A staggering number of Americans are overworked. Job-related stress is the biggest source of stress for American adults, and it has increased significantly in recent years.
When you fail to make changes to combat work-related stress, this can often lead to a condition known as burnout. While it isn’t a medical diagnosis, it is a physical and emotional experience that many workers across the country share. In fact, recent data shows that 67 percent of American employees report feeling burned out at work sometimes, very often, or always.
To prevent the most negative effects of burnout, it needs to be recognized and rectified in the early stages. That might mean cutting back on hours and responsibilities, or considering career counseling to provide professional guidance.
If you notice any of the following signs in your own behavior (or if others have pointed out them to you in the past), it’s probably time to make some moves.
Symptoms of burnout
This specific type of work stress culminates in feelings of total exhaustion, reduced productivity, and even loss of personal identity. There are many possible causes of burnout, including unmanageable workloads, unclear professional expectations, lack of support or work-life balance, and decreased control over the specifics of your job.
There are also serious health effects associated with burnout, including an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, addiction and substance abuse, insomnia, type 2 diabetes, and more. It’s also important to note that burned out employees are more likely to take sick days, exhibit poor work performance, and contribute to high turnover rates. One recent survey found that 40 percent of American workers were considering leaving their jobs due to burnout.
You’re not taking care of your needs
Many people who experience burnout are involved in the “helping” industries (like in the healthcare field). But people pleasers in all sectors may be vulnerable to feeling this way. When you constantly put someone or something else first, you’re not going to have enough resources to sustain yourself.
High levels of stress can cause individuals to rely on unhelpful or harmful coping mechanisms just to get through. In fact, 63 percent of employees said that job-related stress sometimes, often, or always caused them to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Those behaviors might include drinking, smoking, drug use, overeating, and other experiences that we’re often told will “take the edge off”.
You’re frustrated and cynical
As humans, we’re designed to experience a whole spectrum of emotions. But you should take notice when any negative emotions seem to be sticking around for prolonged periods of time. If you used to consider yourself to be a happy-go-lucky optimist, but you’re now acting like a jaded grump most of the time, you may want to take a closer look as to why.
Burnout tends to be associated with feeling isolated, disengaged, depressed, anxious, hopeless, or generally apathetic at and about work. And those feelings shouldn’t be dismissed as normal. While we can’t be overjoyed in the workplace all the time, you shouldn’t feel like you’d rather be anywhere else on earth.
When your lack of motivation and poor attitude becomes a way of life rather than just a bad day, it may be time to find out why and take steps to rectify the situation.
You’re experiencing physical issues
Aside from significant, long-term issues, burnout can also cause daily ailments that you might not associate with stress. If you’re emotionally stressed, your physical body and immune system will be, too.
Frequent headaches, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and cognitive problems (like poor memory and concentration) may indicate that something is wrong. You may also be more prone to catching colds or may feel generally under the weather as a result of your increased levels of stress.
Since you may not be sleeping well or eating well due to the increased anxiety, it’s no wonder that burnout can manifest itself in physical ways. Shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, weight gain, and heart palpitations may also be present. If there’s no other explanation for these issues, your doctor may recommend reducing stress in your life.
To do that, you’ll want to examine the toll your job is taking. The reality is that we all deal with work-related stress at one point or another. In addition, society often tells us that if we aren’t stressed, we’re doing something wrong. But when that work-related stress becomes constant, it’s up to each individual to make positive changes to alleviate that stress.