Burnout

Dealing with Burnout

Burnout is not simply a result of long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy of burnout can occur when a person is not in control of how the job is being carried out. Equally pressing is working toward a goal that doesn't resonate, or when a person lacks support—in the office or at home. If a person doesn’t tailor responsibilities to match a true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, the person could face a mountain of mental and physical health problems.

To counter burnout, having a sense of purpose is highly important. A top motivator is enjoying meaning in the work one does; sometimes meaningfulness can outstrip the wage earned, hours worked, and even the promotions received. Having an impact on others and making the world a better place amplifies the meaning. Other motivators include autonomy as well as a good, hard challenge.

Burnout at Work

Is it burnout, or is it stress? There is a difference, but sometimes it’s hard to know what one is dealing with. It may require taking a step back to look at the overall picture of one’s work life. Paying attention is important, especially if one never feels ready to face the job or the co-workers. What’s worse is the feeling of achievement that is slipping. While some work environments may be especially grinding—the medical profession or law enforcement, for instance—anyone who’s running out of gas can take steps to alleviate the deleterious effects of burnout and, if necessary, reevaluate work life.

Learn to Say No

When the demands others make on us become overwhelming, drawing boundaries is critical. Saying “no”—or “not today,” or “sorry, I can’t”—never comes easily. Many of us readily grant friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, or others our time and attention without appreciating how stretched it already is, and we hesitate to disappoint them. But taking on new responsibilities without taking stock of the ones we have is a recipe for exhaustion. Recognizing when we’ve stretched too far, getting our priorities straight, and calmly communicating our needs can be empowering.

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