Whether you’re new to the profession or have years of experience working in a specific area, you may suffer burnout at some time in your career. Burnout has numerous causes and is a typical symptom that professionals face throughout their careers. By reviewing several methods for overcoming workplace burnout, you can detect it and make proactive efforts to prevent it from worsening.
Burnout at work is the process by which an employee becomes unmotivated or frustrated by their employment. Burnout occurs when an employee is constantly or intermittently stressed. Burnout can be linked to depression in some situations, and it impairs an employee’s work effectiveness.
Here are a few key types of burnout and their causes:
- Under-challenge burnout: Under-challenge burnout is the result of an employee feeling unappreciated at their job. They may have also started exhibiting boredom because their job is too easy compared with their skills and qualifications.
- Overload burnout: Overload burnout results from an employee putting too much time and effort into their work life. Also, overload burnout may result when an employee receives too many responsibilities or unrealistic expectations from an employer.
- Neglect burnout: Neglect burnout results from an employee feeling like their work performance is inadequate. Further, these employees struggle to keep up with demands in the workplace.
While you may be unable to leave your job, there are methods for dealing with burnout. Take a deep breath, relax, and read the following 10 strategies for dealing with workplace burnout.
1. Take a Vacation
Talk to your manager as soon as possible and take a break. Not a five-minute break, and not a couple of days at home. You need a complete and total cut-off from work. Basically, you need a vacation. Explain why you need time off without whining or getting emotional. Be rational when you lay out all the reasons you deserve a break, and why you will be an even better employee when you return.
Ideally, you should be gone for at least two weeks with zero office contact. Don’t make yourself available for calls. Don’t check your emails. If at all possible, go somewhere that is the complete opposite of work and do whatever makes you genuinely happy. If that’s laying on a beach drinking cocktails, climbing mountains, or white water rafting, do it.
If you don’t have any vacation days left, ask for an unpaid break. Find a way to make it work financially even if it means a staycation. Don’t underestimate the harmful effects of burnout.
2. Find a Release
Burnout can build, leading to a pressure cooker of stress. If you don’t open that release valve from time to time, you are going to explode. Perhaps not literally, but you’ll crack emotionally, have outbursts, or maybe do something that could hurt your career.
Generally, physical activity is ideal for stress release. For some people, it’s CrossFit or martial arts. For others, it’s paintball battles, soccer, racquetball, or bowling. Many people enjoy video games, while others prefer a shooting range or a dozen laps of the pool. The way you release your aggression and frustration is not important, as long as it’s not harmful to yourself or others. What matters is that you find a way to let off steam.
3. Take a Break From Alcohol and Caffeine
A lot of people deal with the stresses and strains of a hectic work life by turning to the bottle or dosing up on coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, or even food. While these can sometimes be soothing in moderation, you can quickly become dependent upon them, especially if you’re using them to cope with significant or growing stress at work. Dependency leads to addiction, which isn’t good.
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Although something as simple as coffee seems harmless, it can rob you of much-needed sleep and put undue strain on your heart. There’s no secret to the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, and poor eating can lead to weight gain and associated health problems. So, while you may think you need them more than ever, find something else to calm and soothe your nerves. Take a walk, engage in a hobby, or simply sit quietly.
4. Ask for Different Responsibilities
Burnout in advertising agencies can not only happen from overwork, but also from working on the same few clients for months at a time. As the old saying goes, “a change is as good as a rest,” so talk to your manager about taking on different responsibilities. Will your boss assign you a different account? Can you work with clients who require you to leave the office more for meetings, photoshoots, and events? Perhaps you can swap accounts with someone else who is feeling worn out.
If you are good at your job, the agency will not want to lose you and will want to help you feel better at work. It can cost up to 400 percent more than your annual salary to replace you, especially if you’re a talented creative. The agency would much rather put your skills to good use on a different account than to see you walk.
5. Have a Heart-to-Heart With Someone Close
Another way to relieve a little pressure is to share your problems, thoughts, and concerns with someone who genuinely cares about your well-being. It could be a spouse, your best friend, a neighbor, or a trusted co-worker, although be careful about sharing too much with someone at work who is known to spread gossip or might use the information against you.
The person you talk to doesn’t have to be in the same industry or understand exactly what it is you do. They simply need to be a shoulder to cry on, which is often all you need to release some of that bottled-up frustration and despair.
