What Is Burnout and How Can You Combat It?

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Ways to fight against burning out

Burnout is a term that has been making the rounds recently. In fact, the WHO just declared it’s a diagnosable medical condition. Whole generations have been labelled with it. But what is it exactly? Researchers aren’t even exactly sure (yet- research is ongoing to make allow a more specific diagnosis). Burnout is a term for pushing oneself to complete mental (possibly physical) exhaustion. Think of the saying “burning at both ends of the candle”, what happens when you run out of candle? Burnout.  In general, women are more likely to experience burnout than their male counterparts. It is also intersectional, disproportionally affecting minorities.

Burnout can take a few forms and gets progressively worse the more you ignore your body. You might start feeling exhausted constantly, lose your appetite, or feel anxious. The feelings of cynicism or pessimism may start to creep into your brain. Then, you start feeling ineffective. Do any of these fit your current feelings about work? Then you might be experiencing burnout.

You might be thinking “why does this matter?” Overtime, high levels of stress can affect you both mentally and physically, causing headaches, lack of motivation, a feeling of helplessness, and a higher odd of heart disease or immune disorders.

Here are ways to fight against burning out:

Clear Work-Life Boundaries

In our ever-more connected world, the lines between being home and being work have blurred beyond recognition. The average worker can check their phone up to fifty times per day. Answering that email from your boss at 9pm at night does no one good. Instead, set firm boundaries for when you’re out of office. If an email can wait for the morning, wait! If you want to be polite, send a quick “thanks for letting me know! I’ll handle this when I get to work tomorrow”. It can be tough to unplug at the beginning, but the reduction in stress will be noticeable!

Take a Break!

Take a small moment for yourself at least once per day. Get up early and drink your cup of coffee in piece rather than running out the door, write in a gratitude journal before bed, or even get up from your desk and do some quick stretches. There are plenty of ways to take a quick moment to calm your mind and lower your stress. Also think about taking a larger chunk of time for yourself once per week. Take a long hot shower, try a yoga class, just sit and read a book at the library, even doing chores around the house can lower the risk of burnout. Anything that will make you happy and center yourself for the days ahead. Self-care is incredibly important for your well being both mentally and physically.

Know When to Say No

It can be tempting to say yes to every project offered to you, especially if you’re trying move up in your career (I know I’m guilty of taking more on than I should to please my boss and colleagues). In fact, studies show that female employees often burnout faster because they are frustrated in their current position where they may feel trapped in only lateral moves rather than vertical. Think of quality over quantity. It might be scary at first to not take on a project, but just assure yourself (and your boss) that having one less thing on your plate will make you better focused on what you currently have.

Stress can be a vicious cycle. It can affect every facet of your life. Knowing when to step back and take a breath is the best way to stave off getting burned out.