Career burnout is actually more common, and detrimental to both your health and job, than you may realize. This chronic psychological condition can be triggered by a number of factors including workload, lack of control, feeling unappreciated, toxic work environment, and your work not gelling with your values. The result? You start to feel exhausted, detached, cynical, and unproductive.
Instead of ignoring these warning signs and battling burnout on a daily basis, here are 8 proven ways for you to overcome it.
1. Become more selfish.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow explained back in 1943 that an individual will only become happy if they express themselves and achieve their full potential. He called this self-actualization and warned that "the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short."
In other words, if you're spending your days only responding to the requests of others and constantly saying "yes," even though you're swamped, burnout is inevitable.
That's why you see companies like Google and Facebook encourage their employees to participate in passion projects and hackathons. It's a simple way to let individuals work on something that they want to.
Additionally, you sometimes just have to say 'no.' If you don't have the time for any additional tasks or are asked to stay late or work on something that's not a part of your job description, then you need to assert yourself and politely inform your leader or colleague that you currently can't accept their requests.
2. Compare your regular tasks with your job description.
"It's often surprising how job descriptions don't reflect the work you're actually doing," says burnout specialist and best-selling author Ben Fanning. He recommends that you compare a copy of your job description to a self-made list of the tasks and responsibilities that you've actually and presenting this information to your boss.
By pointing out these extra tasks, you may be able to "gain a little leverage by showing that you've been putting in work over and above the parameters of your job," he says.
3. Establish new workplace relationships.
In the article "Conquering Burnout," in Scientific American, Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter write, "Receiving good vibes from others is an uplifting experience, but so, too, is expressing them to others."
Instead of facing burnout head-on by yourself, surround yourself with coworkers and colleagues who are also looking to make positive strides in their work lives so that everyone can draw support from one another. Remember, surrounding yourself with positive people can keep you focused, rejuvenated, and energized throughout the day.
4. Go off the grid.
When you start to feel emotionally, mentally and physically drained, that's usually a sign that you need to take some time off. While a two-week vacation sounds like the perfect solution, that may not always be feasible. You could, however, plan for a long weekend. Which, according to Heidi Grant Halvorson, a social psychologist and the author of No One Understands You and What to Do About It, could be more beneficial. When it comes to stress-reduction, "you get a much greater benefit from regularly taking three- and four-day weekends." While you're away, don't call the office or check your email. "You need to let go," she says. "Each of us is a little less vital than we'd like to believe."
But, what if you can't wait until your long vacation? Ron Friedman, the author of the book, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, suggests that limit your use of digital devices after hours. For example, you can place your smartphone in a basket or drawer when you arrive home. This will prevent any temptation to pick it up and check your email or text messages. You may also want to consider implementing rules like turning your mobile devices off past 8 pm. "Put away your phone," adds Halvorson. "Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow."
There's a reason why people have been meditating for centuries. It's a proven way to reduce symptoms in a number of disorders, including anxiety and depression. Meditation also "involves the development of awareness of present-moment experience with a compassionate, non-judgmental stance" and can improve your focus.
In most cases, meditating for just 10 minutes a day is powerful enough to rewire your brain. However, if time is an issue, you can download the Simple Habit app that includes five-minute meditation sessions designed for young professionals on the go. This has been a favorite of mine to help me truly relax.
6. Do something meaningful and interesting.
Identify the most fulfilling elements of your work and try to dedicate more time to those tasks. You could also ask your supervisor if you can focus on tasks that are more aligned with responsibilities or strengths. If you're a freelancer or business owner, you could outsource these sort of tasks so that you're spending more time doing the things that you either want to do or are really good at.
Outside of work, you should work on a passion project. Regardless if it's starting a side business, writing a book, or redoing your bathroom, working on a passion project piques your curiosity and spurs your energy.
7. Keep your to-do-lists minimal.
Take a quick peek at your to-do-list for your job. Does everything on your list have to be done immediately?
To-do lists are definitely handy, but when they're overstuffed with tasks that you'll never get to or won't be able to accomplish, then it's time to whittle down your lists by only emphasizing on the three most important priorities on your list for the day. If you cross them off, then you can start working on the next item. In short, keep your lists short and manageable so that you aren't getting overwhelmed.
8. Change of scenery.
When all else fails, you may need to shock your system and change things up. It could be small, like moving your desk to a different section of the office or switching departments. But, in other circumstances, you may have no other choice but to consider a new job or career path.
How have you overcome job burnout?