If you cannot find anyone to talk to, another option is to write a letter to the person, or people, who are adding to your burnout, such as your boss, a co-worker, or a client. Put down everything you want to say, but DO NOT send it to them. This is merely an exercise to get your frustrations off your chest.
6. Find Ways to Make Work More Fun or Interesting
In advertising and design, exciting projects can alleviate some of the problems that come with an exhaustive schedule. Yes, you’re busy, but you’re having so much fun it’s not an issue. When you’re burning the candle at both ends on projects that do nothing to inspire you, that’s when burnout can really take hold. When this happens, find ways to make the jobs you’re working on more fun.
One creative approach used by copywriters and art directors is to challenge each other to get specific words or phrases into the ads, like trying to get “hot air balloon” or “goat rodeo” into dry copy about insurance. Make it a game regardless of the outcome. It may get rejected. It may pass without anyone noticing. It may even sell more products.
7. Work Away From Your Desk
A change of scenery can do you a world of good, even if you’re still working 12-hour shifts seven days a week. Most ad agencies will let you work remotely from time to time, especially if you’re looking for inspiration. Find a local coffee shop, museum, or park.
Avoid working from home. When you are experiencing burnout, you need to make every effort to separate work life from home life. The last thing you should be doing is bringing work home with you. That association compounds the problem, and before you know it, you associate home with the same feelings you have at work. Draw the line, and do not cross it.
8. Take Advantage of the FMLA Laws
Known as the Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA is a federal law that guarantees certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year without the threat of job loss. It’s often used for a major life event, such as the birth of a child or a significant illness. However severe burnout and mental stress can qualify as a reason to use FMLA protection.
See a doctor or psychologist, explain what is happening, and get written proof that you are unable to perform your duties to a satisfactory level due to your stress, burnout, and anxiety. Yes, the leave is unpaid, so you will have to weigh that against the amount of time off you take. In many cases, four weeks is more than enough to recharge and get back to your old self.
9. Get Plenty of Sleep, Exercise, and Eat Well
It goes without saying that when we get stressed, we look for ways to soothe and comfort. For many of us, that involves eating comfort foods, drinking alcohol, and collapsing on the sofa to binge-watch TV. However, those activities rarely cure burnout and, in fact, can make you feel worse. Don’t reach for the chips and the remote. Instead, create a plan to exercise more and eat healthier foods. Get a good eight hours of sleep every night. A few weeks, or months, of this and you will feel ready to take on the world.
10. Quit Your Job
As a last resort, if the stress is too much, you may have to quit. For some people, it’s a choice between quitting and finding a more reasonable way to earn a living or persevering to the point of a breakdown. In that case, it’s really no choice at all. You cannot afford to become so mentally and physically ill that you end up incapacitated. So, find a way to quit.
Ideally, you’ll want to have another source of income lined up before you leave your job and have enough of a gap between quitting the old job and starting the new one to refresh. But if it’s either quit or risk your sanity, then quit. You will find other ways to earn a living, be it freelancing, or finding a new career path altogether. In fact, some people quit to start a completely different line of work and become happy and stress-free.
Burnout is serious and its effects on your mental, emotional, and physical health shouldn’t be underestimated. Do whatever you can to relax and recharge, and find a way to maintain a good work/life balance.
Signs That You’re Experiencing Burnout
Burnout differs from transient stress, so it’s critical to distinguish whether you’re experiencing burnout or just having a bad week at work. To assist you in identifying your own mental, emotional, and physical state at work, here are some frequent indications of burnout:
Feelings of tiredness and exhaustion at work
Being tired at work can be caused by several other factors other than burnout such as lack of sleep, long commutes or personal issues. However, if you find that your work environment and responsibilities seem to drain you, this could be a sign that you’re beginning to experience burnout in your daily job.
Feelings of sadness or anxiety at work
When someone experiences repeated stress at work or doesn’t feel appreciated for their contributions, they may become depressed or anxious at work. If you feel consistently depressed or anxious, determine a plan of action to improve your mental and emotional state.
Disengagement and trouble focusing at work
If you find yourself staring into space or having trouble completing tasks you previously completed promptly, this may be a sign of burnout. One reason for this could be because you now find a task too easy or too hard to be consistent.
Cynicism toward job and coworkers
Cynicism is the process by which individuals view those around them as being self-focused. For employees who feel underappreciated, cynicism is a common sign of burnout.
Decrease in work performance
A common sign of burnout is an overall decrease in one’s work performance. This is usually due to an employee feeling overwhelmed or hopeless about their work responsibilities.