Are Your Burning Out?

Updated: Jul 29

A burnout can do much damage to someone’s health, self-esteem and career. It is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

Burnouts may seem like a small thing to manage in the short term by taking some rest, but without the proper understanding of the fundamental reasons, they can leave scars in the long term.

Overwhelm, when unmanaged, can easily lead to burnout. And who is not overwhelmed these days?

Burnout was a topic in the Designing Your Life learning event with Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Stanford educators and Designing Your Life authors. As leaders and coaches, we deal with these challenges regularly and managing the overwhelm before reaching burnout can make a massive difference in someone’s life. I wish I had these insights and tools a long time ago.

The Mayo Clinic provides valuable insights on symptoms and reasons for burning out.

The symptoms:

* Have you become cynical or critical at work?

* Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?

* Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?

* Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

* Do you find it hard to concentrate?

* Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

* Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

* Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?

* Have your sleep habits changed?

* Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

The potential reasons:

1. Lack of control. You are not able to influence decisions that affect the job, such as schedule or workload.

2. Unclear job expectations. You lack clarity about the degree of authority or what is expected of you in the role.

3. Workplace dynamics. You are feeling undermined by colleagues, being micromanaged, or you are part of office politics that you don’t know how to manage.

4. Mismatch in values. Your values and your employers’ values are very different, so this can take a toll.

5. Poor job fit. The job does not fit your interests and skills, or you are underemployed and bored at the same time.

6. Overwhelmed with tasks. Your job is chaotic, and there is too much to do.

7. Lack of social support. You feel isolated at work and in your personal life.

8. Work-life imbalance. Your work takes too much time, not leaving time for personal activities.

It’s important to mention that everyone has their tolerance levels and perceptions. The life context and the additional stress brought into the situation are hugely important. The prolonged uncertainty brought by the pandemic is also a major contributing factor. That is why, as a professional, it’s critical to be aware of your own needs.

If overwhelmed, make an inventory of where you are. Work with your line manager and a professional to address the situation.

Ideas on how to address the overwhelm in a separate post.