Long before it became a common part of the workplace lexicon (or modern life, for that matter!), the term “burnout” was most associated with physics.
Here’s how Oxford defines it: “The reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.”
Of course, it’s more common now to hear burnout used alongside words like fatigue, exhaustion, or collapse. But the original definition might be the best one — we can all relate to the image of our personal energy literally being reduced to nothing through overexertion and constant burning.
Burnout is everywhere
You don’t have to be in a stressful office environment to suffer from burnout; it can stem from home life, constant social interactions or obligations, the political climate, or even social media.
Now consider how blurry the lines between personal and professional have gotten or think about how technology has made it feel like we’re always on the clock. It’s no surprise that burnout has become so widespread even as a word.
How to spot burnout
One troublesome feature of burnout is that it’s easily confused with ordinary stresses and occasional illnesses. Researchers suggest there are 3 major signifiers of burnout:
- Lack of ambition. You’re not doing your best and sometimes it’s difficult to even try to do your best.
- Physical and emotional exhaustion. It’s more than being tired, it’s feeling drained. You might be getting sick frequently, unable to sleep well, or feel adrift.
- Isolation. Whether it’s at home or in the office, it seems like everyone is your adversary. Maybe you withdraw or feel underappreciated at every turn.
How to stop burnout
Avoiding burnout takes discipline, balance, and attention. Here are 5 easy ways to keep it in check.
Know your duties. Whether it’s a steady to-do list or a set plan, make sure your day-to-day obligations are clearly defined, whether it’s inside or outside of work. If you’re not sure about what’s expected of you, ask.
Make time for self-care. One tactic we’re fond of is making use of timers to ensure we take breaks, go for walks, prioritize our health, and keep ourselves recharged and refreshed. Also, don’t stay put! Try switching where you work throughout the day.
Take a digital vacation. How you ever set time aside to relax only to find yourself aimlessly scrolling through your phone (guilty!) or checking social media. The quickest way for a break to become an extension of your stresses and obligations is to stay plugged in. Give yourself a few minutes without your phone or internet and bring some paper with you.
Make use of your allies. In life and in work, we need someone we can confide in, strategize with, vent to, and teach us. Find someone — a friend or mentor— you can build a relationship with and rely on.
Put play in your queue. Whether it’s your favorite dog video or a crossword puzzle, taking a minute to laugh or stimulate your brain helps keep everything in perspective. Also, schedule in longer activities and find new creative pursuits and hobbies to make sure that your obligations don’t feel like the only thing in your life. The difference between work and play makes all the difference in the world.