Work burnout: Stopping the career killer quickly

Work Burnout

You probably notice it when you snooze your morning alarm an extra time or two, knowing full well you must get ready for work. Or, perhaps you don’t feel refreshed and ready to get back to work after a good, relaxing vacation. You may be bored, depressed and ready to leave your job. What you could actually be dealing with is work burnout.

Work burnout is a real problem working people may face during their career. The good news? According to Renee Rogers, LMFT, the clinic manager for Banner Behavioral Health in Northern Colorado, it can be solved with some introspection.

Work burnout defined

Rogers explained that burnout is a gradual process, which includes the effects of multiple sources of stress within your career. She also said it has some pretty telltale signs.

“It can include becoming cynical, feeling depressed, bored and a lack of compassion for others with whom you work,” Rogers said. “It also can include a loss of idealism we had when we first started our career and the differences we thought we would make.”

Another big symptom is not feeling a sense of personal accomplishment. Someone suffering from work burnout may also blame administration or bosses for work issues. According to Rogers, other symptoms include:

  • Being late or not showing up to work
  • A lack of detail when there used to be close attention to detail
  • Disengagement in the job
  • Unable to balance the demands of work with inner ability and resources needed for work
  • Anxiety 
  • Fatigue
  • Tension
  • Irritability

Who suffers work burnout?

It should come as no surprise, but people in helping professions—doctors, nurses, law enforcement, etc.—have a greater risk of burning out. As Rogers noted, one-third to one-half of physicians meet the criteria for work burnout with women being 1.6 times more likely to burnout than men. 

“Physician burnout often correlates to their patients’ satisfaction and treatment adherence,” Rogers said. 

What can you do for work burnout?

People who work in supportive environments tend to have an easier time dealing with work burnout, but there are specific things you can do to manage it yourself. Rogers said some key things you can do include learning self-care and how to manage stress. 

Learning the skills may require the help of a trained professional, but if you choose to learn on your own, there are several resources available to you. Rogers recommended mindtools.com and their burnout self-test as a resource to help you learn some key skills you will need.

Probably one of the best things you can do is to completely avoid work burnout in the first place. 

“Practicing self-care and reasonable boundaries are huge,” Rogers said. “Leave work at work.”

Rogers also recommended the following:

  • Fitness
  • Family time
  • Hobbies
  • Positive social relationships
  • Practicing daily gratitude
  • Spiritual practices  

“It’s also important to have reasonable expectations about your impact in your world,” Rogers said.

Know the difference

Rogers noted, when discussing burnout, you also should be aware of compassion fatigue, which is when you develop an indifference to people suffering asking for help. This is often a big problem in the health care setting or any job that requires empathy.

“Compassion fatigue is an added layer to burnout and is often considered burnout, but it’s not,” Rogers said. 

Rogers noted compassion fatigue can also traumatize empathic employees because the trauma of others can be absorbed by the professional. If you can separate work burnout from compassion fatigue, it will help you address the issue.

If you feel like you are suffering from work burnout or compassion fatigue, it’s OK to ask for help. Your manager, HR department or a health care professional can help you take steps to get back to feeling engaged and enjoying your job.

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