How close are you to burning out?
What's the deal with burnout?
Burnout is pervasive among working professionals and COVID-19 is making it worse. Ongoing surveys indicate that rates of burnout have increased from 61% of professionals in February 2020 to 73% in May.
Job burnout is defined as: “a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”
Sound familiar? Too often, when it comes to burnout, we only realize that our time, energy, and health have dwindled away when it’s too late. What can we do to avert burnout before we reach that point?
What does the research say?
The academic literature on burnout has demonstrated that both characteristics of the workplace environment and individual personality can contribute to burnout - sometimes additively. Here are a few interesting learnings that I've gleaned from reading research in this area.
Aspects of the workplace that contribute to burnout include:
What can I do to address burnout?
Many of my clients, when we first start working together, are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. I’ve found 3 areas that have helped them, drawing from the academic literature that I cited above as well as my own experiences with burnout.
My Request from You
I’m honestly truly fulfilled when I see overburdened clients make a few small changes and take back control of their time and energy.
Know anyone at risk of burning out? Willing to introduce us?
I’m offering a free 30-minute coaching session for you in exchange for 1-3 email introductions to your friends, relatives, or colleagues who could benefit from coaching focused on averting burnout.
I moved to Mexico two weeks ago.
Hearing that might make you furious, curious, or frightened. You may think that it’s ridiculous that I left my house, got on a plane, and changed countries during this crazy time.
It wasn’t easy making the decision to move now. Once the pandemic hit, plans that I had made shifted to the side and fear set in instead. What would it be like to leave a stable job during this time of economic proto-collapse? What would it be like to move, given that international borders were closed? What if I got sick, or got someone else sick?
Those are some weighty questions. It’s a weighty time.
Emotions are running hot right now, with the entire world facing a mental health crisis as people are pushed far outside of their comfort zones by COVID-19. Moreover, in the weeks since I’ve moved, the United States has erupted in protests over the murder of George Floyd and systematic racial injustice. It is a challenging time for so many of us.
How can we find clarity and stay grounded even amidst those challenges?
What I’ve observed, if it’s of any help to you, is that anticipation and contemplation can add to the stress coming from whatever challenges are being heaped on us by the outside world. Often, contemplation over substantive decisions can prevent us from making decisions at all. We remain stuck in “analysis paralysis,” held in a state of inaction by our indecision. For me at least, that place of feeling stuck is terrible. It’s disempowering. It creates a great amount of stress.
What I find is that taking action can relieve stress - even if the action you take represents a poor choice.
Metaphorically, once you open a door, other doors tend to open in front of you. Even if you open a door and fall over a precipice, you may discover you’re wearing a backpack with a parachute. Too often, instead, we sit and stare at the door, looking at every angle of the doorknob to attempt to best figure out how to approach opening it. And perhaps, because we’re looking for the “best” way to open the door, we never do. By taking action and opening a door, we open up new opportunities. Those new opportunities can release the weight you may be carrying from your doorknob-staring.
How do we move forward amidst uncertainty?
For me, the number of nights that I lost sleep over *whether* I should go to Mexico far outweighed the stress of the trip itself. I’m not saying my move was without risk. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t all be cautious and careful right now. And I’m in no way saying that the stress carried by those who are racially discriminated against is solely due to anticipation and contemplation - these stressors add burdens on top of a system filled with prejudice that creates real, tangible danger for Black Americans.
We don’t always have power to change the circumstances around us. But we do have the power to choose how we act and to choose our perspective.
What I’d ask you to consider, then, is:
I’m overwhelmingly excited about having moved here to Mexico. I’m glad I decided to lean into discomfort and cognizant of the fact that the perceived discomfort was far greater than any that I experienced.
What about you? Please feel free to comment and further the discussion here, since I know my perspective is just one of many and I want to hear from you.
I'm writing this blog to share my perspective on career transitions, time management, and personal growth.