How To Handle Burnout

How To Handle BurnoutEveryone gets burned out from their professional life at some point and I was probably the poster boy for corporate burnout myself back in the day. More critical than knowing how to handle burnout is knowing first how to identify it.

Somewhere back in time I once heard or read that the greatest sign that you are burned out and really need to take some time off is if you find yourself in the position of thinking or feeling that everything would all apart if you were not there. If it scares you to take vacation because they couldn’t make it without you… you are probably burned out…  and believe it or not, boasting about not having taken a sick day or any vacation time for a few years is also a sign… you just probably don’t recognize it.

Burnout is more than mere tiredness and it goes beyond the ordinary stress of everyday work. Burnout is characterized by chronic exhaustion and strong feelings of frustration and powerlessness. Those suffering from burnout tend to withdraw emotionally from their work, lose motivation, and become less productive. And even more… studies also link burnout to numerous emotional and physical health problems.

The bad news is that more often than not, burnout is self-inflicted. In the pursuit of career goals and greater income, some try to fit even more work into their life than what is appropriate and or healthy; and people who often over commit themselves are often on the road to burnout without even knowing it.

How To Handle Burnout

First, it has been my experience and what I have observed in others is that burnout it NOT linear. It if took a month or two to get burned out or if you were suffering from burnout for a bit, it’s going to take more than just a week or two in order to recover. The good news is that you can recover and bounce back.

What are your priorities? What is important to you? Is it your relationships, your family? Beware of the pressure to adopt the priorities of others around you as your own because doing so can lead to burnout. Your employer’s priorities and yours are likely different. While others may choose to put work first in their life does not mean that you have to as well.

When it comes to the best way of how to handle burnout in your professional life, the best defense is often a good offense, meaning it is best to take steps to prevent burnout from happening in the first place.

Pursue interests and friendships outside of your work, and avoid defining yourself by the type and amount of work that you do. Why? If your self-identity and self-worth are derived primarily from your work, then you will find it difficult to minimize the role that work plays in your life.

You really can make the changes needed to deal successfully with burnout if you are faced with it. Examine your goals and life-situation… is all of that really all that you want to work for? Simplify your life and downsize if you have too… which is more important, that new car or new house that you are working towards, or time with you family, friends, and loved ones?

Lastly, stop making working all about making the money; if the money is the only thing that motivates you and brings any comfort from the job, and the high of getting more when you do comes but just as quickly fades… being burned out is a high probability.

If you are feeling workplace burnout, you can recover. Change might feel impossible, especially if you feel trapped in circumstances beyond your control, just realize that you have more options than you may realize for how to handle burnout – including the steps outlined above.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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Photo By Andy Wooten 05 July 2008


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