Burnout is a three-component syndrome that arises out of workplace stress. The most common symptoms are unnatural exhaustion and emotional fatigue, decreased productivity, and cynicism.
The term “burnout” originated in the 1970s by psychologist Dr. Herbert Freudenberger. After studying the staff and clients of a medical clinic, Freudenberger defined burnout as “a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.” He compared those suffering to a burned-out house: the insides are empty, but the outer shell remains intact.
Alexandra Michel of the Association for Psychological Science writes that excessive and unresolved stress causes burnout. It occurs when “the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.” Burnout is not simply working too hard for too long, but rather working at the expense of your body, sanity, and priorities.
If you are at risk of or suffering from burnout, look for ways to make your workload more manageable.
Your health is your most valuable asset. Self-care may sound cliché, but it is essential to maintaining a highly functional lifestyle. Eat well, get adequate rest for your age, stay hydrated, and exercise. Burnout will attack your body first, because your brain will tell you to keep going.
Leave Work at Work. Projects, deadlines, presentations, and demonstrations have a way of ruining a healthy work-life balance. Employees often try to “stay on top of things” by working late or taking work home. This will inevitably lead to burnout. Consider other methods of managing your efficiency:
Re-negotiate Workload and/or Deadlines. If you feel overwhelmed at work, meet with your team to discuss more reasonable deadlines and how best to prioritize projects. If deadlines are more rigid, try delegating tasks to others or asking for help.
Clock In and Clock Out. Intentional schedules lead to increased productivity. Do work at work. Leave work on time (or early, if possible). It sounds simple, but it is a challenge! Workplace crises are understandable, but make clocking in and out a habit. If you run your own business or work from home, set reasonable business hours for yourself and stick to it! Your week should consist of more than endless work.
Set Personal Checkpoints. Every so often, take inventory of your work-life balance. When does work end and personal time begin? Are you being appropriately compensated for your extra time at work? If you are paid for these sacrifices, how much does it cost you in your personal life? Are you getting sufficient quality time with friends and family? When you go home, are you present? How many of your recent activities were relaxed and enjoyable? Reevaluate as often as necessary.
Add Something New and Fun. It may seem counterintuitive to add more to a busy schedule, but adding time in for a fun hobby or new activity makes space for you as an individual. Don’t forget about you! Learn a new skill, play an instrument, or take some dance classes. Sign up and wind down!