Burnout from work: how to control it

Posted on 02 August 2020

Burnout from work: how to control it

With everyone working from home, you are literally living at work. It is so hard to switch off it’s no wonder we are all getting burnout from work. I have experienced this myself and know others around me have experienced the same, especially as social distancing goes on and quarantine fatigue kicks in. So let’s get into what burnout from work is, how you might know if you have burnout from work and some strategies I used to control my risk of burnout from work.

What is burnout from work?

Burnout from work is defined by the WHO as a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout from work is specific to the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Signs and symptoms of burnout from work

  • Feeling run down and drained of physical or emotional energy
  • Having negative thoughts about work
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling misunderstood or unappreciated
  • Feeling there is no one to talk to
  • Feeling of underachievement
  • Feeling excessive pressure to succeed
  • Feeling frustrated, unsatisfied or unfulfilled from work
  • Feeling overwhelmed by work
  • Feeling there is not enough time

How do I know if I have burnout from work?

There is actually a questionnaire you can use based on the signs and symptoms of burnout from work to figure out if you have it. Here is a link to one called the Bergen Burnout Index

My own signs and symptoms of burnout from work

For me I felt burnout from work mostly from a feeling of being totally drained physically and emotionally. I was generally irritable with people around me and started to feel more overwhelmed by work pressures. It was pretty by the book.

Interestingly, this all coincided with me becoming more lax on some of the habits I had built up to keep me healthy and at my most productive during lockdown.

How I managed my burnout from work

It took a blend of rekindling old habits and building some new ones to get back to feeling like myself after feeling burnout from work. But there was a key moment of inspiration that sparked my burnout recovery.

I enjoy listening to Blinkist’s book summaries {affiliate} on my morning walks and decided one morning to listen to ‘Permission to Feel’ by Marc Braccket. The core concept in the book is how to increase emotional intelligence by Recognising, Understanding, Labelling, Expressing and Regulating your emotions [the RULER method]. I spent the next hour labelling my lockdown feelings and characterising them in my journal. There are so many reasons right now we look to appear brave and stoic so as to save face and not get others feeling down. But journaling in this way is so effective because labelling your emotions externalises them in a way that they lose their control over you. Since then I’ve been able to build upon or add to my daily health habits to get over my burnout from work and feel like my normal self again. So let’s take a look at how I’ve managed my burnout from work in typical EMTS style:

EAT

  • I increased my intake of good fats like oily fish, avocado and olive oil to feed my brain
  • I cut down the junk food that had crept in

MOVE

  • I continued my morning walks with 10k steps, daily mobility work and 3 strength workouts per week

THINK

SLEEP

  • I got back into my bedtime routine of doing my gratitude journal, brushing my teeth and washing my face rather than watching Netflix in bed

RELATE

  • Talked to loved ones daily like I did early on in lockdown

As with everything, it isn’t one dimension of my lifestyle that has helped me to cope with burnout from work. It is the 360-degree picture of my life including nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep and relationships. What strategies have helped you to cope with burnout from work?