How to Prevent Burnout in a High-power Position

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Last Updated: Dec 7, 2018

Burnout in the workplace shouldn’t be confused with stress. The two are very different. Stress is a more short-term experience often associated with the demands of a specific period or project at work. If not managed correctly however, stress can become burnout. Attic Recruitment takes a look at how to recognize burnout at work and how to help avoid or cope with it:

What is Burnout?

Burnout doesn’t tend to affect the cynical or less motivated people in the professional environment and often happens to people in a high-powered position. It usually affects those that start out highly motivated and committed to their work. It is fair to say that in order to burnout, you have to have been alight in the first place. It’s important to understand that even the most committed employees, can experience this however switched on or ‘together’ they mean seem.

There are a couple of important definitions of ‘burnout’ as identified by professionals:

  • “A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson.
  • “A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” – Herbert J. Freudenberger.

Exhaustion, both physical and mental, is often at the core of burnout. So how can you avoid falling victim to this condition that affects so many?

Noticing the signs of a Burnout

At first you may identify the signs of burnout as stress, brushing it off as something that will only last a few days but it is important to realize when it is more than that. Signs that you could be experiencing, or about to experience burnout can include:

  • Feeling tired but having trouble sleeping
  • Having very little energy to do even the simplest things
  • Feelings of negativity and despondency
  • Dreading going to work, counting down the hours until you finish and longing for the weekend
  • A feeling of emptiness
  • Physical symptoms – headaches and regular illness
  • An increase in being absent from work
  • Easily irritated by people around you
  • A demotivated attitude which negatively impacts your colleagues around you
  • Wanting to quit your job or change your role
  • Feelings of inadequacy or constant panic

How to avoid or deal with Burnout

Sometimes it can be hard to recognise what is going on until it is too late. If you miss the signs, or dismiss them as short-term stress, you can find yourself a lot further on the way to burnout than you had realised. There are some things that you should do, many of which should be part of daily life before burnout occurs.

Re-discover your purpose when it comes to work.

Are you in the right job? It can be a tough pill to swallow but once you have worked out that perhaps this isn’t the job for you, the relief can be almost instant. Sit down and evaluate what it is that you are doing, if this is what you want to do and if there is something else you should be doing.

Evaluate your Job Description

Are you a yes person that puts your hand up for everything? Perhaps you have ended up with many more duties and responsibilities that weren’t in your original job description. Sit down with your boss and go through your job description. Perhaps there are somethings that you can move around. Delegate some of the less critical things to others and see if there are any new challenges that you could be responsible for. Sometimes some simple changes can make a big difference.

Regular Exercise and Time off

These general health factors can make a huge difference. Try some regular exercise even if its ditching the car and walking to work or perhaps take up a new sport that enables you to burn off some of those negative feelings. When you go home switch off from your work email and take weekends to yourself. Even if it’s a few hours, be sure to take time for you.

By managing stress in the early stages, taking care of your health and realising that you are only human, and that there are constraints, no matter who you are, you can help to avoid burnout or can learn to recognise and address the signs.

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