What is job burnout and how to sort it

job burnout dealing with stress life makeover retreat

Having a job (paid or unpaid) is what we are expected to do, as an adult human being! However, some guests who come to the retreat are experiencing job burnout. But what is job burnout and is there something you can do about it? Read on to find out more.

Do I have job burnout?

Here are some questions, for you to consider. Be honest!

  • On a workday, do you feel reluctant to get up and start your day? Or do you feel anxious each time you think about your job?
  • Do you have to force yourself to start work or to start a project? Do you find it difficult to start a project?
  • Have your patience levels with customers, clients or co-workers declined? Do you react to them quickly and sometimes inappropriately (e.g. are you overly critical or cynical?)
  • Does your level of productivity vary dramatically, depending upon how you a feeling or your energy levels? Sometimes you can be very productive for a short period of time, then feel completely wiped out? Or are your productivity levels almost always low.
  • Do you feel unsatisfied after a day of work? Or like something is missing?
  • Is it difficult to concentrate? Are you easily distracted by others or what is going on around you (this includes social media, browsing the internet or gossiping)
  • Do you play games (online, on your phone etc), when you should be working?
  • At the end of a work day, do you have energy to do activities you enjoy? Or do you choose to eat, drink alcohol or use drugs to change or block out how you feel?
  • Do you have difficulty sleeping, or going to sleep? Do you wake up often during the night? Have your sleep patterns or habits changed?
  • Do you have physical complaints, like headaches, stomach or bowel problems during a working week, which might dissipate or disappear on holidays or days off?

If you answered yes to a few of these questions, then chances are you are experiencing job burnout, or heading in that direction. However, there are things you can do and actions you can take right now to start to make changes.

(Note, if you answered yes to some of these questions, we do recommend that you speak to a medical professional, as you might be experiencing depression or other health condition, which they can help you with. If you experience low mood regularly, we also recommend that you find someone to speak to. This might be a friend, or someone from an organisation such as the Samaritans). 

Steps to reverse job burnout

So, if you do have job burnout, or can see that you are heading in that direction, what can you do? How do you know when it is time to change your job completely, versus time to make some lifestyle changes or make changes at work?

Step 1: Identify the cause of your job burnout

The first step is to take a moment to consider what might be causing you to feel burned out. Consider these items in relation to your current role:

  • Do you feel your workload is just too high for the amount of time that you have, or your knowledge?
  • Is your job very monotonous? Or completely chaotic?
  • Long hours. Do you have to work long hours, just to stay afloat?
  • Work-life balance. Do you have time outside of work, where you can enjoy activities and socialising? How much of your time is spent at work, or worrying about work?
  • Lack of control. Do you feel like you have no control over your workload, areas of work, or work environment (including the team)? Is your work dictated by someone else, or outside forces?
  • Emotionally challenging work. Perhaps you are a carer or are responsible for the health (physical, emotional, mental) of other(s).
  • Exceptionally high expectations (unrealistic) from self or manager.
  • Weak team – so you feel unsupported and like you are carrying other people.

Step 2: Look in more detail – find a solution

Once you have identified the area (or areas) causing you problems, take a moment to reflect. Is there a solution you can identify, which would change things for you?

Here are some ideas that can help:

  • If you have emotionally challenging work (e.g. care work), do you have support, someone you can speak / offload to? Perhaps the emotional impact could be more evenly spread with colleagues (or loved ones)?
  • Focus on what you can control. Understanding your “circle of influence” can help you manage your energy levels. To be more efficient, do you need to change your circle of influence, or grow your circle? (Our article Seven key energy drains and how to stop them, explains more about the circle of influence). 
  • Do a wheel of life, see where you are not being efficient with time and energy. (Read our article here about how to do a wheel of life). 
  • There are times when we need to have the courage to negotiate with your employer. If this makes sense for you, think about what leverage you may have to negotiate (e.g. high performance in your current role, maybe you have unique value through your knowledge or experience, perhaps you have leverage through the wording in your contract, or the length of your notice period or perhaps you have another job lined up!)
  • Consider the difference between accountability and responsibility. If you are accountable for results but can do very little to influence them (e.g. the decision making for delivering results is elsewhere – like in another department) you are likely to be stressed. Consider how you can share the accountability. You can do this for example by setting / agreeing key performance indicators with others. Alternatively, you can work to align your accountability and responsibility by reviewing decision-making processes so you have more responsibility or input for them.
  • It’s possible you may need to stop being so “open”. “Open door” policies sound great, but it can be draining if people are coming to you with issues they first haven’t tried to solve themselves. Maybe you need to schedule appointments more (this can stop the “time wasters”!). When we are overly “open”, we get easily distracted by other people’s problems. We can also end up being overly available emotionally, or “caring” too much.
  • Consider clarifying your boundaries. Keeping to boundaries, can make things much clearer for you and others. Communicate and reinforce your boundaries if you have to.
  • Many conflicts are a result of a values conflict. Review your work values by considering what are the jobs to you love to do and you always find time for? Then consider what are the values required by your job. (If you want to take this to the next level, you can also review your life values and compare them to what is required at work). You can align values by making conscious connections between them. For example, ask how can meeting your work values help you meet your values. Of course, if your work’s values and your personal values are too different, it may be best to break the relationship for the sake of both parties.
  • A constant sense of “fire-fighting” or “chaos” can of course burn us out. However, have you ever tried to create “order” out of your chaos? To do this, you need to consciously look for hidden patterns in the chaos. For example, is Friday more chaotic than a Monday? Does chaos come from specific staff or customers? How does chaos relate to my emotional states?
  • Are you a perfectionist? If so, you could use the 80/20 rule to become more efficient. The 80/20 rules says that 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. Find out the 20% and you will save a lot of “wasted” energy. Similarly, notice that the amount of energy it takes to make something “90% perfect” is way less than 90% of the energy it takes to make something “perfect”. All this is saying is focus on the things that are going to make the biggest difference.

 Step 3: Take action

Depending upon what you identified above, you might consider some of the following options:

  • If you can, speak to your supervisor. Ask them to review with you the workload, or expectations. Ask for more training if you feel this would help. Get clear about roles and responsibilities – of you and the team. If your job is monotonous, can you add something different into the role.
  • Seek support. You might consider seeking support at work, perhaps the HR department has a health and wellbeing programme, counsellor or life coach they can refer you to – some companies might pay for this.
  • Incorporate more exercise into your week. This could be parking a little further away so you can walk before and after work, or getting off the bus / tube / train one stop earlier. Find a local class you can take part in at the same time each week and make the commitment to yourself to attend. Exercise can help to release stress, reduce cortisol and encourage more feel-good hormones to be produced. It also helps with gaining more work-life balance.
  • Spend time outdoors, in natural light. Vitamin D can help sleep and regulate hormones. Even five minutes in your lunch break can make a difference.
  • Take up yoga and/or meditation. If you do these on an evening after work, it might help to alter unhealthy patterns or reliance on food, drugs or alcohol.
  • Change your job completely! Perhaps it is time to consider a move to a new company, or a new role in the same company.

Job burnout can come to everyone at some point, so know that you are in the company of others!

La Crisalida Retreats for mindset and life makeover

Coming on retreat to La Crisalida, gives you an opportunity to step out from your daily life. Our workshops provide you with support and the space to focus on you and what is important to you. Some of our guests come with a thought in mind, knowing they need to make a change, and leave with more clarity and direction.

If you are interested in our life makeover retreats, read more here

We hope this article helps you gain more clarity and gives pointers for direction to regain your control.

About the author

Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).