Do you feel tired after a long day of work? Or do you lack enthusiasm for your work? Do you feel cynical or disengaged? Burnout is becoming much more common as we become more and more busy, and these are all symptoms.

What is Burnout?

The term “occupational burnout” was coined in 1974 by Dr. Herbert Freudenberger. He cited several symptoms including “exhaustion resulting from work’s excessive demands as well as physical symptoms such as headaches and sleeplessness, “quickness to anger” and closed thinking.”

Dark haired main in suit sitting on the steps of an office building. He has his head in his hands and a briefcase on the step next to him.

Exhaustion

Exhaustion is the primary symptom of burnout. It is the fatigue that undermines a person’s ability to work effectively. Exhaustion undermines a person’s ability to feel positive about what they are doing. It can make routine tasks feel repetitive and grueling. A state of exhaustion can make it difficult to focus on even simple tasks.

Cynicism

Cynicism, also called depersonalization, is a way of distancing yourself from your work psychologically. It can be the result of work overload, but it can also occur in the presence of conflict and poor representation. Cynicism can indicate that you have lost the enjoyment of your work.

Inefficacy

Inefficacy is the feeling of incompetence and lack of achievement. It usually builds in parallel with exhaustion and cynicism, because people who are exhausted and cynical have that much more difficulty achieving their goals. However, the absence of feedback can create burnout. If you lack recognition for your achievements, it can leave you feeling unappreciated, which can create inefficacy.

Blonde woman in glasses looking over her shoulder. She is sitting at a desk with a computer and a pile of paperwork in front of her.

Risks

That’s all well and good, you might ask, but what are the actual risks of burnout? I’m glad that you asked.

According to one study, stress is “one of the greatest threats to workplace safety”. It “is now recognized as a legitimate medical disorder by mainstream medicine”. Study participants “showed key differences in the amygdala — a brain structure that is critical in emotional reactions including fear and aggression.” A link to the full article is here, and is a fascinating read.

Remedies 

So, what do you do to combat burnout? There are a few ways that you can tame the effects of burnout.

Silhouette of a woman meditating in the sun.

Meditate

Meditation has been recommended for combating stress and fatigue for decades, and can dramatically help you to increase focus. A 2009 study found increased gray matter density from long term respondents. Meditating at least 10 minutes a day can begin to rewire your brain so that you are more able to focus on tasks at hand, and then recharge after you finish with them.

Exercise

People who exercise frequently reduce their sensitivity to anxiety, and the benefits of long term exercise are cumulative. A routine can be built around exercise which can help you naturally feel better, in addition to reaping the additional benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

Selfishness

It may seem petty at first, but focusing on work that you care more about can help you feel more engaged, and that will help work against the effects of burnout. This is called self-actualizaton. If you spend your day constantly responding to the demands of another person, that alone can lead to burnout. Some companies are taking the initiative and initiating “20% time” policies, where employees work on a project of their own choosing for one day a week. Google, for example, is famous for this.

Smiling woman working on laptop in a coffee shop - Photo by Brooke Cagle

If you are experiencing burnout, and can’t seem to overcome the symptoms, you may want to reconsider your own path. A change of professions may be in order, or you may just need a simple adjustment to your course. You may want to ask a colleague or mentor for help in realizing your professional goals.

Conclusion

Sometimes taking a few things off your plate can help with burnout. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to do, you can step back and delegate some of it to someone else. Find things that you don’t like to do and outsource them to someone who does.

Nexa1 can help you get the IT portion of your work overload off your back. Give us a call and we can show you how to eliminate at least one source of workplace stress.

 
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