no control over their work environment or tasks are more likely to experience burnout.

Poor relationships with colleagues or supervisors

Employees who have poor working relationships with their colleagues or supervisors are more likely to experience burnout.

Symptoms of Burnout

The symptoms of burnout vary from person to person, and they often manifest gradually. However, some common symptoms include:

Chronic fatigue

Individuals experiencing burnout often feel physically and emotionally exhausted despite getting enough sleep.

Irritability

Individuals suffering from burnout may become easily irritated or frustrated by things that wouldn’t typically bother them.

Reduced performance

Individuals experiencing burnout may find it challenging to maintain their productivity, and their work quality may suffer.

Anxiety and depression

Individuals experiencing burnout may experience symptoms related to anxiety and depression, such as low mood, lack of interest, or significant changes in appetite or sleeping patterns.

In conclusion, burnout is a serious issue that can harm overall health and well-being, affect job performance and satisfaction, and even lead to long-term illnesses. It is essential to understand the signs of burnout and take steps to manage work-related stress to avoid its onset.

The Link Between Burnout and Mental Health

Burnout can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It is therefore crucial to understand the link between burnout and mental health to prevent and manage it effectively.

There are several ways in which burnout can negatively impact mental health. The first is that people experiencing burnout often find it challenging to concentrate or focus on tasks, leading to decreased productivity and performance. This can worsen job satisfaction levels, leading to even higher stress levels and exacerbating burnout.

Burnout can also affect a person’s memory, creating difficulties in retaining and recalling information, making it challenging to keep up with workloads and deadlines. This can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety, which can impact mental wellbeing over time.

Another way that burnout can impact mental health is through emotional exhaustion. People experiencing burnout often feel a sense of detachment or emotional numbness, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair. This increases the risk of depression, which can be severe and long-lasting.

Lastly, burnout can impact interpersonal relationships, leading to strained relationships with colleagues, friends, and family. This can create a sense of isolation and further exacerbate mental health issues.

It is important to note that everyone experiences burnout differently, and the impact on mental health can vary accordingly. While some people may have more resilience and can recover from burnout more quickly, others may struggle to cope. It is therefore crucial to identify and address burnout early on to prevent the development of more severe mental health issues.

How to Spot the Signs of Burnout in Yourself and Others

Burnout can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health, and leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with even the simplest of tasks. 

Some of the signs to watch out for are:

  1. Physical and Emotional Exhaustion

Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted is one of the primary indicators of burnout. If you find yourself feeling drained and unable to perform even the most basic tasks, it is a sign that something is not right. Emotional exhaustion can also manifest as a feeling of detachment and indifference, which can lead to a loss of motivation and interest in work.

  1. Increased Irritability and Changes in Mood

Burnout can cause you to become easily irritable and agitated. You may find that small things that you would ordinarily brush off start to bother you more than usual. Along with this, you may experience changes in your mood, such as feeling low or numb. 

  1. Lack of Productivity

When burnout sets in, you can feel as though you are working harder than ever before, but unable to achieve the same results. This can lead to feelings of frustration and can exacerbate the effects of burnout.

  1. Changes in Sleep Patterns

Burnout can manifest as difficulty sleeping, either in the form of insomnia or oversleeping. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or waking up frequently during the night, it may be a sign that you are experiencing burnout.

  1. Reduced Physical Health

Chronic stress caused by burnout can lead to a range of physical health problems, including chronic fatigue, headaches, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can help reduce the risk of burnout and mitigate its effects on your physical health.

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Practical Steps to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace

Companies must prioritise employee well-being and prevent burnout in the workplace, rather than being reactive when staff have become burnt-out. Fortunately, there are practical steps that companies can take to prevent burnout. Here are some of them:

  1. Encourage breaks and rest periods throughout the day

Taking small breaks throughout the day can significantly reduce burnout risk. Encourage employees to take lunch breaks, stretch, and take a quick walk outside to clear their minds. This can help reduce stress levels and increase energy.

  1. Provide a conducive work environment

A well-designed workspace can enhance employee well-being and productivity. Make sure that the office is clean, comfortable, and well-lit. Furthermore, provide ergonomic equipment such as comfortable chairs, keyboards, and adjustable desks.

  1. Promote work-life balance

Employees with a healthy work-life balance are more likely to continue to perform at high levels without experiencing burnout. Encourage employees to manage their time effectively, prioritise their tasks, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Ensure that they have flexible working hours, the ability to work remotely, and sufficient time off.

