The hustle is real. It is getting more difficult to get ahead in a career, to move up the ladder, to earn more money. Your colleagues are raising their game and you have to work harder and harder to get ahead. But as long as you have the motivation to do it, you can stay in front of the pack. It’s not always that easy though.
What happens when that motivation fades? Early mornings, late nights, working lunches. It all adds up and if you lose that sense of drive, of purpose, you’re done. Welcome to career burnout.
What exactly is career burnout?
Sometimes the stress of work adds up. You’re constantly tired, unmotivated and it seems like every day is a bad day. If that sounds familiar, you might just be experiencing burnout.
Everyone has off days. There might be a piece of work or project that is causing us anxiety and stress. That’s normal. Sometimes work is hard and we just have to deal with it.
While stress can often lead to burnout, they are not the same thing. You are often able to identify what is stressing you out. You can see a stress-free future once you can solve those issues. Stress is about being overly engaged emotionally with work. Burnout is the opposite. It is about being disengaged, unmotivated, distant from your work and your colleagues.
Learning how to identify burnout is the first step to overcoming it. Common symptoms include:
- A constant sense of tiredness
- A feeling of self-doubt
- Work is no longer satisfying
- Looking for any excuse not to go to work
While burnout puts a heavy toll on your emotions, there can also be physical side effects. Your immune system might not work as well, and illnesses hit you harder and more often. Headaches and muscle pain may also be a bigger part of your life.
So, what can you do if are burnt out?
The easiest answer is to take some time off. That may help initially, letting you escape the pressures of work, but what happens when your vacation is over? You’ll go right back into the same situation and be none the better.
Another easily repeated piece of advice is to change jobs. That may help as well, but if you are in a poor mental and emotional state it will be hard to motivate yourself in the evenings to go job hunting. And you might not interview well in such a state either.
The most powerful thing you can do is admit you are burnt out. Then you can start working on a solution. Being truthful to yourself allows you to be truthful to others. Reach out to your friends or family and tell them about your anxieties. Getting it off your chest can make you feel better. You will feel less alone with the problem and be able to build a platform to reengage with your work.
Try to find a purpose in your job. This is an extension of being truthful to yourself. Burnout will make you feel like what you do doesn’t matter. That’s a lie. Every job has meaning. Find it. Even if it’s just about what your job enables to do outside of the office, that is a purpose. It might support your family, pay for your hobbies or allow you new and exotic experiences.
Say “No” more often. Some of the lies that lead to burnout are the ones that say ‘I don’t need help, I can take on more’ or ‘If I just make through this month, it’ll all be fine’. Engage with your manager and tell them that you need help. Say that you can’t add more items to your to-do list. Be honest. Doing fewer things is better.
Finally, exercise helps. Sitting at a desk all day and then in front of a screen all evening is not what humans are designed to do. Exercise boosts energy levels, sharpens your focus and relaxes you. Your brain will also reward you with those happy little chemicals that make you feel happy. Get up and move!
Hard work pays off. But it is not the be-all and end-all. We have to live lives with purpose. Career burnout can take that purpose away from you. By being truthful with yourself you will find your purpose again. Once you do, your productivity, performance, and satisfaction with your career will return. And that feels much better than burnout.