According to statista.com, the second highest cause of stress in the U.S. comes from the workplace or professional life; coming in at 39% of people experiencing stress. The only cause of stress higher than this, coming in at 41% is financial issues. Do you think these two are related? What would our world look like if no one stressed about work or financial issues? If this many people are being stressed out about work, do you think there is a correlation here to the number of people that feel burned out? Think about those around you and even yourself, odds are you know someone that is feeling burned out and you have maybe even been there yourself. When you are feeling burned out, it can quickly add to the stresses that you are already dealing with in life…so how can we know for sure if we are burned out, or just stressed with everyday life? Relationship frustration, quality of life and measuring the amount of joy I find in my work are three areas I examine when trying to decipher between two; am I burned out or just stressed?
1. Relationship frustration.
When you get burned out, it impacts your relationships. Not just the relationship between you and your significant other, but all relationships. Have you ever snapped at a co-worker, friend or family member and later thought to yourself, “what the hell was that all about?”. If not, have you distanced yourself from friends and family and just haven’t had the chance to ever do that? Your social life – is it what it used to be? Of course, some friendships fade and diminish over the years, but when is the last time you spent quality time with a best friend? If it wasn’t too long ago, then good on you. If you are anything like me, in a season of burnout the answer to that question would range from ‘too long ago’ or ‘I can’t even remember’. Take a moment right now to think back to a time you were in a burnout season…now specifically think of what it felt like when you eventually met with a friend for the first time in a while. How did it feel afterwards? I know for me, it is a mood booster. If you feel burned out, make plans with a friend to meet for dinner to catch up, or even a quick coffee or beer. When you distance yourself from friends and family, it can easily place a wedge between the relationship, especially if the other person doesn’t understand what headspace you may be in with your stress…or are you burned out? If you are not sure, go visit a friend and talk it out. Talk to them about what is going on in your life, make every minute count. More important than talking, listen. Make sure you give them time to chat. When you actively listen to someone it can also help them be more receptive to actively listen when its your turn to talk. This is a difficult skill to master, especially in our day in age with so many distractions in life, but the more you do it – the better you get. I struggle with this at times, but it is one of my favorite skills I love to practice. Active listening is a life-long practice
2. Decreased quality of life.
Our quality of life may appear good when we are battling through a season of burnout, but if you look internally, how good can it be? When we are burned out we can feel tired, restless, depressed, lonely, and this list can go on. It is hard to maintain a healthy quality of life when you are burned out. When we reach capacity, it is so easy to let the fun aspect of life take a back seat. Over time, this becomes our new norm and if we don’t sit back to internally examine our quality of life, it can be easy to unconsciously change our norm. When that happens, we leave the “being stressed out zone” and enter a burnout season. So how can we internally examine what our quality of life is? For starters, look inside and think back to a recent time when you can truly say you were happy with your quality of life. How do you know when that was?
- When was the last time you went to bed more than two nights in a row and weren’t thinking about the work that was piled up for the next day?
- When was the last time you woke up and didn’t feel an ounce of stress for what the day had in store?
- When was the last time you did something for you? Something you enjoy? Just for you.
These are just a few questions to help you think of a time when your quality of life was at a level you deserve it to be. Ask yourself these questions when you feel burned out, you will find the answers are quite different than they would be when you have a healthy quality of life. I know if I go to bed often thinking about the work piling up or waking up stressed for the overwhelming day ahead or go through a long period of time not taking any “me” time, I can get burned out. When I don’t think about work before bed, I do not stress about it in the morning and over time, this clears my mind and allows me to make time for the things I enjoy (outside of working). If you are still not sure if you are burned out after sitting back and internally examining your quality of life, chat with a friend or family member – they will tell you.
3. Enjoy the work you do, if not…
If you are not enjoying the work you do, it may be a sign that you are burned out. If you can say you have never enjoyed your work, then you need a new job or career path. If you once enjoyed your job and find yourself in a position where you no longer do, it may be a great time to stop and reflect on what may have changed. Write it down. Start by thinking back as far as you can, to a time when you truly enjoyed going to work. If you get more excited for Friday than Monday, has that always been the case? If you enjoy your work, does it matter what day of the week it is? Write down on paper what it takes to get you excited for work on Monday. Have you ever had this at your job? If not, is there a way you can work to change this? Is your boss open to hear about your ideas to help make your work environment more enjoyable? If not, do you think this will ever change? If you are feeling burned out and you cannot see how you can ever enjoy your work, it may be time to move on. Life is too short, and you deserve to enjoy the work you do. After all, we spend a large portion of our adult lives at work or thinking about work…why not enjoy it? The grass is not always greener on the other side. The grass is always greener when the lawn gets watered like it should to keep it green and healthy. If you are being held back from the hose to help make the grass green where you are, go pick up another hose. Pick up the hose, turn the handle and if you are empowered to water the grass, chances are you will enjoy your work. But remember, don’t get burned out – an over watered lawn will drown.
I find when I am approaching a burnout season (we all go through them), it helps me to sit down and examine these three areas. Mend your relationships, talk to a spouse, partner, friend, family member or co-worker about what is going on. A trusted outside perspective can be the difference of a break down and a turn around. Have you ever had a great conversation with someone, then felt rejuvenated to take on your next challenge – that kind of turn around. It goes both ways, you have likely been that friend to someone else and it can all start with active listening. Continually be examining your quality of life. If you ever feel it is not what it once was, stop and write down what you need to get back to the quality of life you deserve – work your way back up one step at a time. Finding work you enjoy is a big step towards a better quality of life and places you in a mindset that allows you to make time for the most important things in life – your health, family and friends. It is always a good reminder to remember what is most important to you. As the famous Stephen Covey states, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” We all deal with stress, there is no getting away from it. But don’t let stress carry you into a burnout season. When you get burned out, it doesn’t help you, your family or the company you work for. Know the signs and take action before it gets too late.