Revision Resume is always looking for information that can benefit job seekers. One topic that is of interest to us is that of burnout. We hear this term batted around, but what does it really mean, and how can you identify it?
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of both mental and physical fatigue caused by a prolonged exposure to severe stress. Burnout’s physical symptoms can include muscle tightness, headaches, gastrointestinal distress and a lack of energy. Mental symptoms mimic those of depression, but cynicism can be a giveaway that burnout is the true culprit.
What are the chances burnout will happen to me?
Burnout can happen to anyone, and a recent survey by Indeed shows rates are on the rise across the board. However, caregivers and those in care-taking professions, such as teachers and medical staff, are especially at risk.
What are the causes of burnout?
One reason burnout occurs is when you lack control over your situation. This is called a lack of agency. Do you have a boss that is a micromanager? Is the institution you work for so big and their procedures so over-arching that there is no room for you to make any choices as to how to do your job? Do you ever wonder if anyone would notice if you suddenly didn’t show up to work one day? If so, lack of agency may apply to you.
Lack of community can also lead to burnout. Do you work mostly in isolation? Are you regularly denied opportunities to attend conferences or other group settings where fellow professionals might gather? Is collaboration discouraged or competition so intense that you feel alienated from everyone else? Lack of community can also lead to burnout.
Why do you do what you do? If you have trouble answering that question, a lack of purpose may be where your burnout stems from. Is what you’re doing helping someone else? Enriching your own personal growth? Making the world a better place? All of these avenues can fulfill your sense of purpose, but there is still one more cause of burnout to consider.
A lack of rest is bound to catch up with you sooner or later. Work culture in the United States has long celebrated the “work-a-holic,” and while that mentality may yield great productivity, it cannot be sustained forever. Add a global pandemic to the mix and it’s no wonder that burnout is a trending topic.
How can I treat burnout?
First, take stock. Of the four categories above, which are most problematic? Which do you feel you have good control over? Celebrate what is working in your life—this gives you hope that you can improve other areas.
Then, focus on an area of improvement, and start small. For a lack of agency, look for opportunities—however insignificant they may seem—to make your own choices. Choose a location for the staff meeting, decide on a color scheme for your work space or make suggestions for topics of continuing education.
For lack of community, initiate a gathering for people in your field outside of the work day, whether it’s a happy hour or Zoom seminar on a topic you’re interested in.
For a lack of purpose, try to envision who benefits from what you do. Or, initiate a “day of caring,” where you and your colleagues donate time to helping a local charity.
Lack of rest may be the most challenging need to fulfill in our society. With an ever-growing to-do list and a finite number of hours in the day, making time for rest may seem impossible. This is where boundaries become important. Being clear about when you are “on the clock” versus “offline” may feel uncomfortable, but saying no and holding to your commitment to yourself is the only way to heal this deficit. Again, start small. Send a note to your manager: “I have a commitment that requires me to leave right at 5:00 today.”
Obviously one small step will not solve a problem like burnout, which may have had years to take root. But small steps—done consistently—can add up to a big difference.
Burnout doesn’t have to last forever, but it requires attention. The most important thing is to keep in mind that things are always changing, and it is possible to improve your situation. Many people will seek a new job to remove themselves from a toxic work environment. Revision Resume offers quality job search documents that can assist with the transition.
If the above tips do not help, or you suspect that your burnout has led to anxiety and/or depression, seek the help of your primary care physician or a licensed psychologist.