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I am a busy woman.
I’m a mother of two, a part-time health consultant for startups and tech companies around the world, and a freelance writer. When I’m not juggling homework and editor requests, I’m trying to find space and time to read a book or unwind with a Netflix show.
The busy nature of my work makes me feel productive and fulfilled. But it wasn’t always an easy journey toward feeling a sense of balance and control over my busy schedule.
Earlier this year, my overwhelming schedule got the best of me. I was skipping meals to write articles, forgetting birthdays, and waking up anxious and already tired of the day ahead. I was burnt out.
It took some reflecting and some long weekends away with my family to finally admit that I was burnt out from my schedule and that I needed to reassess my life.
I needed to regain peace of mind by recognizing the signs of burnout and take steps to recover.
Today, work is a significant source of stress for many people. A combination of personal and professional responsibilities can create anxiety that ultimately leads to mental and physical exhaustion.
People often experience intense pressure when they feel like they have no control over their work and their life. If this condition persists, it can lead to burnout.
You can avoid the extreme consequences of burnout—such as heart attack, hypertension, and other conditions—by taking steps to remedy the situation, rather than trying to roll with the punches. That’s exactly what I needed to get my life back to a balanced state.
Burnout Is an Overwhelming Problem for American Workers
Many Americans who hold high responsibility, high-stress job roles—such as nurses, for instance—feel consumed by overwhelming stress and anxiety. According to the National Nursing Engagement Report, approximately 35 percent of direct care nurses in hospitals and nursing homes report experiencing burnout.
Among other professions, 23 percent of employees report feeling burnout often or always, according to a recent Gallup poll, and 44 percent of workers report feeling burnout only sometimes. Cumulatively, two-thirds of full-time workers experience some form of workplace burnout.
Today, it seems that burnout is a part of working in America. Employee burnout results in considerable losses for organizations. Employees who experience burnout are 63 percent more likely to call out sick and over 2.5 times more likely to actively seek alternative employment.
Some employees who experience burnout stay on the job. Studies show that those individuals possess 13 percent lower confidence about their performance compared to their emotionally healthy peers, but are less likely to work on career development.
They are also twice as likely to strongly believe that the amount of time it takes to do their work makes it hard for them to fulfill their personal responsibilities. Ultimately, employee burnout can trigger a cascade of downward organizational performance.
Unfortunately, Stress Is the New Norm
Workplace burnout is an occupational trend that may require medical intervention, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Physicians have not classified burnout as a medical condition. However, it’s a well-documented phenomenon.
According to the WHO, burnout occurs when workers do not manage chronic workplace stress. The condition consists of:
>> Feelings of exhaustion
>> Negative feelings about one’s work role
>> Reduced professional effectiveness
Ten years ago, researchers linked burnout to any source of ongoing stress. Now, however, burnout is primarily a symptom of an overworked society.
Some researchers theorize that one source of burnout is that many modern employees can’t make the connection between their work and how it provides value. In the past, for instance, a farmer would plant a crop and then later witness the fruit of his labor. Today, however, a computer coder may spend hours writing a program without ever witnessing tangible proof of how their work helped the company meet its objectives.
Today, employers offer many benefits, such as flexible scheduling, paid time off, and other perks. Nevertheless, job satisfaction is dismally low. Many contemporary employees feel undervalued, unappreciated, and unsatisfied.
Finding Your Way Back
It’s not always easy to admit you’re burnt out. The hustle brag culture that prevails in society makes it feel like in order to be perceived as successful, you have to be a little stressed and a little tired all the time. But that’s just a perception that we have created.
For me, success is a night of rest, making it on time to all of my son’s soccer practices, and a glass of wine after completing a big project. Success is waking up in the morning alert and ready to take on a new day, not full of dread for my assignments.
If you feel how I felt, with a combined sense of exhaustion, failure, and bitterness in the workplace, it may prove prudent to take steps to address your feelings. By caring for yourself, you can address the symptoms of burnout
Begin by addressing your physical health. For instance, improve your diet and sleep habits and start exercising.
You must determine why your job creates feelings of dissatisfaction. For example, you may feel overworked, under appreciated, or disengaged. Or you may be spreading yourself too thin, like I was.
Once you’ve identified what’s troubling you, look toward the future. Imagine what it would take to remedy your concerns.
Consider whether your expectations about your career are realistic. If not, adjust your expectations accordingly. Nothing is more dissatisfying than striving for a goal that you can never reach.
I changed the expectations that I put on myself. I significantly reduced my workload, leaned on other coworkers to help me out, and adopted an attitude of acceptance to help me let go of things I couldn’t control.
If possible, delegate some of your work-related responsibility. A lighter workload may help to relieve feelings of overexertion. Also, talk to human resources to find out if you have accumulated vacation time. It may prove highly beneficial to take a break, reset, and re-examine the situation after a brief respite.
If all else fails, you may need to transfer to another department within your organization. Alternatively, you may need to find a new job altogether.
It seems that the closer people get to adulting, the more likely they are to suffer from burnout. For instance, a recent survey of college students reveals that 30 percent of respondents experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past couple of weeks.
If your overall quality of life is suffering because of the pressure you experience at work, you should address the issue. Ultimately, the responsibility is your own to ensure your happiness, well-being, and health.