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Fed up and ready to give up: Top 10 signs that you’re experiencing burnout

Posted by Deb Muoio

Feb 25, 2015 1:29:00 PM

A friend asked me to tackle this topic. Her husband starts his work day at four in the morning and ends it around eight at night. His shift actually finishes earlier than that – but being the noble person that he is, he covers for whoever is sick, needs to cut out early, or just isn’t getting the job done. When he gets home, he has just enough energy to eat dinner and then collapses into bed, only to start the whole routine all over again. He’s convinced that he’s not stressed or worn out, but after being with him for over 20 years, his wife knows better. When she asked me for advice, I could offer one simple but sobering suggestion: she had to encourage him, if not force him, to take time off. “He may not feel like giving up,” I said with a sympathetic smile, “but eventually his body will throw in the towel, whether he wants to admit it or not.”

Based on data collected from ARCH Profile’s BSS - SF (Burnout Symptom Screen - For Service Fields) (also available for non-service fields), these are the top 10 signs that you are experiencing or are about to experience burnout:

  1. At the end of your work day, you feel emotionally empty. You just can’t seem to shake off a sense of despair, hopelessness, disenchantment, or discouragement.
  1. You feel frustrated or unappreciated. Your job lacks meaning or purpose, and you don’t think that what you do makes a whole lot of difference to your clients, the company, your field, or the world in general.
  1. You feel tired or depressed just thinking about the tasks or people that await you at work. You have to push yourself (literally and figuratively) to get out of bed.
  1. You go through periods at work where you feel like crying (or actually do so).
  1. You feel physically run down, tire easily, or don’t seem to have enough energy to get your work done.
  1. You’re not motivated to do your best. Even putting in the bare minimum to get work done feels like a struggle.
  1. You care less and less about making clients happy. You have difficulty empathizing with them or understanding their needs.
  1. You feel there is too much weight on your shoulders or that the expectations that others set for you are unrealistic.
  1. You have difficulty sleeping (e.g. you can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or tend to experience nightmares).
  2. You feel the need to distance yourself from coworkers or clients, and prefer to be on your own.
The following are some tips to ward off burnout before it puts you out of commission. As always, I recommend getting professional help if a person is experiencing a serious case of burnout.
  • Try walking meditation. This is a great way to combine the benefits of meditation with a change of scenery, fresh air, and a little bit of exercise. It involves walking slowly and very deliberately. While you are walking, concentrate on your breath (breathe from your lower abdomen) and imagine your feet gently pushing against the earth as you take each step. Breathe so that for every breath in, you take 3 or so steps, and for every breath out you take 3 or so steps. Adjust this to your liking, but the slower the better. This exercise forces you to live in the present moment (and not be mentally embroiled in the past and the future), and the deep breathing works to calm anxiety.
  • Improve your time management. Learn to prioritize your tasks. Do you absolutely need to do each task? What needs to get done now? What can wait? Create a checklist of all your tasks. There are few things more satisfying than crossing them off one by one.
  • Learn how to say no – in your personal and work life. Don’t be apologetic about it either; if someone is asking you for a favor, you don’t need to list all the reasons why you cannot do it. Yes, I know it’s not easy. I am not suggesting that you never help out others or refuse to do anything that’s not part of your job description. However, if the requests keep pouring in because you are always willing and able to jump in and save the day, you need to create some boundaries.
  • Give yourself a break. Schedule "down" time for yourself, and make sure you stick to it. Turn off your phone, say no to any social invitation, promise not to let yourself feel guilty and then do something you enjoy. Unwind, pamper yourself...and make it a habit.
  • Fight isolation. Resilient people lean on others when they need to, and develop meaningful relationships that help pull them through. Although you shouldn't depend entirely on other people to hold you together emotionally, a support network is necessary. If you don't feel you have people you can turn to, go out and find them. Clubs, classes, support groups, volunteering (online or offline)...the list of ways to reach out and make human connections is endless.
  • Don't get caught up in competitiveness. Of course you want to want to succeed - and a little bit of competition is healthy - but too much can push you towards the brink of burnout. Ask yourself if being number one is really worth jeopardizing your health.
  • Cut nasty habits. Alcohol and cigarettes only weaken your personal arsenals against stress. Even though a cigarette or drink may initially relax or calm you down, the after-effects will leave you feeling worse than you were before. As with other drugs, alcohol physiologically brings you down and intensifies your negative feelings once the initial high subsides. While moderate indulgence might not be totally hazardous, it is best to avoid drinking when extremely stressed. If you're a smoker, giving up the habit will give your mind and body an extra boost against the dangers of stress.
  • Seek help if you can't cope. Don't be afraid to get professional help if you just can't deal with things. Burnout is a serious condition, not a personal weakness. You wouldn't hesitate to see a doctor if you were physically under the weather, would you?

You can take the Burnout tests here:

If you’re interested in using BSS - SF (Burnout Symptom Screen - For Service Fields) or other tests for HR purposes, request a free trial for ARCH Profile here.

Want to learn more about using psychological tests for hiring, leadership development, career development or talent retention? Download our free eBook loaded with down-to-earth information about psychological testing for HR purposes.

Ready for a test drive of ARCH Profile, the delivery system for PsychTests’ assessments? All you need to do is ask!

Request your free trial of ARCH Profile!

Topics: HR Tips, Wellbeing at Work, HR Trends, Employee Wellbeing, Personal Development, stress, Employee Assistance Programs, Turnover

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