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The Ugly Truth About Burnout in the Workplace

Burnout is an unfortunate reality for many people in the workplace. It's an ugly truth that can take its toll on individuals in a variety of ways, from mental and physical exhaustion to feelings of depression and detachment. Work is often seen as a source of identity and purpose, but when burnout sets in, it can be incredibly difficult to continue to find satisfaction and fulfillment in the job. In this blog post, we'll explore the causes of burnout and how to identify and manage it in order to find more balance and joy in the workplace.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a psychological state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion as a result of excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when an individual experiences a lack of motivation and energy towards their work, leading to feelings of cynicism and detachment. Burnout is often linked to high achievers, individuals who strive for success and put in long hours to achieve their goals. However, it can also affect those who are simply trying to keep up with the demands of their job. Regardless of the cause, burnout can be a debilitating experience that impacts every aspect of an individual's life.

The causes of burnout

Burnout is often the result of prolonged exposure to chronic stress. While everyone experiences stress, chronic stress can lead to burnout when it becomes unmanageable. This chronic stress can be caused by many things, including heavy workloads, long hours, or a lack of control over one's work environment.

Additionally, burnout can be caused by a constant pursuit of achievement without a healthy balance. People who constantly strive for success, recognition, and promotion can put immense pressure on themselves, leading to exhaustion and ultimately, burnout. This is often seen in high-pressure careers such as finance, law, or medicine.

It's important to recognize that burnout isn't always the result of external factors; sometimes, people's own attitudes and beliefs can lead to burnout. Perfectionists, for example, can become overwhelmed when their work isn't perfect or they fail to meet their own high expectations. This type of internal pressure can quickly lead to burnout.

Ultimately, the causes of burnout can be complex and varied and often involve a combination of internal and external factors. Understanding the causes of burnout can help individuals and organizations take steps to prevent it and address it when it does occur.

The symptoms of burnout

Burnout can be insidious, and often, it may not be until you've already experienced it that you realize what's been going on. Here are some of the most common symptoms of burnout that you should be on the lookout for:

1. Physical symptoms - Headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue are all common physical symptoms of burnout. You may also find that you're more susceptible to illness and that you have trouble sleeping.

2. Emotional exhaustion - This is a feeling of being emotionally drained and exhausted, to the point where you no longer feel like you can give any more of yourself. You may also feel a sense of detachment or numbness.

3. Reduced productivity - Burnout can make it difficult to focus and concentrate, leading to a reduction in your productivity and work quality.

4. Cynicism and detachment - You may find that you become more negative and cynical, withdrawing from your colleagues and becoming more distant in your interactions.

5. Decreased job satisfaction - If you're experiencing burnout, you may no longer find joy or satisfaction in your work. It may start to feel like a burden or a chore, and you may even dread going to work.

If you're experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it's important to take them seriously and take steps to address them. Ignoring burnout will only make it worse, and it can lead to more serious physical and mental health problems over time.

How to prevent burnout

Preventing burnout should be a top priority for everyone in the workplace. Burnout can negatively impact productivity, mental health, and overall job satisfaction. Here are some ways to prevent burnout in the workplace:

1. Set realistic goals: When setting goals, make sure they are achievable. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are too high. Setting small, achievable goals can also help you feel accomplished and motivated.

2. Manage your workload: Overloading yourself with work can lead to burnout. Learn to prioritize tasks and delegate when possible. Don't be afraid to say no to new tasks or projects if you can't take them on.

3. Take breaks: Taking breaks throughout the day can help you recharge and refocus. Even a short break to walk around the office or step outside can make a big difference in your energy levels.

4. Maintain a healthy work-life balance: Make sure you're not letting work consume your entire life. Make time for hobbies, friends, and family. This can help you relax and recharge outside of work.

5. Seek support: Don't be afraid to reach out to your manager, HR department, or a mental health professional if you're feeling overwhelmed or experiencing symptoms of burnout. Talking about your struggles can help you feel supported and may lead to helpful solutions.

Preventing burnout requires being proactive about your work habits and making sure you're taking care of yourself. By setting realistic goals, managing your workload, taking breaks, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and seeking support when needed, you can help prevent burnout and feel more satisfied in your job.

How to deal with burnout

If you're already experiencing burnout, it's important to take steps to recover. Here are some ways to deal with burnout in the workplace:

1. Take a break

The first step is to take some time off work to rest and recover. If possible, take a vacation or a mental health day to reset your mind and body.

2. Prioritize self-care

Take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly. Also, make time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax.

3. Seek support

Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about what you're going through. It's important to have a support system to help you through the recovery process.

4. Set boundaries

If you're experiencing burnout due to a heavy workload or work-related stress, it's important to set boundaries. Learn to say "no" to additional work and set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.

5. Find meaning in your work

Sometimes, burnout can occur when you feel disconnected from the meaning of your work. Try to find ways to connect with the impact of your work and how it contributes to the greater good.

6. Consider a career change

If burnout persists despite efforts to recover, it may be time to consider a career change. This can be a difficult decision, but ultimately, it's important to prioritize your mental and physical health.

Remember, burnout is a common issue in the workplace and it's important to address it as soon as possible. With the right support and self-care practices, you can overcome burnout and find renewed energy and purpose in your work. If you are struggling with burn out please give our office a call at 573-825-6441 or fill out a consultation request form to get support now

-Seth Showalter, LCSW

Brave Counseling & Psychiatry
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