Guest blog by Laura S. Scott
I have been spending a lot of time in conversations with clients talking about burnout; either their impending burnout or the threat of burnout of those around them. They are right to be concerned. Burnout can be a career-ender to those nearing retirement age, and can lead to diminished self-esteem, loss of engagement, and depression or anxiety disorders.
40% of those surveyed said burnout was the main reason they left their job.
In a survey conducted by the software company Limeade of a thousand full-time US workers who had started a new job in 2021, forty percent of those surveyed said burnout was the main reason they left their job, compared to those who left because of organizational changes at the company (34%), or because they were not feeling valued (20%), or they lacked flexibility in their jobs (20%), or because of insufficient benefits (19%).
If you feel like you are at risk of burnout, ask yourself the following questions:
- Before the end of the workday, do you feel physically or emotionally tapped out?
- Do you often judge yourself or feel frustrated by your inability to get things done?
- Are you easily irritated when things don’t go as planned?
- Do you feel like you never have enough time to do a job well?
- Do you feel like you’re missing out on the important moments in your life?
- Are you experiencing health challenges that you can attribute to stress?
- Do you notice that you are increasingly finding fault with your decisions, or second-guessing yourself?
- Are you having difficulty focusing on one thing at a time?
- Is it becoming harder to find to find ways to motivate yourself, or others?
- Do you find yourself caring less about things that used to matter to you?
- Are you fantasizing about quitting your job, or dropping everything and just walking away?
- Do you feel like it’s becoming more difficult to feel compassion for others?
If you answered “Yes” to five or more of these questions, it’s time to address the sources of the stress, frustration, and anxiety. Are you expecting, or is your boss expecting, you to do something that’s unrealistic given the time and human resources available? If so, it’s time to manage expectations. One person desperately trying to do the job of three people is a recipe for burnout.
Is your “High Achiever” status the culprit? If your sense of failure is because you’re comparing yourself to your previously super-hero self or someone else, it’s time to take a hard look at how you measure your self-worth. It’s time to redefine success. In addition, perfectionism may be getting in the way of you feeling successful when your own impossibly high standards cannot be met in a time crunch.
Is your inability to say “No” sentencing you to a self-imposed lifetime of hard labor? If so, it’s time to give yourself the “get out of jail free” card and set some boundaries that will free up the discretionary time to say a hearty “Yes” to the things that you really want to do; the things that bring you joy, or the time to recharge your batteries.
The catchall word, “Stress” gets much of the blame for burnout but often burnout starts when the activities you are doing on a day-to-day basis begin to lose their meaning. Part of my mindfulness practice is “finding meaning in the mundane.” Cleaning out my closet is re-imagined as donating to charity. Making a meal with whatever happens to be in the fridge is an exercise in creativity. Honoring my commitments to myself, and others, is a way to show respect and be trustworthy.
Another way to find meaning in your work, and to feel more positively engaged and purposeful, is to make the connection between your personal values and the things you’re planning to do that day. If one of your top values is leadership, identify which of the day’s activities will allow you to express your ideals in terms of leadership. This exercise will invite you to shift your energy, turning a routine 1:1 meeting into an opportunity to express your highest self in terms of leadership.
Finally, remind yourself: We are dealing with the effects of a global pandemic. We can’t do ‘business as usual.’ Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.