There are several reasons for job burnout, which is a symptom of our chaotic modern lifestyles. A ‘full-time’ job can mean spending anything from 35 – 55 hours at work, depending on how much effort is expected and what the job pays. Job burnout can be a cause of dissatisfaction with other areas of life such as home and relationships, because its symptoms dominate our sense of well-being.
What is job burnout?
Beverley A. Potter is the author of two informative books on job burnout. Her first book on this issue was published in 1993, so the term has been around for nearly twenty years. She explains that here is no elusive definition for job burnout – it simply means that a person has become emotionally, intellectually and physically exhausted with their current job. They still have the skills that make them employable; they just cannot apply them to their present role. The person may feel physically debilitated and mentally unable to get involved with their work. They may be detached or irritable with colleagues and customers because of their dampened emotional state.
What are the symptoms of job burnout?
The symptoms of job burnout are very similar to the symptoms of stress. Tick off the factors on this checklist if they apply to you:
Physical symptoms such as acid reflux and indigestion, labored breathing, constant exhaustion not relieved by rest and relaxation
Using food, cigarettes, drugs or alcohol to blank out feelings about work
Poor concentration, a feeling of ‘brain fog’, inability to remember things, poor engagement with colleagues and customers
Anxiety, irritability, changes in your relationships with your loved ones, crying, disturbed sleep
Phoning in sick often, or doing the bare minimum to get by while you are at work (even though this feels like a huge effort)
When these symptoms accumulate they can wreak havoc on your life in a short space of time. When your emotions are affected, your ability to be yourself is greatly affected too. Relationships at home can deteriorate without you realising that job burnout is probably the culprit. Long-term negative physical effects can cause long-term damage to your health such as high blood pressure and debilitating illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and M.E.
No job is worth the accumulation of these negative impacts. Your first responsibility to yourself is to look after yourself and the relationships that are most important to you.
What can I do about job burnout?
The most important thing is to talk to someone about it as soon as you recognise that you are being affected by job burnout. This could be your GP, an occupational therapist at work, a counselor or therapist, and advisedly, a career coach.
The latter can help you to identify why you have developed job burnout – knowing the reasons will help you to make your next decision. For example, if you developed it because you have always been in the wrong job you need a strategy first to recover your health, and then to plan a career move. Don’t choose to remain in a job that is making you ill because of fear that you won’t get another job. Even during a financial recession there is plenty of career choice available if you are armed with the right application and interviewing techniques, after planning your ideal move. Ask your GP to sign you off work while you are feeling unwell. This is essential for having time to recover and to work out a career strategy that is going to give you back your zest for work and life. It is so important not to blame yourself or feel that you are a failure in some sense. Bear in mind that your job burnout is partly caused by working too hard, for too long, in a job that frustrates you. Having to face that situation day after day is like a slow form of torture. Summon all the help and support that you can get, and have faith that with the right support, you can find the right career for you, at the stage of life that you are at now.