Ever feel like you just can’t with your job anymore? Is your once dream job now your worst nightmare? If you only have that feeling occasionally, you probably don’t need to worry, but if you’re feeling stressed and frustrated at work every single day, you might be experiencing career burnout. The good news is, no matter how fed up you are, there’s a way out of it, whether you have to make a career change or you’re able to find a way to stay put. Truth is, it is pretty much 100 percent within your control, as long as you have the right tools to help you deal. To find out how to combat constant less-than-awesome feelings about your job, read on.
SO WHAT IS CAREER BURNOUT, EXACTLY?
Career strategy coach Lisa Lewis of So Much More Coaching explains that, “at the core, burnout is born from stress. Stress is a short-term or seemingly ending burst of being overworked.” Right, that happens to everyone! On the other hand, “Burnout is a persistent feeling of being overworked to the point that you are mentally divorcing yourself from the work and become disinterested in growth and advancement. If you feel like you are completely out of f*cks, you’re experiencing burnout, not stress.” So basically if you can’t handle being at work anymore and you’re feeling totally uninspired, burnout is probs the culprit.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT CAUSES BURNOUT
“A big cause of burnout is completely natural,” says Lewis. “It’s the evolution of your own personal mission and the concurrent evolution of the organization’s needs.” It’s true that people change over time, and companies do too. It’s entirely possible that you started out with similar values and over time realize that you’ve evolved a bit. “As you’re in a role month after month, the terms and stakes can change,” she notes. “The responsibilities may become more monotonous; you may end up with less control over your workload or you may outgrow your job. Your professional vision can diverge from the impact of the role or organization you’re currently in, making the work that used to feel sustainable and life-giving now a complete drain because your priorities shifted.”
HOW TO DEAL WITH IT
If this is all sounding a little too familiar, Lewis suggests taking three main steps to get yourself out of the burnout hole:
1. Set boundaries, like ASAP. Lewis believes that one of the main causes of burnout is ineffective boundary setting. “Burnout is typically the result of trading off and foregoing social relationships that give us something to do in the off-hours, as well as de-prioritizing self-care.” In other words, giving all of your time to your job is a recipe for disaster. If you need to have responsibilities taken off your plate or see some other way to make your situation more sustainable, Lewis says you should communicate that clearly and as soon as possible. After all, you can’t expect your needs to be met unless you make them known, right?
2. Create a plan for when you feel stress setting in. Certain careers are more prone to experiencing burnout, particularly those that have heavy emotional involvement like nursing, social work and teaching. Lewis notes, however, that sometimes your personality can be a factor too. “People who tend to have all-or-nothing viewpoints and who throw themselves into projects with abandon are likely to forget self-care practices that are sustainable,” she says. “If you know the risk factors in your chosen field, you can make your sustainability action plan at the start — and re-commit yourself to it when stress starts running high.” A little bit of preparation when you start your job or when you realize you’re starting to feel stressed can save you a lot of frustration later. “If you’re feeling a burnout freight train barreling down on you, don’t freak out! The first question is: Are there things you could change about your current situation that would realistically change your burnout into a breakthrough? If so, it’s time to speak up and work with your boss to make some changes.
3. Know that finding a new job won’t solve everything. If your stress plan isn’t working, leaving your job to escape burnout is absolutely an option — but you still have to do some work to make sure you don’t carry it with you to your next gig. “If you can’t see any kind of future in your current role or with your current team, it’s time to re-root yourself in your values and start looking externally. Making a jump because of frustration and exhaustion can cloud your decision-making abilities and send you into another less-than-ideal situation. So if you’re certain your future isn’t with your current employer, ground yourself in what used to be working for you in your career, and lean into your strengths in your search for a new role.”
Once you’ve found a new gig, make sure you set healthy expectations and boundaries (for both yourself and your employer) from the start. Not going to answer emails on weekends? Great, make sure your boss knows. Scheduling a week-long vacation every six months to ensure you get a break from the craziness? Tell HR on the day you start. If you don’t make an effort to do these things, you might bring your burnout susceptibility with you from job to job. “Being aware of how the experience felt at your past job is important, and you should use those warning signs to set expectations with your new boss immediately about what will make you able to contribute at your highest sustainable ability. There is a reason all health and wellness coaches harp on the Big Three: sufficient sleep, abundant physical activity and nutritious food. Without these building blocks for health care, no amount of self-care as triage will get you through burnout. ”