Daily life is a constant series of challenges.
Merely existing, making decisions, and going through the motions becomes overwhelmingly draining.
It happens to everyone – especially those who put the most effort into everything they do.
Many people think that burnout is a sign you’re not taking enough time for yourself. This might be true but it goes much deeper than that.
A day at the spa each month won’t compensate for using poor coping tools the other 29 days.
If you’re feeling emotionally drained, it’s important to understand how to avoid burnout at work and throughout your life – in healthy ways.
By knowing the warning signs and taking action, you can stop work burnout before it even starts.
How to Avoid Burnout at Work and Throughout Life’s Never-ending Cycle of Busy
Stress comes at you from all angles: work, family or roommates, bills, extra expenses, transportation, did we mention money?
Without stress, life would get extremely boring – seriously. Everything you do involves some form of physical or mental stress.
Sitting in traffic: mental and physical stress. Exercise: physical stress. Planning a vacation: mental stress. Meeting a friend for drinks to vent about her partner: mental stress (and physical stress if drinks are involved).
Most people think all of their stress comes from the obvious stuff like work, bills, and arguments. The truth is, stress builds up from daily activities and just existing.
Why Does Work Burnout Happen?
Burnout is characterized by mental or physical exhaustion. Environmental conditions for creating work burnout (or burnout in general) can vary from person to person.
The first type of burnout comes from an overload of responsibility.
Do you ever have a day at work where you accomplished nothing but still feel exhausted?
Every time you’re confronted with a decision – no matter how benign – your brain experiences mental tension. This adds up.
Just think about how many decisions you make throughout each day. “What should I have for lunch?” “Does my car need gas?” “When should I schedule that meeting?”
The second type of burnout comes from not having enough autonomy.
This type of work burnout often involves feelings of disillusionment or a lack of control over your daily life. It doesn’t necessarily mean everything is out of control, but that it’s not in your control.
Watch out for These Symptoms of Work Burnout
In order to understand how to avoid burnout at work or through life, you need to know the warning signs. Then, you can avoid creating an environment that causes burnout in the first place.
- You’ve adopted an unusually cynical or negative attitude
- You regularly take long lunch breaks from work, show up late, or call-in
- You dread not only going to work but being at work once you’re there
- No motivation to complete any responsibilities or tasks
- “Going through the motions” without engagement
- Feeling numb, empty, or unappreciated
- Feeling disconnected from the end product of your work
- Finding excuses to blame others for your mistakes
- Conversations with coworkers leave you emotionally drained or irritable
- Chronic physical symptoms like headaches, backaches, or sore muscles
- Thinking of quitting your job without a concrete plan
- Insomnia, restless sleep, or oversleeping
- Feeling chronically behind or inefficient
How to Avoid Burnout at Work or Becoming Emotionally Drained
You know yourself better than anyone else. That’s why you’re the only person who can decide what you need to do to avoid burnout or treat yourself when you feel emotionally drained.
- Embrace routine (your routine): Physically write tasks down in a daily planner. Get things out of your head and onto paper. Make sure to schedule time for yourself like reading before bed, exercising, taking a bath with essential oils, or just watching T.V.
- Take a hard look at your job: Is your boss asking too much? Can you delegate tasks? Should you seek out new employment or a promotion? Try to make changes.
- Find a personal purpose: Many people have trouble deriving a sense of purpose from their work. Find something else that’s important to you to give your life meaning.
- Healthy apathy: Caring about everything all the time creates too much stress. You don’t need to be cynical or hostile: just moderately apathetic.
- Set goals and prioritize: It’s easier to feel motivated when you have a goal in mind. This can be small or big. Set tiered priorities and write them down in a planner. This way, you’ll know what deserves your attention and what you can respond to with healthy apathy.
Some of these are easy fixes you can do right now while others require restructuring your life.
Burnout is a systemic problem. Avoiding it in the first place often involves making structural changes to your life. Yes, they’re big steps, but once you make the changes you’ll be happy you put in the effort.