  1. Foster healthy communication and relationships

Healthy communication can contribute to workplace wellbeing. Encourage regular conversations and feedback sessions between managers and employees, and create a comfortable and safe space where employees can voice their concerns without fear of judgment.

  1. Recognise accomplishments and milestones

Recognising and celebrating employee accomplishments can contribute to workplace engagement and avoid feelings of burnout. Celebrating employee’s milestones, giving praise for good performance, and providing career development opportunities can give employees a sense of purpose, leading to higher levels of engagement and fulfillment.

The Role of Mindfulness and Self-Care in Combatting Burnout

Work can be an incredibly rewarding aspect of life, but it can also be a significant source of stress and burnout. 

To combat burnout, it’s crucial to prioritise mindfulness and self-care in your daily routine. Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment, while self-care involves taking steps to ensure that your physical, emotional, and mental health are all supported.

Here are some strategies that you can use to implement mindfulness and self-care in your daily routine to combat burnout:

Take breaks: Resting your mind and body is essential for maintaining energy and focus throughout the workday. Taking regular breaks and vacation time are essential to prevent burnout. 

Stay active: Exercise improves mental health, energy levels and can help reduce stress. Try incorporating physical activity into your daily schedule, such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.

Prioritise sleep: Good sleep is critical for the body’s recovery and essential for maintaining a healthy mind. Develop healthy sleep habits, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a sleep-conducive environment.

Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness can help cultivate a sense of calm and clarity. Practicing mindfulness meditation involves sitting quietly and focusing your attention on your breath, physical sensations, or guided meditation.

Seek support: Talking to a mental health professional such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist can provide support when dealing with workplace stress and burnout.

 

By practicing mindfulness and self-care, you can effectively combat burnout in your career. By taking care of yourself, you can enhance productivity, improve your relationships, and importantly, improve your quality of life.

Seeking Professional Help: Therapy and Counselling for Burnout

Burnout can have serious consequences on a person’s health, relationships, and overall wellbeing. While there are many self-help strategies for managing burnout, seeking professional help may also be necessary.

Therapy and counselling are both effective tools for managing burnout. They help individuals identify the underlying causes of their burnout and develop coping mechanisms to prevent it from recurring. Here are some benefits of seeking professional help:

  1. Identifying the Root Cause of Burnout

Therapists and counsellors are trained to help individuals explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in a safe and non-judgmental space. This allows individuals to identify the root cause of their burnout, such as relational dynamics in the workplace.

  1. Developing Coping Strategies

Therapists and counsellors can also help individuals develop coping strategies to manage their burnout symptoms. This may include relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, and stress reduction strategies.

Working with a therapist or counsellor can help individuals develop a personalised plan that is tailored to their unique needs and circumstances. This can be particularly effective for individuals who may not have the resources or support to implement self-help strategies on their own.

  1. Building a Support Network

Therapy and counselling can also help individuals build a support network of people who can provide them with emotional and practical support. This may include friends, family members, or colleagues who can offer advice and encouragement.

By working with a therapist or counsellor, individuals can also learn how to communicate their needs and boundaries effectively, which can help them build healthier relationships with others.

Overall, seeking professional help for burnout can be vital for recovery. Therapists and counsellors can provide individuals with the tools and support they need to identify the root cause of their burnout, develop coping strategies, and build a support network to help them manage their symptoms.

Creating a Supportive Workplace Culture That Prioritises Mental Health

Employers have a vital role to play in fostering a workplace culture that prioritises mental health and wellbeing. Practical ways in which employers can create a more supportive workplace culture are:

Lead by Example

Employers must lead by example when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. Employers should encourage their staff to do things that help them to maintain good mental health, such as taking breaks, eating healthily, staying active, and should exemplify this.

Training and Education

Training such as stress management or mental health awareness, can help employees to identify signs that colleagues are struggling and learn tools to support themselves and others. Employers can also provide information and resources for staff who are struggling such as signposting or stress management resources.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Employers can create a supportive workplace culture by offering flexible working arrangements for staff who are struggling with mental health issues. These arrangements could include working from home, adjusting working hours, or job sharing. By offering flexible working arrangements, employers can help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve the mental wellbeing of their staff.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)

Employers can introduce EAPs to provide confidential support and guidance to their staff who are experiencing mental health issues. EAPs offer a range of services, including counselling, legal and financial advice, and referral to specialist services. EAPs can be accessed online or over the phone, and can offer support 24/7.

Setting Realistic Goals

Employers should set realistic goals for their staff to help them to manage their workload effectively. Setting unrealistic goals can lead to stress and burnout. By setting realistic goals, employers can help their staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance and reduce the likelihood of burnout.

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